Bill Scott Named Oilers Assistant GM, His Greatest Hits Remain (And They Really Were Great)

Photo by Steven Christy

In late summer 2010, Steve Tambellini made a pretty important hire. Regardless of how his time was spent wheeling and dealing with the Edmonton Oilers, Tambellini had huge success in the creation and supplemental healing of the team’s farm squad in the AHL. Gerber, Giroux, McDonald – all players brought in to backstop a minor league affiliate on the ropes – the success was instant. But of all the hires that season, including Todd Nelson, snatching an AHL front office guy was probably the most important.

Four years as AHL Hockey Ops Director, Bill Scott felt the desire to turn his attention towards team building. His organizational mind, and connections around the league would prove a huge asset to the Oilers farm team almost immediately. Scott, a Michigan State grad, was intelligent and considerate beyond his years. He was largely responsible for the Barons success in season one, and alongside Todd Nelson crafted one of the most potent minor league franchises in a four year span.

Announced over the weekend, Bill Scott will become the Edmonton Oilers new Assistant to the GM.

What that means, we aren’t quite sure yet. Will he be the stopgap between minor league and major league? Most likely. Will he assist in the scouting of underlying players? I hope so. But regardless of what his job description entails there are some things you need to know about Mr. Scott.

First and foremost, he is an excellent judge of talent. We will dive a bit more into his greatest hits below, but this guy cut Arcobello out of camp in October of 2010, only to bring him up and down from the ECHL to AHL multiple times that season. As Arcobello’s confidence grew, so did Scott’s affection for this underdog. The same could be said about the mid-season acquisition of future captain, Bryan Helmer, who was playing pick up hockey at the local rink before joining a team needing some direction. Or how about Brett Clark? In a locked out season when the scales dipped toward insufferable, he was able to find experience and expertise in an older fella that helped the Barons go from zero to hero.

Secondly, he is extremely loyal to commitment. If you are a player who commits to work hard, you are going to play. During training camps, Nelson and Scott would sit high above the Cox Center section 200 to watch what was unfolding on the ice. The players that seemed the most committed to the system, and had the most skill were given opportunities to bring that to the nightly roster. His decision making on player transactions was magical. Jonatahan Cheechoo was a hired gun, but he wore a ten gallon hat that proudly displayed “TEAMWORK”. Scott signed him as a result.

So as we think back on Bill Scott, let us think fondly of his transactions and talent analysis. Rarely did Scott make a mistake when it came to player transactions, and if he did he was quick to rectify them (Bryan Rodney, lest we not forget).

Here are Bill Scott’s greatest hits:

Mark Arcobello
The final day of training camp in season one, when the dust had settled, a smallish forward named Mark Arcobello was cut from the squad, and assigned to the Stockton Thunder. His eventual roller coaster of a season saw him split time between OKC and California only to land at nearly a point per game (22 in 26) in under 30 games played at the AHL. This would be enough of a confident boost for Arcobello, who would never return to Stockton again. Scott knew he was a legit contender – good hands, smart, in-control, quick – and it eventually earned him an NHL contract in 2014 with the Edmonton Oilers.

Bryan Helmer
What is Bill Scott doing? Signing a veteran, mid-year who has 17 pro seasons under his belt? No way. Yes way. Bryan Helmer, the Sault Ste. Marie native, had well over 1,000 games played professionally including 147 in the NHL. Signed to a PTO (and eventually an SPC) in 2011 he would add stability to a team finding its sea legs. Scott on Helmer at the time of signing said, “Having a player like Bryan Helmer can be a key ingredient to a playoff run. We expect that our team will learn from his experience as a captain of a back-to-back AHL championship team in addition to his experience at the NHL and AHL levels.” And indeed the team got better under his tutelage. Having played back-to-back seasons with the Calder Cup winning Hershey Bears, Helmer became somewhat of a folk hero in the locker room and with fans. His “Helmer’s Heroes” campaign also paved a way for the connectivity of team to community that still exists today.

