It’s been an interesting season in Oklahoma, where the Barons have had on-ice more success in their initial season than any Oilers farm team has going as far back as the Hamilton Bulldogs. While I’m often critical of managerial choices made by the Oilers, in this instance they set the team up to succeed and deserve credit for executing a solid plan.
They also deserve credit for not simply staying the course, either. When it became apparent the team might be deprived of a top defenceman for a long period of time, they brought in ex-NHL’er Bryan Helmer. Helmer, at the age of 38, struggled to find an AHL job this summer despite a long and successful career as a professional. Thus far, it looks like a solid choice – Helmer has four assists through three games and has the resume to be a top offensive option for the team.
Part of the reason the acquisition of an offensive defenceman like Helmer was necessary was because of the post-callup drought suffered by Shawn Belle. When Belle was first called up in mid-November, he had 15 points in 17 games for Oklahoma City. In the 17 games since, he’s managed just four points. Unfortunately, Belle’s track record in the AHL suggests a player who was over-performing to start rather than underperforming now; Belle’s previous AHL career high is 19 points.
In net, Martin Gerber has emerged as the clear starter, playing 24 games to Jeff Deslauriers’ 13. This is deserved, as he’s been vastly more effective than Deslauriers (0.913 SV% vs. 0.886 SV%). I don’t know what’s going on with Deslauriers – certainly the first thing that comes to mind is that he doesn’t want to be in the minors, but I don’t know that – but I would suggest that this represents his performance floor. We have a five-year history that indicates Deslauriers is a pretty decent AHL net-minder, and 13 games is a pretty small sample. I wouldn’t get too down on him based on this and would argue he’s still a decent reserve goaltender.
In contrast to Deslauriers and Belle is the play of Linus Omark during his brief demotion. He played two games, put up five points, and now he’s back in the NHL. While the parent club’s injury situation was the biggest factor there, Omark’s performance must have made things easier for the decision makers.
Finally, from the Holy cow file, Colin McDonald is on pace for 40 goals. And 12 assists, but let’s not get hung up on things. For a guy who never scored more than 13 in college or professional play, this is kind of a big deal. Naturally, it’s a shooting percentage jump – McDonald entered the season with a shooting percentage of 6.95% on just shy of 500 shots, and he’s presently firing at 20.2% on 99 shots. Despite the likelihood that he’ll stop scoring any day now, I can’t help but smile because I’ve always pulled for the offensively challenged winger.