Meanwhile, Back On The Farm

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.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I thought Gerber and JDD were spliting the games 50-50? I’d assume JDD starting in the AHL later and the spengler cup is reason for the difference?

    Also sounds like he just about had an empty netter last night.

    Good on Macdonald. Not sure he ever makes it anywhere in the NHL and odds are he will probably get some looks from other teams this off-season, but it’s a heck of an accomplishment for him.

    As a sidenote, why are teams pulling their goalies down 3 goals now? Giroux had an empty netter at 16:38 yesterday and now with twitter and all the people I follow I notice that there are quite a few teams pulling the goalie when down 3.

  • @ Ogden Brother Jr.:

    I think they started with a 50/50 split and then Gerber got a run of games (which I believe started prior to JDD’s departure). JDD is still getting time, now that he’s back from the Spengler, but the loan of him to Canada’s entry there is also a significant indicator that he’s a clear-cut backup.

  • @ Ogden Brother Jr.:

    I’m sure there was an element of that in thedecision too.

    But a team doesn’t send their best goaltender to a tournament like the Spengler, and given the amount of games Pitton played and that OKC has to worry about winning, they don’t send him if they think there’s a clear drop-off.

    I suspect they felt JDD needed a chance to play through a funk and they couldn’t afford to give him that leeway, so off he went.

    • Aitch

      Really enjoyed the little back-and-forth there and felt compelled to add something that I think’s been overlooked. Deslaurier spent the first, what, month with the Oilers before they finally “risked” putting him through waivers. So, that’s when Gerber was hot and playing all the time, building up the sizable lead in games played.

      And while I was at it, I figured I might as well expel some other thoughts.

      Ogden, I’m with you on the Spengler Cup scenario. Heck, even if you just want to bring up his market value it puts him out there for the scouting world to see. Plus, the Oilers have a history of sending players to this tournament. Dubnyk’s gone before and I believe Danny Syvret played another year. I doubt either of those players thought of it as a demotion. In JDD’s case, I believe it was a kick in the pants, a chance to get his game in order, and by allowing him the opportunity to wear the maple leaf, a thank you for getting jerked around by the organization for his entire career all rolled into one. Question is, did it do anything for him? Looking at his two starts since then I’d say the jury’s still out.

      Oh, a third pairing of Foster and Chorney gives new meaning to the term offensive defense pairing.

  • Ducey

    I think the guy to watch up front is Teemu Hartikanen.

    He has 11-11-22pts in 40 games. He is -8 but all of that came in his first month. He is 4 of 6 in the shootout so he has hands. (Omark is 1 of 5).

    He has size and might be able to stick in the NHL as a third liner with some appearances on the PP as a guy assigned to the front of the net.

  • Horcsky

    Hey Willis, kind of off topic but, you are the numbers guy. NJ Devils are scoring at under 2 goals/ game? Any other team in the last 20 years score under 2/ game?!

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    So Landeskog is now ranked #1 amoungst NA skaters by central scouting… man he moved up fast.

    Could work out well for us if Couturier ends up in the 2-3 spot.

    • D-Man

      Don’t get me wrong – I believe you draft BPA, but Couturier didn’t really impress me at the WJC. Granted, the WJC is for developed 19 year olds (and he’s still young), but assuming we get him in the draft – will he be ready to step up to the NHL? I would have expected him to dominate a bit more… I just wonder if he’d be ready to take on a 2nd/3rd line center role next year.

      Maybe Larrson (who was also okay) would be a safer pick? Our defense is awful as it is and with the emergence of Marcinin – there wouldn’t be as much pressure??

        • D-Man

          As do I – but do you think the general public would accept a number 2/3 overall pick playing in junior?? There would be blood if Couturier or Nugent-Hopkins were in juniors after their draft year… The educated hockey fan would understand; but I could argue that 3 out of 5 Oiler fans want to win now rather than wait for the rebuild to finish.

    • Horcsky

      Hopefully they did not recall the Taylor Chorney of last season, and we see a markedly better game from Chorney.

      Also, hopefully Taylor Hall gives Chorney a merciless beatdown. There’s only room for one Taylor on this team!

      • Cheesenaka

        From the sounds of his play in the AHL this year he has improved greatly in all aspects of his game.

        While i’m curious to see how his game has progresseed I think the real question is, can he be better than Strudwick?

        Peckham – Gilbert
        Smid – Petry
        Foster – Chorney

        • Dan the Man

          I think right now I would have to say anybody in the system would be an upgrade from Strudwick, I like his compete level and his team toughness can’t be beat, but unfortunately he gets beat everywhere else on the ice.

  • It is a pleasant surprise that they are doing as well as they are. I think that the club was more than a little embarassed by the 2009/10 reality that they had BOTH the worst team in the NHL and the AHL. And there is definitely a quicker turnaround period for upgrading AHL teams.

    But….it is only Januray, so we will see what the rest of the year brings!