The Bakersfield Condors would like to be sitting in a playoff spot right about now, but unfortunately they fell just short of that goal. But for their bigger goal and the bigger picture, there were successes this season.
As the American Hockey League affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, the Condors main purpose is to develop the NHL club’s young prospects and prepare them for life in the NHL. The staff down in California takes great pride when they are able to tell a player they’ve gotten the call-up.
“Ultimately, that’s our job is to prepare these guys to play in the NHL,” said Condors Head Coach Gerry Fleming. “We had pretty much all of our guys at some point or a majority of our guys play in the NHL and contribute or perform well up there. That speaks volumes to the reception they receive down here. People don’t understand that coming to these games and watching these guys develop is a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish here. In that respect, it was a positive thing. But at the end of the day, you’d always like to make the playoffs, and I think that experience of going into the playoffs and learning how to win and playing those games is a huge part of their development.”
Players like Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl began the year on the farm, but earned call-ups and stuck with the Oilers the rest of the way, taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself with injuries to the parent club. Prospects like Jujhar Khaira and Jordan Oesterle took advantage of their opportunities as well and were able to turn heads on the Oilers first-year coaching staff. Laurent Brossoit earned time in the NHL after an All-Star campaign down in the AHL.
That being said, all of the call-ups this season left the Condors fighting for their playoff lives and struggling to piece together a full roster. But that’s the life of an AHL team, and through the disappointment there were successes.
“I don’t think it’s a question of frustration,” said Fleming. “I am disappointed for the guys because they do put the sacrifice in and the hard work and the time and details that need to go into getting into the playoffs. But at the end of the day, their ultimate goal is to play in the NHL and contribute to that team and to further their careers. They all want to play in the NHL. At the end of the day, we’re here to service the Edmonton Oilers. They want us to make the playoffs because it is a big part of their development. To see the amount of guys we had move up and progress in their careers was rewarding.”