Edmonton Oilers: Why Slow Start in the AHL Is to Be Expected
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With the Edmonton Oilers sending down 27 players (including Taylor Hall whenever he's finally able to compete) to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, the team was supposed to run roughshod over competition.
With such high-profile stars such as Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and recent free-agent signing Justin Schultz, the team has more than enough talent and NHL experience to have an advantage over its competition.
Yet up until this point in the AHL season, the Barons have yet to find their stride on the ice, and that is to be expected.
As of October 28, the Barons were a mediocre 4-3-0, good enough for third place in the AHL's South Division.
There have been signs of brilliance, as to be expected from such a talented group, but the transition hasn't been as smooth as many previously predicted.
The AHL serves as the main developmental league for the NHL and is the place where young stars-to-be often go to hone their skills and prepare to make the transition from major junior hockey to the NHL, where the game is ultimately quite different.
Young players from other clubs are out to prove that they deserve a chance in the NHL and may target the young stars from the Oilers as a way to prove themselves as worthy of the chance.
But for the young Oilers stars that are spending the lockout in the AHL, it is a perfect time to work on aspects of their game that may not be the strongest.
For a guy like Nugent-Hopkins, who has been criticized about his lack of size and faceoff abilities, it already appears that the time in Oklahoma is already reaping rewards.
Justin Schultz has utilized his brief time in the AHL to already prove that he's ready for the leap into the NHL.
While the team may not quite be running on all cylinders, the personal development attained in such a short span already will only make the team better (and the Oilers better) in the long run.
There was bound to be a transition period as players get used to their new surroundings and the different style of play, and unfortunately it seems as though the Oilers' players in the AHL will have plenty of time to develop due to the lack of progress in CBA negotiations and the cancellation of more NHL games.
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