“It was a lot of fun, but it's disappointing when you don't win the Cup,” said forward Teemu Hartikainen, who has played with the Barons the past three years but is expected to play all next season in Edmonton. “You feel bad that you're that close and didn't make it. But it was a great season.”
The Barons were one of the AHL's hottest teams the final three months after dropping to 11th in the Western Conference standings two weeks after young Edmonton stars Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Justin Schultz returned to the Oilers after playing three months with the Barons.
Team captain Josh Green, 35, played on a championship team in Austria but has never been on a Cup championship team.
“After we lost Game 7 it was one of the emptiest feelings I've ever had because of what could have been,” Green said. “We were so close to moving to the finals. But having a day to reflect on it, we had a really great season considering all the adversity we went through. I'm so proud of all the guys.”
Edmonton's Triple-A affiliate hasn't played for the AHL title in 20 years. Oklahoma City came close to ending the drought.
The Barons' first three seasons marks the first time in franchise history that Edmonton's Triple-A affiliate has recorded 40 or more wins three consecutive seasons.
“People talk about winning (versus) development at this level,” Nelson said. “To us, winning is a form of development. It showed this year. Our guys played with a lot of heart and character, things that will help them as they advance through the system.”
Nelson has been part of five championship teams. He was a player and assistant coach on two AHL Calder Cup teams. He also was part of three United Hockey League championships, including two as a head coach.
“It is so hard to win a cup,” Nelson said. “But once you accomplish that goal you have a taste in your mouth that drives you that you want to do it again. Your goal is to win the Calder Cup. We're disappointed we fell just short, but we're very proud of what we've accomplished.”