Playoffs?

Jonathan Willis
March 08 2014 08:07AM

Barons logo

The Edmonton Oilers are not going to be a playoff team this year, obviously. But it is equally apparent that the parent club has high hopes that the farm team in Oklahoma City can make a fourth consecutive postseason appearance.

About Last Night

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Mark Arcobello scored two goals against Hamilton last night, giving the Barons a 2-1 victory. He now has 22 points in 11 games at the AHL level this season, even as the Oilers lean heavily on a converted left wing in the fourth line centre position and Sam Gagner pivots the first line. It’s an ugly miscarriage of justice for Arcobello, but it’s awfully nice for the Barons, who sit two points outside of a playoff position.

Anton Lander3

Anton Lander assisted on one of those goals and now has 45 points in 42 AHL games. Like Arcobello, he’s more deserving of NHL minutes than players currently on the Oilers’ roster, but like Arcobello he’s a vital part of the Barons’ attack. With Lander and Arcobello, Oklahoma City has a 1-2 attack down the middle that they haven’t had all season.

The Team Before

30-Bachman-2

Up until the Arcobello demotion, there simply wasn’t any way that this Barons team should have been a playoff contender.

AHL teams play a pile of back-to-back games, and all too often play three games in three nights. With that kind of schedule, it’s important to have a reliable backup, and the Barons haven’t had one. Instead, the team has rotated through people like Tyler Bunz (0.904 SV% in the ECHL) and Chet Pickard (0.879 SV% in the ECHL) and Ty Rimmer (0.905 SV% in the CHL). The result has been an over reliance on Richard Bachman.

Oscar Klefbom

AHL teams benefit from veteran defencemen. The Barons have one, Denis Grebeshkov, and he’s a pale imitation of the player he once was, having fallen to the point that he isn’t an everyday defender even at the minor league level. Three of the team’s top four defenders for most of the year have been rookies (Oscar Klefbom, Martin Gernat and David Musil) and the other guys are second-year players. The top four of Klefbom, Taylor Fedun, Philip Larsen and Martin Marincin that looked so promising out of the gate didn’t last any length of time at all thanks to injuries and recalls.

There is also the problem of the forward group. Between the departure of Linus Omark and the arrival of Mark Arcobello the only consistent offensive threat was Anton Lander. Some players were injured, others were inconsistent, and it took two months for Roman Horak to find his way in Oklahoma (Nov-Jan: 17 points in 29 games; Feb-present: 17 points in 14 games).

The Team After

Todd Nelson4

The blue line is still green and the goaltending is still very much a one-man show, but Oklahoma’s forwards have gone a long way toward making up the gap. With Lander playing with his regular linemates for much of the year (ECHL call-up Austin Fyten and top prospect Tyler Pitlick) and Arcobello centering a red-hot Horak and recently acquired veteran Steve Pinizzotto, the Barons have a power-vs.-power line and a second unit that can light up anybody. With a veteran third group (Ben Eager, Will Acton, Matt Ford) and a fourth unit that brings a little bit of everything (Curtis Hamilton, C.J. Stretch, Jack Combs) suddenly the position is a major strength for the Barons.

The team is 10-2-2 since the demotion of Arcobello, and now within two points of a playoff position, despite rivals who keep winning and a horrendous inability to win shootouts (the Barons are 1-7 in those situations).

That has to be why Arcobello and Lander and Pitlick and Fedun continue to get time in the minors. The Oilers have no spare healthy bodies on the team, and despite recent wins (hello there, Ben Scrivens) haven’t played particularly well of late. More than that, the team needs to know whether Lander and Pitlick are going to be risked on waivers next season or brought up to the majors, and now’s the time to find out.

But Todd Nelson’s team is red-hot, and the Oilers believe there’s great value in having their prospects participate in long playoff runs (as they have the last two seasons). So the status quo remains.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 RexHolez
March 08 2014, 08:18AM
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Edmonton Oilers - the only NHL team that would lose to its AHL farm team

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#2 D
March 08 2014, 08:22AM
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I'll bet that Oiler management already had a discussion with Arco about their intent long term. Arco should be on the big club, but if his presence in Oklahoma can get them into the playoffs, then might as well do it. I hope the Oilers find a way to properly compensate him.

