For a team like the Oklahoma City Barons, the move to have Todd Nelson leave and move up to Edmonton is probably not one they would want to go ahead and let up, however it is one that shouldn’t have been unexpected. With the troubles in Edmonton with their young team, the progression is of course to bring the guy who pretty much willed the Barons into the post-season last year into the fold. Whether or not Nelson sticks past his interim tag in Edmonton or returns to OKC after all is said and done is something that remains to be seen.
That said, the Barons are now under the thumb of Gerry Fleming, who has been the assistant coach since 2010-11. Luckily that is the move for the Barons, who sit in the top spot in the West Division of the AHL and puts them 3rd in the Conference overall. With this lateral move, you can’t expect much to completely change– especially since Fleming knows the players as well as Nelson and won’t have to adjust a lot to get some success out of the squad.
Plus, let’s be honest, when you look at Fleming’s record in head coaching, it’s a quite successful one. While it has only been at the ECHL level (Tallahassee Tiger Sharks and Florida Everblades), Fleming hasn’t had under a .500 season (320-189-67), has gone to the Kelly Cup Finals twice (losing both) and had four 40+ win seasons. He has the credentials and he knows the personnel around him, but the intangibles that are out of his control will be the things the could effect Fleming the most in this venture.
Luckily for Fleming, they’re taking on Charlotte tonight and Thursday, then back home for two games against Rockford before the Christmas break. They won’t play again until the 21st so there will be time for Fleming to have practices and to adjust the team where he sees fit. Another issue will be how many guys will get pulled up from Edmonton should there be player moves in the future. While it might be a while, if it happens at all, if the Barons do lose someone like Ryan Hamilton or Ilro Parakrinen— the two top goal-scorers– or even captain Anton Lander; it could be a little difficult for Fleming to get that kind of offense back. Luckily, the goals have been spread around, as the Barons are second highest scoring team in the West; but someone from the secondary ranks would have to step up in a big way if there is a loss of those assets
With a small buffer for the team going into the middle part of the season, Fleming is going to be able to have a team that still has their eye on the prize and still know the end goal for them in OKC this season. The big concern will be that he will need to keep those that remain in OKC going forward should key parts move up to Edmonton, as well as fast-track guys into the system that could be coming from Bakersfield to replace them.