BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer email@example.com
All of a sudden, the Bakersfield Condors may just be a lot better hockey team than their 8-25-3 record might indicate.
Thanks to the end of the National Hockey League lockout.
The trickle-down effect has been reversed and ECHL teams that were once stacked with NHL players (four of them in Alaska alone) or players that should have been in the American Hockey League are losing those players in an exodus recorded on the daily ECHL transaction list.
"Just look at the latest transactions, teams are losing guys right and left," said Condors coach Matt O'Dette. "This is what the plan was from the beginning. It was just supposed to happen a month into the season."
One of just two teams in the ECHL without a NHL or AHL affiliation (Las Vegas is the other) the Condors never benefitted from to flood of players that other affiliated teams received.
But, as the record indicates, neither could the Condors compete at the level of those more talented teams.
"I think our talent now matches that of other teams, in the past it didn't," O'Dette said. "The tide has turned in our favor but it's not going to be easy. We have to work for it. The whole Western Conference has taken a 180. We're going about our business."
Perhaps the Western Conference team most affected by the end of the lockout is the Ontario Reign, who lead the Pacific Division with 50 points. The Reign lost both their goaltenders, NHLer Kyle Clifford and two of their top three D-men. Idaho lost its top two scorers and a top D-man; Stockton lost its leading scorer and two other top players; Alaska lost six players (four NHLers); San Francisco lost five players and Utah lost three players.
And O'Dette thinks the bleeding will only continue for affiliated teams.
"No only have they lost guys to fill holes, they are an injury away at the NHL or AHL level to losing another guy and another guy. This is only a start. When you cram (48 NHL games) into a short amount of time there's going to be injuries."
The Condors have not lost a player.
"There's no excuses now," O'Dette said. "It's show time. We've suffered through this lockout, our fans have suffered, everyone has suffered. It's time for other teams to suffer now and we're not going to feel sorry for them one bit."
The Condors are 12 points behind San Francisco in a quest for the final playoff position.
"We win and then we win some more." O'Dette said of how the Condors can make up ground with a half-season left. "We have our sights not only on San Francisco but everyone else. We're thinking big. We feel that we can complete with anybody now that the playing field has been leveled.
"But it's one game at a time and a win on Friday (against Idaho) is what we're looking at right now."