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#3 Bruner
March 08 2014, 08:24AM
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Better to play meaningful games than to get a call-up to the sh!tshow that is the Oilers. Todd Nelson should get a call-up next season. Tootle oo Bucky. Tootle oo Smith.

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#4 Spoils
March 08 2014, 08:43AM
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Next year I like the idea of Gordon on the 4th line to make room for Arco on the 3rd. Then having Gordon sub in for important draws.

Trouble is, besides Arco - everyone in our bottom 6 should be on a 4th line (if that).

Smyth - Arco - Joenssu Gazdic/Hendricks - Gordon - Jones

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#5 Dan
March 08 2014, 08:46AM
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What's the diffrence between gagner and arcobello? Hint.... One of them played on a line with Kane in juniors

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#6 gcw_rocks
March 08 2014, 08:52AM
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I see Hamilton has slid back down the line up again. That is disappointing. Would like to see him in Fyten's spot. This suggests the team is going to write him off.

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#7 michael
March 08 2014, 08:59AM
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The difference is in the dollars between the AHL and the NHL. The Oilers need Marc Arcobello leading the way in OKC. This franchise is not and has not yet established itself with the community.It still remains very fragile in terms of community support. Attendance?is still vey much an issue.

You want to flush any hope of the playoffs for OKC just call up Lander and Arcobello.

Considering where the Oilers are there isno reason to do this. The Oilers know what they have in Arcobello.Lander is more of an unknown. I do see Arcobello as a 3rd line player for the Oilers next season.he is solid on the draw and gives you a solid game each and every night.

et

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#8 OilDieHard
March 08 2014, 09:07AM
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good article! it might just do Lander, Arco and Pitlick and our other top prospects good to hopefully make it to the playoffs and get that experience. if they fail to make it, immediately call up Lander, Arco and Pitlick.

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#9 Oiltown3000
March 08 2014, 09:11AM
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We should fire our goalie coach because he just ruined Dubnyk's career.

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#11 WeridAl
March 08 2014, 09:36AM
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If I'm not mistaken, but OKC started this playoff run before Arcobello was sent down. With Arco, it has given the Barons another line and Pino has given Arco the room to play. Lander and Arco have been deadly on the PP, which also has been deadly and one of the reason of this drive. Grebeshkov is a bust and it is ugly to watch him play, he's the 7th man in, has filled in for Klefbom's injury and when Gernat has been a HS. K.Kessy and Ewanyk usually play the 4th line and on the PK. Eager and Stretch are rotated in and out, depending if Nelson wants to sit someone. One of the major reason the Barons have been playing well is the solid play of B.Davidson, he has returned to his form of last season and has taken a giant step forward. His old coach from the Regina Pats and now the GM with the AHL Comets, Pat Conacher, Davidson will be a NHLer, he has the heart. Hunt's game has also excelled, due to his partner Davidson, and he'll be the 1st one to tell you so. C.Hamilton has rotated from the 2nd to 3rd line since his return and has looked good and deserves another look. Bachman has been stellar, keeping the Barons in the game, still lets in the odd bad goal though. .

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#12 Retsinnab5
March 08 2014, 09:38AM
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22 points in 11 games that's crazy

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#13 dougtheslug
March 08 2014, 09:41AM
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Dan wrote:

What's the diffrence between gagner and arcobello? Hint.... One of them played on a line with Kane in juniors

That ain't the only difference.

One has fought and scratched to get the most out his talents that, like Martin St. Louis, have been discounted because of his size

One is desperate to be in the NHL, and doesn't seem to feel it is his birthright, thus is willing to do anything to be there (like develop a responsible defensive game)

One is currently making as much in one NHL game as the other makes in an AHL season.

One should be here and the other should be there.

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#14 Max
March 08 2014, 09:44AM
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Coach Nelson should be given a chance at the HC job in Edmonton, or at least Associate Coach - still, my main concern right now is the fact that several ex-Oilers from very recent to bygone players have commented on the lack of intensity at Oilers' practices as opposed to the new teams they joined. Is there something we should know - why? perhaps?

