Can and will are two completely different things. Can is a verb about ability. Will is a want or desire. Two very different things. And this season, the Oklahoma City Barons currently sit in fourth place of the South Division in the Western Conference, I’ll consider can, but probably not will. Starting Tuesday, the team will begin the 25 game downhill slalom towards the playoffs. With many poles to dodge and courses to navigate, OKC is in a race against the clock. Time might be running out.
Those that follow AHL hockey, both writers and fans, have some commanility in determining the number of standing points needed to make the playoffs. That number is around 86, and that’s comparable to last season. I agree, but I think the range is 85-90. The teams in the South are highly energized and focused. The teams in the Midwest are notoriously feisty down the stretch. Teams in the North have knack for “muddying the waters”. And so the win mark, especially in the West, will be hovering around the back end of the 80′s. Good luck.
Here’s the breakdown of the remaining opponents in the 2012-13 season, and how many games they’ll play.
Texas Stars – 3
Houston Aeros – 3
San Antonio – 3
Chicago Wolves – 3
Rockford IceHogs – 3
Charlotte Checkers – 2
Abbotsford Heat – 2
Rochester Americans – 2
Hamilton Bulldogs – 2
Peoria Rivermen – 1
Toronto Marlies – 1
Every opponent here on out, except for Hamilton, Peoria, and San Antonio have a better record than that of OKC. Granted some are having much more success (Texas, Charlotte) than others (Chicago, Rockford), but through 2/3 of the season, the majority of teams facing the Barons in the last 1/3 of the season are better. Perhaps not more talented, but certainly higher and mightier as an overall organism.
As we dig deeper, let’s look at the records between the Barons and those clubs listed above in 2012-2013.
vs. Texas 5-3-0-1 56%
vs. Houston 2-4-0-3 22%
vs. San Antonio 5-4-0-0 56%
vs. Chicago 0-1-0-0 0%
vs. Rockford 1-0-0-0 100%
vs. Charlotte 3-2-1-0 50%
vs. Abbotsford 1-1-0-0 50%
vs. Rochester NONE
vs. Hamilton NONE
vs. Peoria 0-1-0-0 0%
vs. Toronto 0-0-1-0 0%
Texas is near the top of the Western Conference heap while San Antonio is near the bottom. Despite the overall wins/losses against Texas, they are a different animal than the beginning of the season. The Barons might squeak out one of three. And the Rampage could be dangerous, as they are pushing for points as well. But I’ll go with two of three down the stretch.
Houston is the great equalizer. Losing three to the Aeros could make or break the season for OKC. A recent home and home split with the club might be an indication of future game outcome, but Matt Hackett is a Barons killer. I’ll go one of three against Houston.
Chicago and Rockford are the remaining teams with three against, and I think the Barons get one of three against Chicago, but steal two of three from Rockford.
Charlotte and Abbotsford have been far superior teams this season, and the Barons are fortunate that they only face each two more times. I’ll go with a 1/1 split with both.
Rochester and Hamilton are virtual unknowns. Hamilton is terrible, Rochester is eerily similar to Oklahoma City by way of serious team mood swings. I’ll take one of two against Rochester, and both against Hamilton.
Toronto has been hot and cold of late, but they are coached very very well. I think they lose to the Marlies, but beat the Rivermen to equalize the series.
With 51 games played the Oklahoma City Barons have 55 points. Remember the 85-90 range for winning a spot in the playoffs? The Barons would need 31 points to scrape the bottom of that barrel with exactly 25 games remaining. The .539 winning percentage they’ve ridden for the entire season would have to be closer to .620, and that’s just to get to 86. That’s a tough task down the stretch, with so many teams eyeing those coveted final spots. I’ve laid claim to 26 points, and that would keep the Barons out of the playoffs.
Keep in mind, that I’ve calculated based on outright wins. One point games make a difference in almost every season. For the Barons, they just can’t afford to have many of them.
Can they do it? Yes. I think they have the pieces to do so. Will they do it? I’m not hopeful. As the NHL season marches on, the month of March is usually brutal for callups to the Oilers. You lose a goaltender in the big leagues, you lose Yann in the minors (although that may not be a big deal with how poorly he’s played this season). A defenseman gets banged up in Edmonton, you lose a key piece in Colten Teubert (again, may not be a big deal). Pieces going and coming, moving and shaking always monkey wrenches the mojo. It’s going to be tough.
So keep your fingers crossed (as well as a couple of toes) because the playoff march starts tomorrow. Can they and will they – what do you think?