The Oklahoma City Barons will receive “more direction” from the Oilers

Craig MacTavish has made it clear that the Edmonton Oilers will be run differently under his watch, and that extends to the organization’s farm team in Oklahoma City, where the general manager is promising “more direction” on which prospects play than the team has seen in the past.

Assessing the coaches and management

Here’s what MacTavish told Oilers Now’s Bob Stauffer about the farm team on May 24:

Our coaches down there and our general manager down there have just done an unbelievably outstanding job rebuilding that team after the lockout and got it to a position that now we’re in the semi-finals again down there.

Oklahoma was blessed during the lockout with some incredible young talent, but the reverse of that was that once the NHL lockout ended they basically had to rebuild their team midseason. Incredibly, they did so – they made good trades, they brought up key players from the ECHL, and signed veterans as necessary.

From the perspective of wins and losses, there is just no arguing the work done by the Barons’ brain-trust.

More Direction

I know that our coaches and our manager down there are looking for direction on who to play, and we’ll be working with them and giving them probably more direction than we have in the past, and even to reduce the numbers down there. It’s easier to say now because we’ve got a lot more prospects than we have had in the past. We’ve got guys coming in on defence – Klefbom and Marincin and Musil and Davidson and Fedun have all played really well down there – Davidson and Fedun have, and the other three guys I mentioned are all going to be prospects for us. Those are guys that have to play. It’s an easier mindset and an easier decision and an easier strategy to execute now that we have these players coming in that are closer to playing and are legitimate prospects.

It doesn’t take a lot to read between the lines here. The critical line about more direction coming from the parent club than has come in the past suggests the perception of a leadership vacuum under the former administration, one where there wasn’t enough input into how the farm team was run.

The Barons have been a very successful team on the ice for the last few seasons, but their results developing prospects have been more mixed. Some of the work they have done has been very good – we’ve seen players like Jeff Petry and Magnus Paajarvi round out their games in the AHL, and current Barons like Martin Marincin and Toni Rajala have had strong seasons. On the other hand, one of the organizational mysteries has been the implosion of much of the 2010 draft – Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton and Ryan Martindale – at the professional level after strong runs in junior.

Is the root cause of those players’ problems related to coaching, or to missed opportunities because veterans were being given minutes? Personally, I doubt it. However, MacTavish is clearly emphasizing that prospects will be given every opportunity to play important minutes in the minors, and acquiring veterans to fill holes is going to be less of a priority going forward. Put shortly, the organization is going to worry less about wins and losses in the minors and more about making sure the farm team produces viable players for the NHL club.

The Road Ahead

Our coaches – I know they’ve done an unbelievable job down there, and they’re Oilers true and true, and the bottom line for them is not just winning but also developing guys that we can bring up here. We’re going to focus on playing a style that’s more similar to the way we play in Edmonton so it’s more of an organizational style and a philosophy we have in terms of our ability to move the puck and bring in skill to those positions and play a skill game down in Oklahoma City as well. We’re going to do some things that really help that happen.

MacTavish conveys two items in this interview that wouldn’t normally go together: the desire to author significant change in Oklahoma, and happiness with the work of the people in charge down there. The obvious conclusion is that MacTavish believes there simply wasn’t enough input coming from the parent club over the previous season.

Cloning the system of the parent team in the minors seems logical and should make life easier for players shuttling between the farm and the majors, and obviously there is a belief that the current coaching staff is both willing and able to make whatever adjustments the parent team feels are needed (a sensible take from this vantage point, given that Todd Nelson and his staff have managed to coach a highly competitive team for the entirety of their time in Oklahoma).

Recently around the Nation Network

Valeri Nichushkin might be the single most interesting prospect to watch in the first round of this year’s draft; some say he has the talent to go first overall but he’s a winger when centre seems to be the positional target of choice and of course he has the disadvantage of coming over from the KHL.At Flames Nation, Christian Roatis argues that he should be a First Round Target for the Flames:

Should he still be there at 6, I think it’s important Jay Feaster and Co. take a long look at him because he does have franchise changing potential – something Calgary could desperately use

Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

  • Vaclav

    I’ve been thinking about this recently. Is there more value in having a long playoff run with Danis in net or would it have been a better choice to run with Hovinen or Roy between the pipes. Danis may have been covering for some defensive lapses but is that really benefiting the defencemen prospects development. And why bring in Hovinen if you’re never going to play him. How will the organization ever know if he could have a future with the team.