Andrew Lord
Before battling a concussion season, Andrew Lord was a player that OKC hadn’t had, and probably desperately needed at the time. An agitator. A rabble-rouser. A line teeterer(?). He was an energy line guy, would come to captain the Barons, but was signed post-Valentines day in 2011. Quickly a fan favorite, his jovial smile and intensity earned him respect from teammates. Scott wanted “hard-nosed”, and he got it

Kevin Montgomery, Dan Ringwald, Dylan Yeo, Kirill Tulupov, Andrew Hotham, Nathan Deck
The clamoring for better defense was bright and clear in Edmonton during the 2011-12 season (and continues to this day), and the Oklahoma City Barons and Bill Scott would attempt to wrangle in players that fit that desired need. While Steve Tambellini struggled to find the right defenders, Scott found his own version of saving grace in six blue liners, all signed rather quickly. Montgomery was yin to Colten Teubert’s yang, and one of the best shut down defenders team had for a four month stretch. Ringwald was a saucey puck mover who made little mistakes. Yeo was a dynamo ECHL captain with grace, and a thick shot from the point. Tulupov was the Russian defender who trapped opponents with muscle, and a keen eye for the chess game that is hockey defense. Hothan and Deck shouldered a ton of the defensive load with a new crop of young Oilers prospects, and a few locked out players named Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Eberle (have you heard of them?) All did very nice things. All have since parted ways, but they were a big reason that the Barons would go 14 games into the Calder Cup Playoffs in 2012, and nearly make the Finals in 2013.

Brett Clark, Jonathan Cheechoo
The lock out season, in hindsight, was an NHL lite season by every definition of the term (the term that I just made up). The Oilers loaded up the farm squad with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, and newcomwer Justin Schultz, and there was a bit of a world beater mentality with these guys. What transpired that season was the other NHL cities, from coast to coast, did the same things with their affiliated AHL teams. The results were high energy, high scoring, and low standings, at least for the Barons. When the lockout ended, the Barons were left with gaping holes offensively, and leadership in ruins (not because of the Hall-Nuge-Eberle-Schultz losses, but rather because they had none to begin with). Brett Clark, a sixth rounder to the Candiens, had recently played 80+ games with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was a relevant choice mainly because of his age, but moreso his knowledge of the game, and how the inner workings of teams evolve. As the team changed from NHL heavy to prospect heavy overnight, he was the missing link. Likewise, the offensive firepower lost was solved by Jonathan Cheechoo, a winger with a serious knack for putting the puck in the net. Clark + Cheechoo does not equal dynamo success, but it landed the Barons in the drivers seat by the end of the season, and their best postseason run in the team’s history.

C.J. Stretch
I love this guy. Recently voted the Barons “Fan Favorite”, Stretch oozes casual, California like a walk on Venice Beach. He has great skills too that transcend any place in the lineup. Wing, center, third, fourth, top – stick him anywhere and he will have fun succeeding.

In the end, Scott “won” the NHL GM Assistant job because of his track record of success, and that’s a new thought for the traditional hiring process in Edmonton. With Dallas Eakins as the coach, Craig MacTavish the GM, and Bill Scott in the mix, I like the chances that underlying prospects or ones that no one has even thought to explore, get fully realized. Nuts and bolts aside, Scott is a great, cordial man. His family is a testament to hard work in and of themselves as they deal with dad’s / husband’s wild and woolly schedule. He is a big part of why we love Barons hockey, and how blessed we have been to see an incredible team four seasons in a row. He’ll be missed, but certainly watched and admired from afar. Take good care of him, Edmonton.

Former OKC Barons in Playoffs Abroad

From Finland to Italy, England to Russia, former OKC Barons players are currently signed in numerous leagues throughout Europe and points east. It really comes as no surprise since on any given night in OKC you can find not only NHL scouts but also scouts from Europe who have been mighty impressed with these fellows coming out of OKC. As the regular season in Europe ends and teams move into the Playoffs, a number of former OKC Barons are now very busy with some post season action:

Check back for updates as the EIHL’s regular season is still in process.

Austria (Erste Bank Eishockey Liga – EBEL):

  • Alex Plante & Kevin Montgomery (Dornbirner EC; Quarterfinals);
  • Brad Moran (EHC Linz; advancing to Semi-Finals).

