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BY MIKE GRIFFITH The Bakersfield Californian firstname.lastname@example.org
At the end of tonight's game in Stockton, the Condors (5-9-1-2) will have completed one quarter of their season, one that so far has fallen well below the expectations of everyone involved in the organization.
A day after their worst performance of the season effort-wise (a 3-2 loss to San Francisco on Tuesday night), Condors coach Matt O'Dette assessed the performance of his team.
Condors at Stockton
When: 7:30, tonight
Where: Stockton Arena
Radio: KHTY (970 AM))
Condors record: 5-9-1-2, 13 points
Thunder record: 10-3-1-0, 21 points
Series: Bakersfield is 0-2-1-0
Notes: Rookie defenseman Joe Rogalski (zero points in seven games) was released on Wednesday. "We're making room for future things, trying to create some flexibility," Condors coach Matt O'Dette said. "He's not the solution but he's not the problem, either." ... Tyler Brenner and Jacob Lagace have points in three straight games ... Stockton has won two straight and eight of their last 10 ... The Condors have won just once in regulation, back on opening night against San Francisco ... The Condors return home on Saturday as they face Ontario in the annual Teddy Bear Toss game at Rabobank Arena. Fans are being asked to bring stuffed animals to the game and toss them onto the ice after Bakersfield's first goals. The stuffed animals go to various charities.
Certainly, four games below .500 is probably the opposite of where you thought this team would be at this time. Is it not?
Yep. It is. We haven't played up to our capabilities, that's for sure. We've had some injuries but when the guys were healthy they weren't playing how they were supposed to play. But they're back and they're not playing well. Yeah, we're disappointed.
I'm done talking about the lockout, that's one thing. But we'll fix it. We'll weed out the guys that aren't getting it done and we'll bring in guys that will get it done. That's it.
You brought back a bunch of returning guys -- the bulk of them second-year players -- and you said they needed to pick up where they left off and improve on that. Has that happened this year?
No. That's a flat out no.
The level of the league is better, for sure, because of the trickle down effect. If we took the steps we thought we would take with some of these guys we'd probably be right there with some of these teams that have strengthened, but there are second-year guys who haven't made that step, plain and simple. A couple of them had injuries, yeah, slowed them down a bit. But the majority, I guess the concensus with them as a group is no.
By this time last year you had made lots of changes to the team, bringing in players wherever you could find them -- waivers, trades, free agents. You've shown a lot more patience this year. Is that going to last?
No. We're going to improve our roster. I think I've proven in the past I'm not afraid to shake it up. It doesn't matter who you are. Whether it's top scorers, captains, it doesn't matter.
If it’s a move that’s going to help our team, I’m going to do it. It’s time. The patience is close to the end of the line. There’s some positives still. Our goaltending’s pretty damn good. Our D’s getting better. But I’m really disappointed in our forward group. We’re not battling; we’re not competing; we’re not defending; we’re not scoring. There’s not progress there. There’s progress on the back end. Our goalies have been solid. There’s no progress up front and that’s why I’m disappointed. We’ve got, you know, a couple of guys that are consistent every night. There’s a lot of disappearing acts. You can’t win with one line going each and every night. You need three. We need to strengthen that group and a couple of these guys have to snap out of it.
Soon. Soon, because the clock is ticking.
Have you addressed some of these guys one on one?
Yeah. I’ve had a ton of one-on-one meetings.
It’s the one-on-one meetings, you elevate that to embarrassing them in front of their group and the next thing is moving them. There’s only so many avenues to get through to a guy before you just realize it’s not happening.
At this stage of the game is it one or two moves, three or four moves or wholesale moves? Is the
chemistry still good in the room?
I think it’s good; guys get along. Chemistry to win hockey games? It’s not where it needs to be. We don’t have nearly enough character. That’s glaringly obvious.
How do you define character and how do you tell if it’s missing?
Well, guys inspire other guys to play. Warrior type of guys. And I don’t mean tough and fighters, but guys who give a 100 percent effort every night that make (other) guys do the same. You know, there’s a few of them. Hate to lose. Compete, compete, compete, compete every night. No matter what. No matter what the score is don’t quit. Care, care, care, care, care the most. Mentally tough. Like won’t fold the tent with the sign of adversity. Those guys. We need more of those guys.
You thought you had those guys this season. Did you not?
I thought we had more than what we do have now.
Can it be turned around?
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It’ll be turned around. One way or another. It’ll be turned around.
Do you assess yourself too as to what you might do better to try to motivate them to compete?
Yeah. I hold myself responsible just as much as the players. I picked these guys. I picked these guys to play here so it is on me. And it is on me to replace them when they don’t get it done, so I take responsibility for that.
It’s our job to find ways to get them motivated to play. And when that doesn’t happen we have to look in the mirror and find another way. So yeah. We’re consistently thinking of new ways to motivate and I think one of them is your job. Your job. You get paid to play hockey. Show up to the rink two or three hours a day and give it everything you’ve got mentally and physically. And then you get to go home. That’s a pretty good job. There’s tons of guys out there dying for that job in the hockey world. It starts with that.
How bad do you want to be a pro hockey player? Are you just here to say you are and golf? Get a couple checks? Or do you wat to make a career out of it? With this lockout there’s scouts in the building every night. Every night. Two or three anyways. You never know who’s watching. You’ve got to bring it every night. Guys who want to maintain a career and go somewhere in hockey, they’ve got to pick it up.
Jobs are on the line. Jobs are on the line.