    • Ducey

      The Oilers took a flyer on Hovinen because Bunz and Roy were not ready. He responded with a .892 save % in 10 games. His ECHL save % this year was .889. He has never put up great numbers.

      I expect the Oilers looked at his size and thought maybe he might respond to some different coaching or a change of scenery.

      Doesn’t look like he did. There is no reason the play him.

      I don’t have a problem with how they handled the goalies.

      I would expect that they might have concerns if the AHL vets are getting most of the special teams time, key faceoffs, etc, leaving guys like Pitlick to play a 5 on 5 checking role.

  • Vaclav

    Cloning the system of the parent team in the minors seems logical.

    Maybe the other way around

    Maybe its me but our Casino Pit Boss deserves credit for winning. It seems he plays the guys that competes regardless of where they come from or where they are drafted. Edmonton could learn a little about this. I’d like to see the Cheechoo’s and Rajala’s and Arcobello’s givin’ a legitimate shot on the fourth line cause their the guys carrying the load. Would be nice that a message was sent, bust your ass you’ll get a shot.

    I think we have learned that we have overvalued some of our prospects, the depth in the forwards at this point is a little disconcerting. The guys with size are not trending, and the small guys are. Defence seems to be the opposite, granted I believe we have potential 3-4 in Marincin, and Klefbaum. And 5-7’d in Fedun, Gernat, Davidson, but we are still missing a legitimate top fight defender.

    • OilersBrass

      Why are you limiting Klefbom’s potential to 3-4?

      While I agree, we need a legitimate 1-2 defender, we might only need a relatively short-term fix there if Shultz Jr & Klefbom mature into a top pairing.

      • Lack of offensive production shown throughout developement. Also a huge over expectation based on 7 glorious games at the world juniors and a rookie camp. He was thought as a good prospect and then I believe so many have pumped his tires to the point that the expectations are inflated. There is no way he should start in Edmonton next season.

        Im a huge Klefbom booster, and I want to be wrong. I have hes the right ingredient on Schultz side. Its why I think getting Nurse is a darn good idea. Imagine a Nurse, Klefbom, Petry, Shultz, Smid, Marincin, Gernat, Musil defence in 2 years.

  • OilersBrass

    Gotta give the OKC management and coaching cred for pulling the team together and making the playoffs after the departure of Taylor Hall, RNH, Eberle and Schultz half way through the year. No other farm team benefited so much from the lockout and likewise, no other team paid as much a price when the lockout ended, losing its 4 top players. It’s comparable to Ottawa making the playoffs despite losing Spezza, Karlsson, Craig Anderson and Michalek to injruy.

  • OilersBrass

    I think that first, Congrats to the coaching staff and management in OKC is very well deserved, but I also believe that Josh Green, J. Cheechoo, etc, werebrought in to stabilize and mentor the young prospects.

    @Smokey, With what ya said about fight defenders, I think both teubert and Plante were two looked upon for this type job and yet both have failed with injuries and backward steps in development. Hockey sense and slow footspeed from these two are hurting them big time in order to get NHL jobs…with the Oil or anywhere else.

    If they cant play as to what the coaching staff want then they are two of those who should be let go or traded.

    Its like the Mathieu Roy situation all over again….injuries (concussions) and not too fast a skater.

    I am in agreement with MacT who wants both teams to play similar on all four lines and defence pairings. The step up to the Oil would be far more better than learning on the fly again.

    However, my one complaint is that coaching is not working on all cylinders with the Oil right now and instead of blaming just Kruger I think it is time to look hard at Bucky who has never seemed to improve as one assist. coach and at Steve Smith, who does not seem to have the defence ever playing with an aggressive tough edge…with exception to blocking shots.

  • OilersBrass

    Cudos to OKC staff as they did a terrific job and created a winning attitude/team which is imperative they experience . Sounds more like MacT. blowing his horn/hot air and putting his signature as Boss Hogg on all aspects under his influence.

    We have a lot of suspect prospects that are eating away the time of our better prospects . Time to weed those out first and formost . I believe Hockey Futures pointed this out as a negative for developmental talent if you have too many as we do vying for playing time , etc.. We need veteran balance down there in order to succeed in winning and also developing talent and prospects . Maybe Nelson and a few others might be better up with parent club with their successes ?