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#15 Ogre
March 08 2014, 09:51AM
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Oiltown3000 wrote:

We should fire our goalie coach because he just ruined Dubnyk's career.

Agreed that the Oil need a different goalie coach. And new assistants. How do you get a new head coach every year, but keep the rest of the staff? Klowe's idea of revamping staff is to fire the trainer. Unreal. Maybe it's Joey's fault we are losing Klowe! No. Time to let the coach bring in his own staff. And when Smith and Bucky go, maybe Katz can make sure they save a seat for Lowe for a ride to whatever rock they are going to hide under. It's a shame Pete Peters retired. We could use him as our goalie coach again. One thing though. To say that the goalie coach ruined Dubnyk's career is a stretch. Dubnyk has been missing one fundamental quality that the best goaltenders need. Fire in his heart. That can't be taught. I remember an interview at the beginning of the season where he said that if he looks like he isn't trying then he's doing good. I knew then the season was done before it started.

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#16 OilDieHard
March 08 2014, 09:54AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Yeah. I think injuries have done him in.

if you mean Curtis Hamilton, then ya, i think he's doomed. he's an RFA and i wonder if the Oilers qualify him after this season?

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#17 Bishai in the Benches
March 08 2014, 09:58AM
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Does anyone know what Arcobello makes in the AHL compared to what he'd make in the NHL? During preseason I head that Omark was playing for about $540,000. His AHL salary was $60,000 and NHL was $600,000 (I'm pretty sure that's what I heard). If this is the case for Arcobello, I sure hope that MacT has had a conversation with Arco, and will compensate him for the sacrifices he is making to get OKC into the playoffs. It's pretty clear that he could hold his own/be a better NHL player than 1/2 our roster right now, and he's taking a significant pay cut for the greater good of the organization.

I know it isn't his choice to be in the AHL, but I would still hope that MacT sat him down, had a talk, and will remember the sacrifice made that one time he sent a superior player down to the minors and cut his pay significantly, undeservingly.

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#18 toprightcorner
March 08 2014, 10:05AM
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I personally don't think Arcobello is a fit for the Oilers. He is quite small, he doesn't fit into a 4C position because he has offensive talents and needs more than 8 min a game, Gordon has 3C locked up for a few years and the Oilers need size and better 2-way skill for their 2C when they trade GAgner.

The plan is likely to trade Arcobello and having him score 2 points a game in the AHL and end up with 55 points in 30 games will increase his value a lot more than playing 4C for 8 min a night and not put up any points.

Arco would be a great addition to any package deal or straight across for a bigger scoring forward already succeeding in the AHL.

If Arco was 6"2 and 220 lbs he would have never been sent down in the first place. Arco should be playing in the NHL and I hope he goes to a team that can give him that opportunity, he has definitly earned it.

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#19 Naky
March 08 2014, 10:14AM
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While it sucks for Arcobello, there really is no room for him on our team. He's more of the same. A (really) small skill player. He had his cup of coffee, in fact, he had a whole pot and after his hot stretch at the start cooled down, he didn't do much of anything. But Naky, you say, he led the team in hits at one point! I refute this point and say to the average 210 pound or more hockey player on that ice surface, it must be -really- adorable when that junior sized center bounces off you.

I know, that's not fair to Arcobello and is down right mean, but let's face it. He's not what this team needs and it's not his fault he's a ping pong ball when the team needs a medicine ball. He doesn't fit on the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th lines and he's not better than RNH. It's time for him to move on to another organization.

As for Lander, I hope he stays the whole season down there. Win. Win, win, win, win, win! Lead that team to win and win some more! Destroy the competition and savor that feeling of being productive and winning and come into camp next year with such a determined hungry drive that wants to prove everyone wrong and show what it takes to dig down deep and WIN. That fourth line center spot is his to lose next year and if he can be effective he'll earn his promotion within the lineup just as Horcoff did once upon a time.

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#20 WeridAl
March 08 2014, 10:26AM
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@OilDieHard

I understand that Stu said he is worth further look earlier on this season and the Oilers were still very high on him.

