Doesn’t this look familiar? Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.
Linus Omark is healthy enough to practice these days and has given Oilers nation a reason to cheer his return as he had this to say via his not often used twitter page:
Im ready to play but wont play tonight. Next week on thursday for sure !! #comback
— Linus Omark(@Limpanomark) February 3, 2012
He later encouraged fans by not only referring to himself in the third person, but also claimed his return was anything less than a big deal:
thanks for the congratulations, had a great birthday. Three days left to Omark show really excited!!
— Linus Omark(@Limpanomark) February 6, 2012
As a fan of the Oklahoma City Barons, and subsequently the Oilers, it’s hard to imagine this organization without Omark. He’s a fun player to watch, and is even more fun to listen to. What comes off as arrogant, pompous, and showy is what makes him the eye-popping player that we all know he can be. A well rounded hockey players with some sass. The world needs a few of these to make things interesting.
Needless to say, his return from a broken ankle in what seemed like a slew foot incident has been long anticipated. The Barons have moved on without him with great results. The Oilers have moved on without him with terrible results. But in the speculation of when he’d be back on the ice we’ve seemingly watched two teams morph. One team a juggernaut the other completely jinxed. So where does Sir Linus go from here?
Let’s start at square one. He’ll indeed play in a couple of days against the Abbotsford Heat as an Oklahoma City Baron. Honestly, this couldn’t have been scripted any better. He’ll have Oilers fans, media, talking heads, and a slew of scouts watching his every move; including that ankle. Prior to the injury, which took place on November 16th, 2011, Omark was the dominate AHL player we’d grown to love. 7 points in 7 games without showing any sign of slowing. It will take some time for him to get his sea legs back, but for a guy that is all about strategic puck possession and scoring, he won’t take long to make a difference.
Coach Todd Nelson is a throw-them-into-the-fire kind of guy. When a player returns fully healthy, and with some practice reps in, Nelson assumes said player is ready for action. There is no doubt that there will be some protection of Omark, but nothing that keeps him from doing what he does best. So look for him to fall one of two places.
To say there is a top line on this Barons squad isn’t exactly the truth. The rotation of top liners has been frequent. As of the last couple of games, the top line had rotations of Ryan Keller, Mark Arcobello, MPS, Ryan Keller, Josh Green, Hunter Tremblay, and Curtis Hamilton. Tremblay began the season on shut down rotation with O’Marra and House. Hamilton usually falls into the third line grind. My have things changed quickly. Nonetheless, certain players lend themselves to top line treatment and Omark certainly fits that bill. He’ll need a strong centerman who’s willing to feed the puck to the wings. The easy choice would be the seasoned Josh Green who’s patient, but lacking in speed. I prefer to think that Mark Arcobello will be the guy that Omark will run with. Why? He’s fast and is consistently in the top two in face-offs won. Which means Omark can bounce off an offensive face-off win. He kind of likes that role. But who plays the right? This could go one of two ways. One solution could be Ryan Keller. The quick-charging dedicated right winger. The other option, the suddenly offensively aware Hunter Tremblay who can play both sides on the wing.
If Omark needs a little nurturing, the other option is to drop him to the second line. Most likely playing with Josh Green down the center and perhaps Teemu Hartikainen, Philippe Cornet, or Magnus Paajarvi to the right. None of these guys play much right wing, but are willing to do-so in a heartbeat. So here’s my realistic Barons lineup for at least game one:
The Lines Proposition
Linus Omark-Mark Arcobello-Ryan Keller
Magnus Paajarvi-Josh Green-Philippe Cornet
Teemu Hartikainen-Ryan O’Marra-Hunter Tremblay
Tanner House-Chris VandeVelde-Antti Tyrvainen
Forwards scratched: Cam Abney, Curtis Hamilton, Tyler Pitlick (DTD; nagging leg injury), Andrew Lord (concussion), Triston Grant (injured)
*Hamilton & Pitlick are the odd men out for now, but certainly might hit the lineup w/ so many Oilers officiandos in attendance.
Alex Plante-Dylan Yeo
Kevin Montgomery-Colten Teubert
Bryan Helmer-Dan Ringwald
Defenders scratched: Kirill Tulupov, Ryan Lowery (injured)
*Don’t count out Tulupov just yet. When Abbotsford gets under your skin; he’s the guy you want on your side.