    I wasn’t aware the OKC team was playing contrary to the style of play Oilers wanted to play . Seemed to me they were during lockout at least .

    Calgary will probably take Lindholm as they invision maybe an even better Haaken Loob .

  • nullterm

    Proud of their success building but want them more in line with how the unsuccessful big team operates? Isn’t that a bit of a disconnection? Maybe the Oilers need to learn a few things from the Barons.

    • vetinari

      You dont seem to know Mac-T very well,he is what is commonly refered to as a constant learner,and he has in fact learned a lot from OKC and is now applying that knowledge and asessment,as is his job,he is being dilligent.

      Mac-T is proud of the Barons sucess at building a winning atmosphere,that is a difficult thing to do at any level and is independant from systemic considerations to mac-T as per his own agenda up the foodchain.

      Maintaining a winning atmosphere produces confident players with a can-do attitude,but maintaining a systemiclly symetrical development atmosphere is a priority over that concept,with optimal position being a winning atmosphere generated by a systemic influence identical in form and function to the parent clubs.

      I actually got dizzy reading that article,Mac-T is making Godlike and balanced sequential moves and is building a brand new foundation for the organisation at light speed.This is exceptionall managment already.

      The Oilers support the Barons ,they sent about 20 million dollars worth of assets there this year to start the season,they trust OKC with the keys to the Kingdom,let there be no mistake made there.This adjustment to the Farm teams direction and focus is simply part of the managerial re-structuring the team requires at this point in its evolution.Well done Oilers.

  • I can see the Oilers trading a few of those kids down there in the next couple of months.

    The 7th along with Gagner and a prospect or two(Harti, Paajarvi, Lander, or one of the d-kids) will move the Oilers a few spots up to draft a Russian or a centre.

    Jagr will be signed to play on the 3rd line with Hemsky, if the Oilers aren’t in the play-off hunt come trade deadline, both Czechs will be moved then. Unfotunately, I also envision Horcoff centering that line.

    Emery will be brought in to back up Dubs.

    Jeff Petry will be traded with future picks for an better d-man, and another one will be signed via free-agency.

  • Toro

    The more time that goes on from the Tambo era the more I think Tambo was a terrible GM , I think Mactavish is gonna do an awesome job as GM, all heil magnificent bastard Mac T ….. Too soon?

    • Maybe Tambo saw the writings in the wall when the Oilers brought MacT in. Everyone and their grandmother knows how deep the oilganization of the “boys club” goes, maybe Tambo sabotaged the Oilers with purpose. Maybe he was terrible on purpose.

    • Reg Dunlop

      So, when Khabbi re-ups along with Jones, Horcoff is #1 centre until RNH returns in December, and the oil go 6-13 to start the year… shall we revisit MacT magnifique salaud? Or is it still too early? Do we wait until Hall demands a trade?

      • OilersBrass

        If they trade Eberle I can honestly see Hall asking for a trade. The kids have expressed they want to stay in Edmonton and keep this young core together for a long time to come. Break up that core and I can see a lot of the kids thinking differently, especially if they keep losing after the fact.

        • Wax Man Riley

          A few comments about Taylor Hall demanding a trade.

          Where does this line of thinking come from? What has Hall ever done to prove he deserves consideration like that?

          He has no right to demand a trade until he gains some respect around the league.

          • OilersBrass

            Haha I think we’re mostly just making conversation through speculation and personal opinion….. Maybe a little sarcasm to.

            What do you mean about gaining respect around the league though? I’m sure every team would love to have this kid on their team. Heck Nino Niederreiter has already asked to be traded and he has hardly played any NHL games.

          • Wax Man Riley

            Good point about Nino, and every team in the NHL would love to have Hall, of course.

            I just look at it from a management point of view. Taylor Hall hasn’t proven anything. He is still making his way into the league. What right does he have to demand anything (I guess he could ask though).

    • Spydyr

      Ummm what has he done.Signed a KHL defensemen to replace a bottom end defencemen .What else?

      Put the kool-aid down till he actually makes some big moves.The team needs wholesale change.I would not keep more then ten players from last season.

      • Please note the use of tense in Toro’s comment.

        “What has he done” is not really a useful response to “I think he will do a good job”.

        If you have suggestions as to why you believe MacT will not do a good job, then by all means, rail away, but your response doesn’t even make sense.

