Edmonton moved its Triple-A affiliate to Oklahoma City three years ago. The Barons have made the playoffs all three seasons. But it's doubtful the Barons will have another season like 2012-13 even if the franchise is still going 20 years from now and wins a Calder Cup or two.
“It was a tough year, a very up-and-down emotional year,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “It's hard to put into words what we went through. For us to basically finish third in the league was a remarkable accomplishment.”
The season started with four young Edmonton Oilers stars playing in Oklahoma City. Still in their initial three-year NHL contracts, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were allowed to play with the Barons during an NHL lockout that dragged on nearly four months.
“As far back as I can remember, this is one of the craziest seasons I've ever been a part of,” said team captain Josh Green, in his 16th pro season. “It felt like there were three seasons: pre-lockout, post-lockout and the playoff run we got on.”
Early in the season, rookie defenseman Brandon Davidson was diagnosed with cancer but returned three months later and played a key role during an extended playoff run.
Mother Nature even got involved. Heavy rain storms flooded the east side of the Cox Convention Center, which forced postponement of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. Coach Todd Nelson joked it was his first hockey “rainout.”
“There were a lot of things we had to get through, including tornadoes,” said forward Anton Lander. “As a team we were mentally strong, which really helped us.”
A season full of twists and turns didn't end until the 93rd game when Grand Rapids scored with 6:12 left to edge the Barons 5-4 in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.
“This is the best time of the year when you go deep into the playoffs, playing in big games,” Lander said. “Those are the type of things you dream about when you're a young kid. It's a huge experience. You learn from it.”