Denmark (Metal Ligaen):

  • Kirill Tulupov (Frederikshavn White Hawks, advancing to Semi Finals).

Finland (Liiga):

  • Josh Green (Tappara Tampere; Quarterfinals).

Germany (DEL & DEL2):

  • Nathan Deck (Ravensburg Towerstars DEL2; Quarterfinals);
  • Colten Teubert (Iserlohn Roosters DEL; Quarterfinals);
  • Dan Ringwald (Bad Nauheim DEL2 – Relegation Playoffs).

Italy:

  • Ryan O’Marra and Darcy Campbell (Val Pusteria (Brunico); advancing to Semi-Finals).

Russia & Croatia (KHL):

  • Teemu Hartikainen (Salavat Yulaev, advancing to Semi-Finals);
  • Jonathan Cheechoo (Voted Best Player on team’s 1st season; Medveščak Zagreb, eliminated in Quarterfinals);
  • Niko Hovinen (Vladivostok Admirals, eliminated in Quarterfinals).

Sweden (SHL):

  • Toni Rajala (HV71; Quarterfinals);
  • Liam Reddox (Växjö Lakers; Quarterfinals);
  • Shawn Belle & Garrett Stafford (Färjestad; Quarterfinals).

Switzerland (NLA):

  • Ryan Keller (ZSC; Quarterfinals);
  • Lennu Petrell (Genève-Servette; advancing to Semi-Finals);
  • Martin Gerber (Kloten; Quarterfinals);
  • Alex Giroux (Ambrì-Piotta; eliminated in Quarterfinals).

Where Are They Now? A 2013-14 Season Update on Former OKC Barons

With the Oklahoma City Barons underway in their fourth season, we’ve seen many faces roll through the roster in just the three seasons of existence. With the European season well underway, and the NHL and AHL starting this past week, we’ll take a look at where former OKC Barons are playing this year and how they’ve done so far. Not included are players that are currently with the Edmonton Oilers (Petry, Eberle, Arcobello, etc.).

Cameron Abney – Currently in Bakersfield Condors (ECHL) camp.

Shawn Belle – Farjestads BP (SHL), 9GP, 1 A, 40 PIM, +3.

Dave Bonk – Nikko Ice Bucks (Asia), 7GP, 1 G, 3 A, 22 PIM, -6.

Gilbert Brule – Released from Phoenix Coyotes (NHL) camp. No current team.

Tyler Bunz – Currently in Bakersfield Condors (ECHL) camp.

Dane Byers – Hershey Bears (AHL), 1GP, -1. Named captain.

Darcy Campbell – Val Pusteria Brunico (Italy), 5GP, 2 G, 4 A.

Jonathan Cheechoo – Medvescak Zagreb (KHL), 13GP, 7 G, 2 A, +4.

Taylor Chorney – Chicago Wolves (AHL), 1GP, -2.

Brett Clark – Released from Florida Panthers (NHL) camp. No current team.

Philippe Cornet – San Antonio Rampage (AHL), 2GP, 1 A, +1.

Yann Danis – Adirondack Phantoms (AHL), 1GP, 1-0-0, 2.84 GAA, .893 Saves %.

Nathan Deck – Currently in Stockton Thunder (ECHL) camp.

Jeff Deslauriers – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL), 1GP, 1-0-0, 2.02 GAA, .917 Saves %.

Sean Erickson – Coventry Blaze (EIHL), 9GP, 3 A.

Martin Gerber – Kloten Flyers (Swiss NLA), 9GP, 6-3-0, 2.43 GAA, .925 Saves %.

Alexandre Giroux – HC Ambri-Piotta (Swiss NLA), 9GP, 5 G, 4 A, -4.

Triston Grant – Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL), 2GP, 1 G, 1 A, +1.

Teemu Hartikainen – Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL), 11GP, 3 G, 5 A, -1.

Jordan Henry – Currently in Florida Everblades (ECHL) camp.

Andrew Hotham – Dusseldorfer EG (DEL), 2GP, -2, 29 PIM.