        • Spydyr

          Please note Toro even asked if it was too soon.

          Toro Said “all heil magnificent bastard Mac T ”

          I simply stated what has he done nothing to deserve that moniker and to stop drinking the kool-aid because in fact and it is a fact all Mac-T has done is sign a KHL defensemen.

          Perhaps when the playoffs are over we can see what he has.For now it is too soon.

  • vetinari

    The Barons are likely the reason why Tambellini was kept around as long as what he was since they were his only success and trotted out in his defence whenever someone questioned his ability to manage a NHL team.

    I believe the rationale was that the whole organization couldn’t/shouldn’t be losers and getting AHL success was easier than NHL success. Unfortunately, Tambellini turned two rosters into AHL rosters and couldn’t pull the big team out of the tailspin.

    I always thought that Milbury was the worst NHL GM, ever, but Tambellini is close on his heels. The difference between them is that Milbury was all about the big trades and the big signings, and Tambellini was all about neglect and risk aversion.

    I’m glad to see MacT will keep a closer eye on the AHL roster and try to get the prospects more development time because the big club needs a steady stream of talent to survive in a cap world.

  • vetinari

    “Valeri Nichushkin might be the single most interesting prospect to watch in the first round of this year’s draft; some say he has the talent to go first overall but he’s a winger when centre seems to be the positional target of choice and of course he has the disadvantage of coming over from the KHL. At Flames Nation, Christian Roatis argues that he should be a First Round Target for the Flames”

    If Calgary grabs Nichuskin or Lindholm (as Madjam suggests), that opens up Monahan as likely being available for the Oilers at #7

  • vetinari

    While I was as happy to see him go as the next guy. Tambi does in fact deserve a ton of credit for OKC. The Oilers farm system was a mess for years under Lowe (in part I’m sure due to budget restrictions under the old ownership group).

    He brought stability and inserted good coaches and mgmt to their minor system. It takes time to build a critical mass of developing prospects.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    As long as both teams are on the same page system wise, it shouldn’t make much of a difference. The parent club should be an extension of what’s going on/being taught in OKC. The difference between the two organizations should be minimal. Helps the players to know what’s expected of them when called up.

    Maybe Craig keeping a closer eye on things down there will help minimize many of the needless call ups that occur. A number of times last season, players were moved back and forth without even playing a game. Tends to happen more frequently with so many people in charge.

  • YOU MAKE THE CALL : Lindhom vs. Monoham vs. Ritolainen , Nurse or Pulock . From an Oiler perspective Lindhom and Ristolainen meet the template of speed ,possibly Pulock . Monohan and Nurse may not .

    Lindhom is highest rated for good reasons , only his size is questionable , but our other ones are all doing quite well and I suspect he’ll be/do the same . We want speed and transition game Lindhom and Ristolainen best fit .

    Lindhom could overtake Gagner pretty fast by the sounds of it . I hope Flames take Monohan which fits Feasters plans to get bigger , rather than the more skilled Lindhom . Nicushkin unlucky to be available to Flames or Oilers . His size and speed would be to tough to ignor .

  • vetinari

    RE: MacT and moves to date– last time I checked– teams can’t do buyouts until a couple of days after the Stanley Cup is awarded; teams don’t make trades until the Stanley Cup is awarded; the draft isn’t until the end of the month; and, July 5th free agency hasn’t arrived yet. This means that MacT is kinda shackled for a few weeks yet and we shouldn’t judge anything until about mid to late July.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      The Blackhawks are still playing, and they’re bolstering next yrs club with the signing of Raanta. IIRC it’s business as usual for all the outsiders.

      Usually they wait to announce them on non game days. I remember Trevor Linden got moved in May some yrs ago by the Islanders. MacTavish is sitting idly by, by choice, not because he’s unable to do something.

  • Wax Man Riley

    From the article:

    It doesn’t take a lot to read between the lines here. The critical line about more direction coming from the parent club than has come in the past suggests the perception of a leadership vacuum under the former administration, one where there wasn’t enough input into how the farm team was run.

    I think this nails it, JW. Under Tambo, this organization was a mess. Everyone in North America could see it. Do you think It was an engineered downfall, or was Tambellini really as incompetent as he came across

  • OilersBrass

    JW: do you think the oilers would take a look at Daniel Carcillo, chicago hasnt been playing him, he`s as rugged as they come,plays LW, exactly the type of player we need.