Jordan Eberle. Taylor Hall. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Justin Schultz. Teemu Hartikianen. Probably Magnus Paajarvi. Take a good look at those names, Edmonton Oilers fans, because these five or six now-former Oklahoma City Barons will be playing for the Oilers once the 2013 season starts in less than two weeks.
Now consider this departure of talent from the Barons, take a look at what remains on their roster and perhaps start planning for a titanic nosedive in the conference standings. They have already been shuttling back and forth between second and fourth place in the AHL‘s tight South Division, but with six of their top seven scorers leaving and considering how many light years ahead of everyone else Eberle and Schultz were in the points department, things are about to get pretty ugly. That will happen both in the division and in the conference, where they currently sit in seventh place and would actually make the playoffs if the season ended today.
Hartikainen and Paajarvi were actually left in this past Sunday’s matchup between the Barons and the Chicago Wolves (which the Barons lost 6-3), but take a look at some of the characters who will replace the “Baby Oilers”: Nathan Deck, Alex Plante, Erick Lizon, Dane Byers, Josh Green. These aren’t exactly household names here, nor are they considered major Oilers prospects or players who should contribute significantly to the Oilers in the future. Sure, they have Mark Arcobello (31 points) and Martin Marincin (13 points) in double figures, but that’s it, plus you have to wonder how much talent a guy like Arcobello really has and how much of his success has been due to the gelling he experienced with the Baby Oilers.
The flip side to all of this is that former prospects and guys who could still have a future with the Oilers–Anton Lander, Curtis Hamilton, Tyler Pitlick–but who have been stunted in their development because of the presence of the Baby Oilers will get more time to play now. This should do good things for them and the club. But when we’re still looking at Yann Danis as the starter in net, things are not going to get any prettier. Get ready for a big drop the second half of this season now that the Big Six are leaving.