New Bakersfield Condors head coach Gerry Fleming recently made a quick media tour around the city, and one of the first questions he was asked seemed peculiar in its own way.
It didn’t intend to sound like a ‘we don’t know ‘nothin’ about this here ice hockey game’ but at first blush it definitely had that effect.
Fleming was forced to handle the query “So, what exactly does a head coach in hockey do?”
Without so much as a bewildered glance, Fleming was able to form a fine retort.
“You wear a lot of different hats,” he told the local NBC affiliate. “You oversee practice, run the bench, send game reports back to Edmonton.
“The bottom line is that you’re managing people. You oversee strength and conditioning, medicals, equipment. Some days you’re dad, some days you’re best friend, and some days you’re disciplinarian. You need to be prepared for whatever challenge the job faces you with that day.”
Fleming could have one of the most-talented lineups in the AHL this coming season, though of course, that will all depend on who the Oilers keep stationed in Edmonton after training camp and pre-season games. The Condors could have former first-round picks Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse plus an array of notable prospects including Bogdan Yakimov, Iiro Pakarinen, and Anton Slepyshev.
Whoever the Condors have coming for opening night and beyond, Fleming will have a dual-purpose role.
“The Oilers have invested a lot of money, time, and resources into these players so it’s paramount you develop them. That’s the primary goal but at the same time, you have to put a good product on the ice,” said Fleming.
Fleming added to the subject in speaking with the Bakersfield Californian, and highlighted the fact the Oilers and the rest of the AHL’s California contingent will play eight fewer games than the other teams in the league (68 compared to 76):
“We’re going to have a young team here this year,” he said. “(The Oilers) want us to develop. That’s why we’re playing fewer games this year. There will be a lot more practice time, there will be a lot more teaching time, there will be a lot more focus on video, (the) individual aspect of teaching the game. It will be more of a development basis this year than a go-go structure.”
Other tidbits from Fleming’s meet-the-media tour:
On his coaching style: “I want to see us get better every single game. That’s been my philosophy throughout my career.”
On retaining former Condors head coach J.F. Houle as his assistant: “We’ve got history together and that’s just made the transition much easier.”
Houle himself seemed eager for the new task considering how tough the final year of the ECHL Condors was. Injuries and call-ups to Oklahoma City played a big part in Bakersfield finishing 26-38-3-5, leaving the Condors with the second-worst record in the Western Conference and sixth in the seven-team Pacific Division.
“I’m not a big ego guy,” said Houle. “I’m good friends with Gerry and I’m here to support him with whatever he wants me to do.”
No. 1 or No. 2?
Dallas Eakins was run out of Edmonton when it seemed the entire team was ready to stick a knife in his back.
Although Eakins has landed a new gig with the San Diego Gulls, the top affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, he might want to keep peeking back over his shoulder.
An AHL source revealed that Eakins was not the Gulls’ first choice for the job, and got it only after the guy that Anaheim wanted for the job was not allowed to take it.
The source laid out that the Ducks/Gulls’ wish was to have Travis Green behind the San Diego bench, but Green was still under contract to the Vancouver Canucks to coach their AHL affiliate in Utica. The Canucks denied a request to let Green out of his contract thus forcing the Ducks and Gulls to go to Plan ‘B’ – Dallas Eakins.
Green played in the NHL for the Islanders, Bruins, Maple, and coincidentally the Ducks, and also won a championship with Team Canada at the 2007 Spengler Cup. As a coach, Green has built a significant reputation in a short period of time. He started out as an assistant with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks and was promoted to interim head coach when Mike Johnston was suspended by the league for player-benefit violations. The Winterhawks didn’t miss a beat, however, as Green then led them past the Edmonton Oil Kings to claim the WHL title and a berth in the 2013 Memorial Cup where they finished second.
Following the Memorial Cup run, Green was named the head coach of the Utica Comets, the Canucks’ top farm team located in upstate New York.
OKC not DOA?
Back when the Central Hockey League was somewhat of a decent-sized deal in the world of minor-league hockey, the Oklahoma City Blazers were one of the most popular clubs in the circuit.
The team lasted from 1992 to 2008 – virtually an eternity in double-A hockey. In their second and third seasons, the Blazers averaged more than 10,000 per game, and from 1995 thru their second-to-last season, the average attendance per year was in a range from 8,200 to 9,700.
With numbers like that, it’s hard not to imagine someone trying to reincarnate the Blazers in the wake of the Barons demise.
Brad Lund, the former CEO of the Blazers, recently told OKNews that there is preliminary interest in reviving the Blazers and getting an ECHL expansion franchise by the 2016-17 season.
“It is a significant investment,” said Lund of the $2-million fee. “I know that there are some people out there who assume this is a done deal but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“I do want fans to know that we’re working on it and I’m optimistic there will be a Blazers Part II.”
However, it’s highly unlikely there’ll be a bizarre twist of the new Blazers becoming the Oilers’ ECHL affiliate since the Oilers Entertainment Group has purchased the Norfolk Admirals to be their double-A squad.