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#21 OilDieHard
March 08 2014, 10:26AM
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@Naky....guess what? the Oilers just recalled Lander.

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#22 OilDieHard
March 08 2014, 10:30AM
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WeridAl wrote:

I understand that Stu said he is worth further look earlier on this season and the Oilers were still very high on him.

and i am OK with that, but he's running out of chances. i compare him a bit to Ryan Martindale, both are big and talented, but the Oilers came to realize that Martindale was never going to have any kind of impact here in the future and dealt him away. shame really, he does have talent and could have been the big center we have been looking for as long as i can remember. i hope for a better fate for Hamilton, but we'll see.

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#23 Dan
March 08 2014, 10:39AM
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dougtheslug wrote:

That ain't the only difference.

One has fought and scratched to get the most out his talents that, like Martin St. Louis, have been discounted because of his size

One is desperate to be in the NHL, and doesn't seem to feel it is his birthright, thus is willing to do anything to be there (like develop a responsible defensive game)

One is currently making as much in one NHL game as the other makes in an AHL season.

One should be here and the other should be there.

Posts like this makes me mad I can only prop once

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#24 Rama Lama
March 08 2014, 11:09AM
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Once these players get to the NHL under Eakins, expect their talents to totally disappear.

They will be used in positions that are not their strengths and Eakins will do everything to expose their weaknesses. There is a reason why the big club is suffering and the small club is flourishing........it's called coaching.

Nelson belongs in the NHL and Eakins belongs in the AHL, plain and simple. The stats bear this out.

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#25 Naky
March 08 2014, 11:21AM
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@Manfly

So what? I said I hope he stays there to continue winning. If he comes up, I hope it's to help spread the winning feeling. The last thing this organization needs right now is to let the Oilers losing culture get under Lander's skin long enough to spend him back down for the Baron's playoff run half depressed and feeling like he can't do much so let's all agree to hope that it doesn't have negative long term effects.

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#26 Ogre
March 08 2014, 11:21AM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Once these players get to the NHL under Eakins, expect their talents to totally disappear.

They will be used in positions that are not their strengths and Eakins will do everything to expose their weaknesses. There is a reason why the big club is suffering and the small club is flourishing........it's called coaching.

Nelson belongs in the NHL and Eakins belongs in the AHL, plain and simple. The stats bear this out.

Yes, we should definitely change the head coach every year. I mean, it's worked so far right?

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#27 still hoping
March 08 2014, 01:39PM
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This is ultimately another management mistake of the oilers twice with gagner.

First, they traded the wrong small guy. Cogliano is exceling at his role with the ducks. Not hugely offensively skilled, he is quick and works hard, plays position well. And, at a good price. Gagner is failing at his role, no quickness ok hands when unopposed, but as soon as checked loses every time. Defensive liability, always out if position and not quick enought to compensate for lack of size.

Second, that contract for with a no trade clause. Overpaid. No team is the top 8 of either division will take him. Therefore, the only reason to trade him is to get rid of the contract mistake. Which means another recycled 4th liner or low draft choice.

Management needs to quite making these mistakes.

Hopefully arcabello gets a chance and not traded because of the mistakes they made with gagner and is contract.

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#28 Mr. Pederson
March 08 2014, 01:58PM
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Playoffs? http://i.imgur.com/r4908QM.jpg

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#29 BillHK
March 08 2014, 10:20PM
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@D

I sure hope that you are right, but I would not BET on it. Oilers management sucks from Katz on down.

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#30 Ryan2
March 09 2014, 10:12AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Yeah. I think injuries have done him in.

I can see the Oilers giving Curtis Hamilton a one or two year two-way contract. They have a dearth of forward talent in the system and he was hot earlier in the year before injuries derailed him yet again. The lack of forwards with size depth in the system should give him that chance. Chase and Moroz will be there next year, right? Outside of those two, there are not many recent draftees with size that have a shot at the AHL next season.

That being said, I have my doubts that Hamilton will ever make it to the show.

Pitlick is another injury prone player that needs to keep an eye over his shoulder as Moroz, Chase and Khaira have similar skill sets.

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