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Colin McDonald: Not Ready to be an AHL Veteran

Colin McDonald skates the ice of the Calgary Saddledome February 18th, 2010 Photograph courtesy of Lisa McRitchie all rights reserved
Colin McDonald skates the ice of the Calgary Saddledome February 18th, 2010 Photograph courtesy of Lisa McRitchie all rights reserved

It was just another Friday night in Oklahoma City, but it was my first chance to see the Oklahoma City Barons play live at home. What a treat, the Barons beat the San Antonio Rampage (the Phoenix Coyote's farm team) 3-2. It was not just me in a great mood, but seemingly everyone in the building who was not wearing a Rampage jersey, or there supporting the team.

Colin McDonald was a second round pick (51st) in the 2003 entry draft of the Edmonton Oilers. McDonald played three seasons with the Springfield Falcons with three games in the ECHL Stockton Thunder (2008-09) and two with the Edmonton Oilers last season. The call-up to the Oilers happened November 26th, 2009. In his second game, McDonald scored his first NHL goal against Roberto Luongo

The summer of 2010, McDonald became a free agent and required a new contract. The Oilers and McDonald did not sign a contract, instead McDonald became one of the first players to sign a contract with the Oklahoma City Barons. As of today, McDonald has played 62 games with the Oklahoma City Barons and scored 25 goals and 13 assists making McDonald a definite fan favourite. 

I appreciated the frankness with which McDonald spoke. I'm not sure that McDonald has given up on the Oilers, and if his offence this season has piqued the attention of the Oilers, he may still be around somewhere next season. If not, McDonald will be looking to crack the line-up of another organization.

Copper & Blue: Can you comment on the organizational differences between Springfield and the new Oklahoma City Barons?

Colin McDonald: I'll just say this, the guys that played in Springfield, it was a couple of tough years. I think that everyone just needed a change and it's a lot of new guys, it's a lot of new coaches it's a new city, we're playing a different division so everyone gets a fresh start down here. I think that's why guys are statistically having better years than in the past and we're winning a lot more than what we're used to. Everyone just needed a change, and this just came at the right time.

Copper & Blue: Do you categorize yourself as a defence first player?

Colin McDonald: I could talk all day about that. They kind of made me, in the past two years, into a defencive forward with no power play time, a lot of penalty killing and then this year for whatever reason I was given a shot to play on the top line and to play on the power play and have been able to produce pretty consistently so far. I do know that if I get a chance to play in the NHL I'm going to be most likely a bottom six forward and if I'm going to be a bottom six forward I'm going to have to play well defencively, that's going to be my responsibility. I know what's expected of me at this level and at that level. It just so happens that I've been given more of an opportunity this year to produce offensively.

Copper & Blue: You've had 24 goals this year, what do you attribute that to? Is it the extra time you've been given?

Colin McDonald: It's definitely the extra time, it's the power play time, it's the line I've been playing with Brad Moran and Alexandre Giroux, proven vets that have scored at every level. I'm just thankful for the opportunity to play with those guys. I'm also thankful that I was able to produce early on this season when I was on that top line and I've been there pretty much all year. I definitely have to give those two guys credit, I know going into every game that I'm going to get chances to score.

Copper & Blue: Do you feel right now that you are currently trying out for all 30 teams in the NHL?

Colin McDonald: Absolutely, I mean  I've had a couple of interviews and I tell everyone the same thing. I was upset with the way things went this summer, only getting an AHL deal. I told myself I was going to play with more of a chip on my shoulder and I took it personal for them not giving me an NHL contract. I was their second round draft pick and I thought that they gave up on me. I'm trying to prove myself to their teams and don't get me wrong I wasn't expecting things to go quite this well, but everything happens for a reason and I've always been a late bloomer at every level, in every sport and hopefully this can be one of those stories where I get a chance. I am 26, so I know I'm a bit older but I still have plenty of years left to play so hopefully someone will...

Copper & Blue: 26 isn't 36

Colin McDonald: That's right, that's right, hopefully someone will realize that and give me a fair opportunity.  That's all I ask for.

Copper & Blue: Do you feel that there is something unique to your game that you can bring to any team that is lucky enough to sign you?

