BROSSARD – Mike Condon was a standout at training camp, so much so that he earned a coveted roster spot with the Canadiens.
On Monday, general manager Marc Bergevin made the news official, naming the 25-year-old Needham, MA native as Carey Price’s backup to start the 2015-16 campaign, while electing to put Dustin Tokarski on waivers.
“It’s very exciting. I’m just happy to be here and I’m ready to get to work,” offered Condon, who posted a 23-19-6 record, a 2.44 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage in 48 games with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs last season. “I’m not surprised by it. I’m confident in my abilities and I’m happy for the opportunity. It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet.”
While Condon saw limited game action during the preseason, it was evident to Bergevin that the 6-foot-2, 197 pound netminder deserved his promotion to the NHL ranks on a full-time basis.
“Mike performed really well in camp. Did we think he’d be here three weeks ago? No. But, I’m always open to young guys pushing ahead. He forced our hand, and I think it’s very positive,” offered Bergevin, who saw Condon hold the opposition scoreless in two preseason appearances, including a 17-save shutout effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs on September 26 at the Air Canada Centre. “It was a little bit of both [Condon outperforming Tokarski and Dustin’s game falling off]. Sometimes, the players make the decisions for us.”
Condon, whom the Canadiens signed to a two-year contract extension through the 2016-17 season back in early February, knows full well the responsibility that comes with the backup role at hockey’s highest level, especially in Montreal where the workload can often be particularly light. Last season, Tokarksi made just 16 starts all year as Price turned in one of the most remarkable years between the pipes in recent memory.
“You can’t take any day for granted in the NHL. I’ve only been here for one day [as a member of the team]. I’m going to work my hardest to stay up here. I know how difficult it is to stay,” shared Condon, who was first signed by the Canadiens as a free agent in May 2013, before donning the colors of the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers in 2013-14, and then joining Sylvain Lefebvre’s squad the year after that. “The challenge is just to focus, not to get too comfortable and try to make everyone around you better. Your practices are your games sometimes. The Devil is in the detail, so you’ve got to bear down and focus. I know as quickly as it can be given, it can be taken away.”
That doesn’t appear to be a problem for Condon, who is no stranger to the situation he now finds himself in with the CH.
“I think back to my time in college [at Princeton University]. I was battling it out with another goalie named Sean Bonar for three years. We had to battle for starts every weekend and you only have 30 games. Monday through Thursday, we were competing the whole time,” recalled Condon, who majored in political science at the Ivy League institution in New Jersey. “I wasn’t the starter in college, so I’m familiar with that role. You’ve got to compete every day. I’m used to it. I know what’s expected of me.”
Having played in front of Condon in Hamilton in recent years, defenseman Jarred Tinordi believes the Belmont Hill School alum has all of the necessary ingredients to meet those expectations.
“Mike plays big. He was awesome for us down in Hamilton. I think he’s ready to play every night, which is huge. He prepares for games really well, so he’s consistent there, too. You know what you’re going to get out of him. He works hard,” praised Tinordi, who will also begin the season with the Canadiens. “I thought he was playing the puck really well [in training camp]. I think that’s one thing – especially at this level – that helps us out so much. Pricey is one of the best in the league at it, and Condi has done really well with that also.”
Condon doesn’t yet know when he’ll make his NHL regular season debut, but that’s certainly as good an endorsement as any for when the opportunity finally arrives. In the meantime, he plans on simply keeping up the same routine that got him to this point and made his NHL dreams a reality.
“It’s been a long two years. There’s been a lot of growth and development. I had a great time in Wheeling and a great time in Hamilton. I’ll be trying to use the things I did down there up here,” concluded Condon, who could foreseeably get the call at some point during the Canadiens’ season-opening four-game road swing that includes back-to-back games against the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators next weekend. “As I get older, I just try to narrow my focus. I don’t try to get too far ahead of myself because then you don’t take care of the task at hand.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Words From The Room - October 5
Predicting the future
Tomas Fleischmann under contract for the 2015-16 season
On with the show