‘I felt like I was playing well’: Jack Campbell talks AHL demotion after first start with Condors

Photo credit:Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
7 months ago
Jack Campbell’s debut with the Bakersfield Condors wasn’t the result anyone was hoping for.
While his Edmonton Oilers teammates fell into last place in the NHL some 1500 kilometres away, in Abbotsford, Campbell allowed four goals on 20 Canucks shots in a 4-1 defeat — far from what the doctor ordered.
The loss marked Campbell’s first AHL start since December 29, 2018, as a member of the Ontario Reign in a 5-1 loss against the Texas Stars.  Five seasons and three NHL teams later, he’s back, albeit in a very different place than before.
Campbell had played just five games with the Oilers this season, winning just one and posting a save percentage of .873, before being placed on waivers on Tuesday and sent down to the AHL. Speaking after the game Thursday night, Campbell admitted the last two days had been tough to process.
“Pretty tough, I’m not gonna lie,” Campbell said. “I’m pretty hard on myself, I think that’s pretty well documented around the hockey world. I felt likewas playing well, had some confidence. But obviously, the numbers weren’t good enough.”
“So it was nice to get out there tonight, even though it didn’t quite go as planned.”
The decision by the Oilers to send the 31-year-old netminder down caught him off guard.
“Pretty surprised, not gonna lie. You know, it’s not been fun up there so far this year. We’re working through it and obviously looking to get the results going, and hearing the news was very difficult,” Campbell said.
For the last two seasons in Edmonton to end up here was out of the realm of anyone’s expectations, including the man himself. After working with former NHLer Manny Legace in the offseason, Campbell’s preparation has remained the same throughout the year. But the same results that were flipping his way in the preseason suddenly stopped in the regular season.
“I felt great in preseason, felt really good in the gamesplayed. But it’s a results league, and it wasn’t quite good enough.”
And yet, despite the adversity, Campbell is taking things in stride. He spoke highly of the atmosphere in the Bakersfield locker room and how it’s eased the transition for him.
“It’s a tight-knit group. I saw that right away, even in training camp. What they bring to the rink, the energy, the fun they have, that’s contagious,” Campbell said. “Right away I felt comfortable with the group.”
If the Condors’ role was to settle him down, the Abbotsford Centre crowd was trying their best to undo it right from puck drop. Canucks fans could be heard chanting Campbell’s name throughout the night and giving him the Bronx cheer on routine saves.
Campbell had some good stretches early on, but the toughest test of the first period was off a shorthanded breakaway for Canucks centre Nils Aman. Campbell stuffed him on the initial shot, but Aman cleaned up the rebound to tie the game at one apiece.
But things unravelled quickly in the second period. The Canucks took over the run of play, and Sheldon Dries got a free look at the far side to give Abbotsford the lead.
And then, the goal.
Nils Aman’s second period tally that banked off of Campbell’s stick and past his glove seemed to be a microcosm of his season so far. Marc Gatcomb would add one more off a doorstep rebound to put the game away for Abbotsford.
But with plenty of experience at both levels, Campbell knows the differences between the NHL and AHL aren’t all that noticeable when the pucks start flying towards you.
“It’s a tough league. There’s a lot of guys who have the skill to play in the NHL. Sometimes you just need an opportunity or break.”
For now, Campbell is just taking things slow; one game at a time, one practice at a time.
“Tonight was just about getting out there. A lot of emotions, a lot of nerves, you want to play well for the group,” Campbell said. “For me, it’s just about staying with my details. I have some things I’ve got to keep working on to get to the next level of my game, and that doesn’t change whether I‘m here or up in the NHL.”
“So I’m looking just to have some fun, fill out my game and just keep getting better.”

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