Niko Hovinen – Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL), 9GP, 2-7-0, 2.71 GAA, .924 Saves %.

Eric Hunter – Colorado Eagles (ECHL). Player rights traded from Stockton to Toledo to Colorado.

Ryan Keller – ZSC Lions (Swiss NLA), 9GP, 1 G, 2 A, +1.

Milan Kytnar – HC Karlovy Vary (Czech), 7GP, 2 Goals.

Kane Lafranchise – Currently in Alaska Aces (ECHL) camp.

Andrew Lord – Cardiff Devils (EIHL), 10GP, 5 G, 6 A, 12 PIM.

Mike Marcou – Currently in Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL) camp.

Matt Marquardt – Charlotte Checkers (AHL), 2 Games Played.

Andrew Martens – Currently in Wichita Thunder (CHL) camp.

Colin McDonald – New York Islanders (NHL), 2GP, -1.

Kevin Montgomery – Dornbirner EC (Austria), 9GP, 1 A, 8 PIM.

Brad Moran – EHC Linz (Austria), 8GP, 2 G, 5 A, +4.

Johan Motin – Orebro (SHL), 9GP, 2 A, 12 PIM, +3.

Ryan O’Marra – Val Pusteria Brunico (Italy), 2 Games Played.

Magnus Paajarvi – St. Louis Blues (NHL), No Games Played.

Theo Peckham – Rockford IceHogs (AHL), 1GP, 2 PIM.

Lennart Petrell – Geneve-Servette (Swiss NLA), 9GP, 2 G, 2 A, +3.

Bryan Pitton – Currently in Allen Americans (CHL) camp.

Alex Plante – Dornbirner EC (Austria), 9GP, 3 A, -6, 42 PIM.

Liam Reddox – Vaxjo Lakers (SHL), 9GP, 1 G, 3 A, +3.

Dan Ringwald – EC Bad Nauheim (DEL2), 7GP, 4 A.

Bryan Rodney – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL), No Games Played.

Garrett Stafford – Farjestads BK (SHL), 4GP, -4, 6 PIM.

Zack Stortini – Norfolk Admirals (AHL), 2GP, 1 A, -1, 24 PIM.

Colten Teubert – Iserlohn Roosters (DEL), 3GP, 1 A, -2, 18 PIM.

Kirill Tulupov – Released from Portland Pirates (AHL) camp. No current team.

Antti Tyrvainen – Jokerit (Liiga), 10GP, 2 G, 2 A, +2.

Chris VandeVelde – Adirondack Phantoms (AHL), 1 Game Played.

Dylan Yeo – Toronto Marlies (AHL), No Games Played.

Teigan Zahn – Currently in Utah Grizzlies (ECHL) camp.

Not Playing (no signs of playing this season) – Anthony Aiello, Jordan Bendfeld, Dusty Collins, Jesse Gimblett, Josh Green, Bryan Helmer, Darcy Hordichuk, Tanner House, JF Jacques, Randy Jones, David LeNeveu, Ryan Lowery, Kendall McFaull, Ben Ondrus, Richard Petiot, Toni Rajala, Joey Ryan, Greg Stewart, Jake Taylor, Hunter Tremblay.

Ice Hockey and the Wild West: Kirill Tulupov and his stint with the Arizona Sundogs

Photo: Kirill Tulupov after Sutherby fight Dec. 2, 2011 OKC Barons vs. San Antonio Rampage. (Photo: Courtesy Candace Riley. All Rights Reserved.)

 In early March following former OKC Barons defenseman Kirill Tulupov’s return to North America, he kindly granted an interview (published at ArtfulPuck) and I was able to talk to him about his unusual situation and how he ended up playing with the Central Hockey League’s Arizona Sundogs at the end of this season. Tulupov’s straightforward and sincere account about his experiences gives you a glimpse into the odd situations that players find themselves in during lockouts. Do they sit out and wait for the next season, do they play abroad, or do they head to the overcrowded minors?

