EDMONTON, AB - One thousand one hundred and three.
Is the number of National Hockey League games Bakersfield Condors Assistant Coach Dave 'Charlie' Manson experienced over the course of his 16-year NHL career.
The former Edmonton Oiler, suiting up in 219 games in Orange & Blue while picking up 33 goals and 108 points with the franchise, was a tough customer during his playing days but blended physicality with simplicity, paving the way for a lengthy stay in The Show.
After ending his career with 72 fighting majors, 390 points and 2,792 penalty minutes, the blueliner shifted to coaching. The Prince Albert, SK, product spent 12 seasons as a member of the Raiders' coaching staff, later making the move to coaching professional hockey with the Bakersfield Condors, where he's sharing his wealth of knowledge with prospective Oilers defenders.
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Many Condors Dmen have attributed Manson for personal and group success. The Assistant Coach took the D core under his wing, allowing offensive defencemen the freedom to create plays, helping defensive rearguards protect the net and also teaching the intangibles required to become a long-time NHL player.
"I think he's helped me the most so far," praised Logan Day, the former Div. III defenceman who is third in American Hockey League rookie defence scoring with 27 points.
"He was a little lenient on me at the beginning. Then he sat me down one day and said, 'Alright, the funny business is over. I'm going to be in your face now. If you mess up, I'm going to be there for you telling you how to do it.'"
Manson challenged Day to become more defensively aware, and the improvements are showing. Over the Condors' 12-game winning streak, the 24-year-old is plus-eight with 11 points, tilting the ice in his club's favour on the attack or when securing the D-zone.
"We're always picking his mind and he's helping us get quicker and faster," added Day.
When Caleb Jones got his call-up to the Oilers, Manson was one of the first people he told. The second-year Condor attributes his defence coach for identifying the details required to become an NHLer.
"He's been a huge part of my game this year," Jones said.
"He trusted my offensive instincts and was kind of giving me free roam but he said defensively, it's going to be his way or nothing. There's no negotiating with him there."
Jones appeared in 17 matches with Edmonton, notching career goal No. 1 and adding five assists to go with it. It was a learning experience for the 2015 fourth-round selection and since re-joining the Condors, Manson's been available to fine-tune the skills Jones needs for the next step.
"I was able to see some success up there and obviously have some struggles, which was to be a little bit expected," continued Jones.
"He's just all about the details. If I miss a pass in practice, or if anyone misses a pass or box-out, he's right on you. He almost gets a little annoying with it but it's helpful and it goes such a long way."
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For William Lagesson, the individual expectations Manson established motivates the players to perform. The 6-foot-2, 207-pounder is up to 17 points on the year in his second pro season.
"From the start, he set a good tone," the Swede began. "It's always good to have someone that expects something from you. It puts a little bit of pressure on yourself, instead of someone just being there and not expecting anything."
Manson understands the deviation between developing younger players and sharpening older vets.
For the younger skaters such as Ethan Bear, Jones, Day and Lagesson, it's making improvements each practice. For the veterans, it's instructing on how to properly maintain the body.
For them all, it's ensuring they are as prepared as possible whenever the phone rings.
"We talk at length about players thinking they're ready for the NHL," Manson said.
"I say this to every player: 'The NHL is a very, very good league and the players up there are at a different level. When you go, the key is to not see you again. We have to make sure you're ready when you do go."
The effort is not for nothing. The point is to help the players so they go on to have lengthy careers themselves, like the one Manson was able to navigate.
"We've created an environment that's conducive to learning," he continued. "We haven't wavered off our structure or our fundamental points.
"I think it's a positive environment for growth."