Every season about this time (usually a bit later!) I begin taking tally of the boys who have passed through Oklahoma City, and prepare myself to mourn for the players we will see head to other teams during the summer. As a development team for the Edmonton Oilers this is the natural progress for the OKC team and their fans, but it never gets any easier. There will always be a steady progression of AHL-signed players combined with a longer progression of Oilers prospects passing through, playing their hearts out and winning over fans while they are here.
The OKC Barons saw a total of 153 transactions over the season, the highest in franchise history, but incredibly not the highest in the AHL this season. The Barons dressed 58 players, including 9 goaltenders this season — Bachman, Tuohimaa, Rimmer, LaBarbera, Bryzgalov, Roy, Bunz, Brossoit and Pickard — but it was Richard Bachman who led the team into the Calder Cup Playoffs and without him, the team would not have made it as far as they did this season.
As for season trades, we said our goodbyes to a great group of guys — Olivier Roy (traded to the Calgary Flames), Jason LaBarbera (traded to Chicago Blackhawks), Linus Omark (traded to the Buffalo Sabres), Ryan Martindale (traded to the Florida Panthers), Derek Nesbitt (traded to the San Antonio Rampage), and Nicholas Tremblay (traded to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers).
Along with the trades came new favorites such as Laurent Brossoit and Roman Horak (from the Calgary Flames), Steve Pinizzotto (from the Florida Panthers), Jack Combs (from the San Antonio Rampage), and Greg Miller (from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers).
With a ton of youth on this team, the Barons also had a great group of veterans who helped guide this young team through their season. In the past we’ve seen Bryan Helmer and Josh Green in this role, but this season it was a mix of experienced players who assisted Barons’ Captain Anton Lander, providing leadership and a lot of heart off-ice as well as on. Matthew Ford, Ryan Hamilton, Derek Nesbitt, Denis Grebeshkov, Ben Eager, and Steve MacIntyre all played a huge role for this team.
A huge “thank you” goes to the entire team who participated in the Barons Buddies Project and a special “thank you” to two fellows who will always be fondly remembered, Denis Grebeshkov and Steve MacIntyre. The photographs alone of these two guys with their Barons Buddies will break your heart.
And Steve MacIntyre will be remembered for even more here in OKC. On the last regular season home game we were honored to watch him Captain the team that night, lead the team in their overtime shootout and also raise his signature black cowboy hat at the end of the game, saying goodbye to a long career in professional hockey. MacIntyre will forever hold my admiration for his time here in OKC. It wasn’t necessarily the 11 games he played in OKC, but rather his decent and gracious attitude. If these young boys learned anything this season, I hope they at least learned how to be a generous human being.
At the end of the season we saw the Oilers new group of prospects drop in for a short spell, testing their legs and heart in the AHL, although some doing that much better than others. I tell folks every year that the jump from Juniors or even NCAA hockey is huge, but many don’t believe it until they see these boys play their first couple of games in the A. Each step up the pro ranks is faster, harder and tougher, and the pressure only builds. As an AHL fan you must have a lot of patience, understanding, and even compassion.
Later I will look at the roster in more depth, considering the UFAs and RFAs, as well as possible AHL re-signings, along with the late season signings already at hand. And of course, I will keep track of those heading elsewhere and follow their adventures as they move on in their careers.
For now however, a heartfelt “thank you” for all of our OKC Barons who were a part of the team this 2013-14 season. Well done!