After the NHL announced their lockout, Tulupov headed east to the KHL and expected to return immediately to North America upon the conclusion of the lockout. In the end however, it did not work out that way. It all came down to timing and the NHL lockout: the date of NHL’s return to play, the release date from his KHL team and the various North American league deadlines for returning European players. In the end upon his return to North America after missing both the AHL and ECHL deadlines, Tulupov joined the CHL’s Sundogs, an affiliate of the nearby Phoenix Coyotes, as they made their push to the playoffs.

Teams like the Arizona Sundogs bring to mind Jason Cohen’s Zamboni Rodeo – ice hockey and the Wild West – which oddly enough makes a great pairing. The Central Hockey League (CHL) is wild and wooly, brash and constantly in your face. It is one of those brazen, bigger than life hockey leagues – hockey coupled with entertainment and just a bit more than the usual zaniness. Take the Denver Cutthroats for instance. Not too long ago this very season the team was short a player due to injuries and the coach suited up to play, while one of the players coached. As for the Arizona Sundogs, what really made them stand out this season was their transformation since February and their hardnosed push to the playoffs. Wild West hockey combined with a bit of heart.

Read More

My Conversion to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)

KHL Map. Courtesy of EliteProspects.com
KHL Map. Courtesy of EliteProspects.com

In case you missed it, the NHL is still in the midst of their lockout – a long, drawn out, rapidly becoming ridiculously crazy, losing fans lockout. However, this could well be changing soon, but for now we are still without NHL hockey. Luckily I live close to AHL hockey and have been a fan of the OKC Barons for a couple of seasons now, but the lockout has even touched upon that, creating an odd hybrid, neither fish nor fowl. In mid-October I ventured forth into new uncharted territory – the KHL – the Kontinental Hockey League. A league spanning from the Czech Republic, Bratislava, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan to the full length of Russia from West to the East, all the way to Khabarovsk. And I confess – I’ve grown very fond of that Russian Machiavellian beast.

The KHL was formed in 2008 out of its precursor the Russian Super League, and the season runs from early September to mid-February followed by playoffs. Today, the KHL consists of 26 teams spanning the length of Eastern Europe and Russia, split into two conferences, East and West with two divisions within each Conference. (By the way, @ChunkletsHockey has a very fine KHL blog over at The Road to Khabarovsk with updates on the KHL goings-on. Check it out!)

Eastern Europe Russia with KHL cities
Eastern Europe and Western Russia with KHL cities marked in Red.

EAST (12 teams)

Kharlamov Division

Chernyshev Division

Ak Bars – Kazan Amur – Khabarovsk
Avtomobilist – Ekaterinburg Avangard – Omsk
Metallurg – Magnitogorsk Barys Astana – Astana, Rep. of Kazakhstan
Neftekhimik – Nizhnekamsk, Rep. of Tartarstan Metallurg – Novokuznetsk
Traktor – Chelyabinsk Salavat Yulayev Ufa – Ufa, Rep. of Bashkortostan
Yugra – Khanty-Mansiysk Sibir – Novosibirsk

WEST (14 teams)

Bobrov Division

Tarasov Division

Dinamo Riga – Riga, Latvia CSKA Moskva – Moscow
Donbass – Donetsk, Ukraine Dynamo Minsk – Minsk, Belarus
Dynamo Moskva – Moscow HK Atlant – Moscow
HC Lev Praha – Prague, Czech Republic Lokomotiv – Yaroslav
HC Slovan Bratislava – Bratislava, Slovak Republic Severstal– Cherepovets
SKA – St. Petersburg Spartak Moskva – Moscow
Vityaz Chekov – Moscow Torpedo – Nizhny Novgorod

As you can see above, many of the KHL team names themselves – Torpedo, Traktor, Lokomotiv, Metallurg – hark back to the Soviet Union, the days of communist idealism and industry, along with authoritarian leadership, which led to Russia’s place in history as one of the two Superpowers of the mid-20th century. Many of today’s KHL teams were founded directly following World War II within the Soviet League which was disbanded in 1992; the Soviet League was followed by the International Ice Hockey League (IIHL) from 1992 to 1996, which was then followed by the Russian Super League from 1999 to 2008.