Colin McDonald: Well yes, I play in every situation here; I penalty kill, I play power play, I play four on four. They use me in shootouts and I don't think that there are a lot of guys who play in every situation in this league or in the NHL. If I can do that with my size and the way that I take care of myself off of the ice I can play a lot of minutes for anyone and it's just a matter of getting one GM or once scout or one coach to kind of like me and I haven't had that happen yet but I'm not giving up.

Copper & Blue: As you say, you're 26, you have a lot of experience and you have a lot to offer any team when you do get picked up do you also feel that you will be a great mentor for any rookies that any team would have. You might be that perfect middle man, not too inexperienced, not too old?

Colin McDonald: Well yes, when I was talking to Tambellini this summer I told him that I wasn't ready to accept the role of being a veteran guy in the AHL that's just there to develop their young players. I still believe that I can play in the NHL. I'm not going to give up on that dream. I think that's what their intentions were for me this year and I don't think that they were expecting me to produce like this and I know I'm repeating myself but I do believe I can play at the next level. Timing is everything in life and opportunity and hopefully the stars can align for me soon.

Copper & Blue: I hope so too. Do you get to speak to Tambellini very often? I know that this year you are under contract with the Barons, you're not under the Oilers per se

Colin McDonald: No, well, we had a couple of talks around, I'd say around Christmas time. Things just didn't work out and I'm looking forward to July 1st, for free agency and hopefully something will come up and I can get that two way and just be given a chance. We haven't talked too much, not to go into much detail but there has been some talk, we haven't agreed on anything and that's where that stands.

Copper & Blue: That's understandable.  Right now you are at approximately 17% shooting accuracy. Have you changed anything with your mental aspect or training for the game, it's so much more than physical play in hockey.

Colin McDonald: Yes but [laughs] no, I stand in front of the net a lot.  I know what my job is playing now.

Copper & Blue: It works for Ryan Smyth

Colin McDonald: Yes, and I remember a couple of years ago when they had that playoff run he was getting a lot of publicity and I still have a lot of the articles with his interviews just talking about what he does and that's the kind of style I like to play. I like to play physical and I try to get my way to the puck or to my centreman or my left winger and I just try to get to the net. I've had more than a couple goals this year that have just hit me and gone in. it's the old cliché, they don't ask how, they just ask how many. So long as that continues I'm, they know where I'm going to be. I'm going to be standing in front of the net and I try to do all of the garbage work for my linemates and I think that they appreciate that.

Copper & Blue: One would hope. OK, let's have a couple of fun questions now. Were you a Whalers' fan as a kid?

Colin McDonald: Absolutely, my dad played for the Whalers. I never got a chance to see him play, because he stopped before I was born but he ended up working with the organization for a bit.

Copper & Blue: Yes, he played 8 games with the Whalers.

Colin McDonald: Yes, 8 games. He stopped in '84 and I was born in '84 but he did some tv and radio work with them and I would go to just about every game. When he did the radio I would be up top, and it's a better view of the game and I would be there taking notes and just trying to learn. Absolutely, I was a die hard.

Copper & Blue: Do you feel any competition then with your father?

Colin McDonald: No, don't get me wrong I'd like to play more games than him but for whatever reason things haven't worked out that way.

Copper & Blue: Yet.

Colin McDonald: I don't let those things bother me. He's been my number one supporter. I talk to him after pretty much every game and he's watching every game back home. He still gives me his advice and he's been adamant in my development. I can't leave my mom out of this, she's been.. My dad does the on ice work with me like the talks, but mom she's the emotional one where I get all of my advice from.

Copper & Blue: So what was it like then to see your team move?

Colin McDonald: It was disappointing. I was young, so I didn't understand there was a business side to it. They just had an event  at  an outdoor rink in the past couple of weeks where they had the Hartford Whalers Alumni  and the Boston Bruins Alumni play. There's a guy named Howard Baldwin who is trying to bring the team back. I was able to go to the Hartford Whalers Alumni golf tournament this past summer and meet a lot of the players that my dad played with. I don't think that they will be able to get a team back there but you never know.

Copper & Blue: Alright, I wanted to get your perspective as both a player and a Whalers fan. Well thank you very much for taking the time for me.  

Colin McDonald: Thanks a lot, it was nice to meet you.