Last week, the Edmonton Oilers announced that the Bakersfield Condors would be the team's ECHL affiliate for the 2013-14 season. The change comes after the Oilers spent the last seven seasons affiliated with the Stockton Thunder. It's not the kind of change likely to have a major impact on the Oilers at the NHL level, but it got me thinking that there must have been some reason for the change.
In this case, finding those reasons didn't take too much digging. As it turns out, Thunder president, Dan Chapman, left during the off-season to become the Associate Director of Athletics for Marketing and Media at the University of the Pacific, and head coach, Matt Thomas, left to become the new head coach at the University of Alaska Anchorage. With that much change happening within the organization, it made sense for the Oilers to look elsewhere. Condors general manger, John Olver, does a good job of explaining what made Bakersfield an attractive option:
Even though we initially put together a staff to be competitive as an independent, it ultimately made us attractive to NHL teams. It set us apart as to what we can offer as far as player development.
The Condors will be coached by Troy Mann, a former player who spent eight seasons in the ECHL, UHL, and CHL before moving into coaching. He was the head coach of the ECHL's Columbia Inferno for two seasons (2006-07 and 2007-08) and has spent the last four seasons working as an assistant with the AHL's Hershey Bears, helping the team win a Calder Cup Championship in 2010.
The ECHL affiliate isn't generally all that important in developing prospects, but players like Devan Dubnyk, Olivier Roy and Toni Rajala all spent significant time with the Thunder over the last several years, so it's good to see the Oilers finding a solid organization to work with at that level. This is especially true given the amount of defensive depth the Oilers have amassed this off-season, something that may well push at least one relatively high-profile defense prospect to Bakersfield to start the 2013-14 season.