A few interesting historical tidbits about the teams:

  • Dynamo Moskva – in the early days was sponsored by the KGB;
  • Spartak Moskva – was founded in 1946 and the name refers to the Roman gladiator Spartacus;
  • CSKA Moscow – originally the Soviet Army team founded in 1946;
  • SKA St. Petersburg – formed in 1946, another Soviet Army team;
  • Metallurg Magnitogorsk – known by most as Evgeni Malkin’s team, but also depicted in Dave King’s outstanding book, King of Russia, which describes his year coaching the team in 2005-06;
  • Slovan Bratislava (nicknamed Belasí – Sky Blues) – while Slovan is the newest KHL team it is actually the oldest historically, as it was formed in 1921 – even older than almost all of the NHL teams!

Regardless when the NHL returns, and they will at some point, and most likely very soon, I will remain a KHL fan. In my boycott of all things NHL this season, I am now the proud owner of two KHL jerseys! I leave you to guess which two teams I now represent here in the U.S.  Someday I even plan to visit Russia to witness some of their teams play – it is on my rapidly expanding Hockey Bucket List already. Yes, I’ve followed my favorites Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Nail Yakupov and Ilya Kovalchuk, among many others, and I’ve now watched all 26 teams play at least once this season.

I’ve also focused on the lower ranked Russian teams with no NHL superstars – teams with heart and soul, but always the underdog. My favorite by far this season is the eastern outpost of the KHL – Amur Khabarovsk – a team full of youth, heart, the toughest travel schedule of any hockey team in the world, and the ever evolving KHL intrigues. Their top tier Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame coach Hannu Jortikka was fired in mid-December only to be replaced by their previously fired coach Alexander Blinov. And meanwhile the team continues to fight their way through to the end of the season. The Vince Lombardi quote “winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is everything” strikes a chord with me here. These situations always test character, perseverance and strength – and this team has a great deal of all of that which I greatly admire.  I cheer every success, no matter how large or small, and commiserate with every loss.

OKC Barons fans will recall that Yann Danis played for Amur during his 2010-11 season and this season, former OKC Barons’ defenseman Kirill Tulupov has spent part of this KHL season with Amur. Our lives are made of such connections and even through extension, a hockey team in Khabarovsk feels closer even though it is over 6,000 miles away. In past years watching games in Russia would have been impossible – but today’s technology makes it very easy when games are streamed online. Give them a try! The ice is larger, so it is a different style of hockey – more open, more focus on offense, but what amazingly beautiful hockey. Yes, you might have to wake up rather early in the morning to catch one of eastern teams play on home ice, but it is worth it. Grab that steaming large mug of freshly brewed coffee, sit back, relax, and enjoy some Russian hockey!

And, if Russian and NHL legend Viacheslav “Slava” Alexandrovich Fetisov has his way, the future of international hockey will encompass a Global Hockey League, one in which the KHL is expanded dramatically (and this is already underway!) and the winners of both the KHL’s Gagarin Cup and NHL’s Stanley Cup will face off for a World Cup. This would bring all hockey cultures much closer than ever before and create an entirely new level of competition! Can you imagine? The mere thought makes me giddy!

Predicting Barons Defensive Pairs

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

If there is one thing that concerns me about the Oklahoma City Barons this season, it’s the defense. I use the word type loosely because every season is vastly different, but Coach Todd Nelson is a defensive type hockey coach. His teams aren’t lulling you to sleep nor are they overtly brawny. Actually sometimes deception kicks in, and it appears that offense is the key. He’s been gifted some of the most talented forwards in the AHL the last two seasons. As the Barons coach, his teams have been highly entertaining to watch from the stands. But his motto will always be defense first.

It starts in net. Goaltenders need to be consistent and able to steal games at times. Then it moves to the left and right defensemen. They need to handle the puck quickly, efficiently, and with very little error. Time wasted in the defensive zone, moving back to the offensive side, is something that the Barons have always tried to hone. The defensive core in Oklahoma City doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be quietly well-organized and disciplined.

There is no reason to believe that a Nelson coached team in 2012-13 will be any different.

Read More