Workin’ For The Weekend: The Oklahoma City Barons Head North To Abbotsford “The Heat Is On”

The (Abbotsford) Heat Is ON!

I never was a huge fan of The Eagles. Born in 1980, the only real connection I have to the band is through the eyes of my parent’s record collection. They always seemed like a band that was dubbed way too epic amongst a generation of rock bands that were infinitely better. Regardless, they pumped out country tinged pop rock like few have done over the years, and along the way they’ve spun off solo careers – some better than others.

Joe, Don, Glenn all had highly successful solo careers that never equaled the hit making their previous band had attained, but they were successful in their own way.

Glenn Frey always seemed the least likely to find himself favored by going solo. A couple of good albums led him headlong into performing hits for soundtracks, the most memorable being one for an iconic movie of the 1980’s, Beverly Hills Cop. The movie is as hilarious 27 years later as it was in 1985. Granted I never watched the movie until the mid-90’s, but everything about it screamed “I LOVE THIS”.

One of my favorite soundtracks, the album featured Patti LaBelle doing “New Attitude”, the Pointer Sisters “Neutron Dance”, The System’s “Rock ‘N Roll Me Again”, “Axel F”, and of course Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On”. Written by another, but performed perfectly by Frey, it’s a classic track of synthesized glory. It fits the movie. It fits the time period. It fits Frey, and his tendency for full throttle main stream pop.

Used in commercials for many years, it’s a song that instantly coexists with unintentional and jovial pressure situations. A mom chasing her kids around the house, Black Friday shoppers diving for goods, a high school student taking a test – you can almost hear the thump of the track in your ear.

And this week. For a local hockey team in a “foreign” land…the Heat Is On!

November is now here, our beloved Barons are barely over .500, and are about to make their first trip way north. It’s at this time that we pause, inhale, exhale, and digest where the Oklahoma City team currently resides in the grand scheme of the 2012-13 season. Right now, it’s hard to pin down where this team goes from here because they’ve not dominated out of the gate as some predicted. But it’s not entirely necessary to look back over the last ten games to properly gauge where the team will be headed, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Let’s start with offense. The team hasn’t dominated, but the usual suspects have. Justin Schultz (6-9-15), Jordan Eberle (6-5-11), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (3-7-10), and Teemu Hartikainen (3-6-9) have carried the Barons on their shoulders. Amongst those four, they’ve been responsible for well over half of the teams goals scored (18 of 31), and that’s a good thing. They should be dominating, and will probably continue to do so. With very little surprises offensively (make a case for Marincin or Arcobello if you will), the Barons are a one trick pony. A good one, but a team that knows its strengths and openly shares them with opponents.

And then there’s the defense. It’s been described, on various occasions, as weak, too young, ugly, undetermined, unrefined, and just plain bad. I choose to call it lumpy. Like any good baker will tell you, most confectionery delights are about consistency. And the Oklahoma City defense is a half-mixed recipe for terrible play — and it shows. Justin Schultz, for all his offensive gifts, can indeed defend. Martin Marincin is efficient, but not top level yet. And those are considered the top two Barons defenders. Things trickle down to Colten Teubert, Alex Plante, Taylor Fedun, and Teigan Zah (and Brandon Davidson & most recently Jordan Henry), it’s a mixed bag of whom-plays-good-and-whom-plays-bad on a nightly basis. As a core group, they’ve yet to put together one game where everyone plays well.

Goaltending has been semi-interesting, and has swayed between good and bad based on the defense directly in front of both Roy and Danis. Both have been mechanically sound, always game-time ready, and eager to flip-flop starters almost nightly. Danis isn’t having a mind numbing start, as he did a year ago, and the first-time AHLer Roy is sturdy. But there will come a time where one or both of these tenders will need to outright steal games, and in ten games played, we’ve not seen that happen. It HAS happened in a period or two, but not the entire arc of sixty minutes.

And so the team heads north to Abbotsford for a weekend two-step of games, and in Canada no less. The Abbotsford Heat are currently an elite team. Calling an AHL team “elite” this early in the season is similar to calling Mitt Romney your President a month before the elections — you just never know. But they’ve shown us enough skill and determination to perk our senses, and consider how they are getting it done. The Heat are 6-0-1-2, and have been led by up-and-comers Roman Horak (10-1-11) and Sven Baertschi (4-7-11). The other third of the equation on the score sheet for the Heat is the heavily seasoned Ben Walter (2-8-10). All three have taken their roles in an NHL lockout world in stride.

Horak and Baertschi know that the time to shine is now. This, via Metro News, shows their determination:

“Last year, I played a lot at the beginning but my ice time kind of shrunk,” said Horak.

“It’s not easy to play eight minutes a night, or seven, and produce. So it’s good for me to be down here and to develop as a player, to get better every day.”

Linemates only once this season prior to the weekend, Horak and Baertschi were re-united Friday night against the Toronto Marlies.

Horak recorded the hat trick in a 4-2 win, while Baertschi played the role of set-up man with two assists. Ben Walter also had two assists.

“For sure I like to score goals but … it’s exciting when you play with guys like that,” said Baertschi, 20.

“It makes you be more of a passer. I like that role and I like to make plays and set up guys. I’m in the perfect situation right now.”

And the team, and Heat coach Troy Ward, might be on to something. Stick a great setup man alongside a great goalscorer, and you have a white hot cauldron bubbling over the top (Heat pun intended).

The team is 24.2% on the power play, and a whopping 97.5% on the penalty kill. The disciplined way with which the Heat play is remarkable. Could it take a hit c/o the Oklahoma City Barons? Hopefully.

T.J. Brodie could be a legit NHL defenseman in the coming years. And his play is contagious as the team defends the puck extremely well, and is also able to move the puck quicker than you’d imagine.

Per the Abbotsford Heat, both games this weekend are sold out. That’s A) good for the city of Abbotsford and its hockey team, and B) good for the Barons, who will have a lot of Oilers fans in attendance. They’ll play up to the hype, but as will Abbotsford who wants to play spoiler to the Canadian road trip for OKC.

The Heat is on. No doubt.

Likely Oklahoma City Barons Lineup (via earlier practice this week)

Pitlick-RNH-Tyrvainen
Hartikainen-Lander-Eberle
Hall-VandeVelde-Paajarvi
Byers-House-VandeVelde

Schultz-Marincin
Henry-Teubert
Fedun-Plante

Danis

Random Thoughts

Jordan Henry, following his announcement tweet yesterday, has signed a PTO with the Barons. This keeps Henry around only as long as OKC wants him and his PTO will allow him. Is the timing somewhat strange given that Henry played for Abbotsford last season? Absolutely. He’s a sturdy, and sometimes nasty defender, and that could carry some weight with his new teammates. His “in the trenches” defense and willingness to hit hard and often could pay off big time for the Barons. Wait. And see.

Brandon Davidson has been watching practices from the stands in OKC (Thanks Eric!). And that’s great. Cancer aside momentarily, Zahn has stepped into Davidson’s spot in the roster and has had a brief easing in, but will need to be infinitely better or else. Perhaps Henry slides into the Zahn spot this weekend.

This week the good folks at Hockey’s Future did a prospect dig on the AHL Heat. Read it for a quick primer on all things Calgary Flames prospects.

The games are Friday and Saturday in Abbotsford with a slew of Oilers fans headed to watch the Barons play. Tune in via AHLLive.com or 96.1 KXXY or Live365.com.

Written By - Neal Livingston

Born in the great state of Ohio, now nestled in the middle America we call Oklahoma, Neal is the head writer & chief farmhand at Tend The Farm -- a website dedicated to covering the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.