Chaulk slow cookin’ in Condorstown

Photo: Mark Nessia

📝 by Ryan Holt | AHL On The Beat

There was no time to think for Colin Chaulk.

Following the promotion of Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson to the Edmonton Oilers in February, the first-year Condors assistant coach was thrust into the head coaching role.

“In the head coach role, you need to make sure you’re communicating effectively to a large staff,” Chaulk said. “It needs to be clear, concise, and everyone needs to feel good about the conversations that you have with them. I wanted to make sure the message was clear. The veterans did a great job of allowing the process to unfold, but quickly. It was expedited because we didn’t have time to waste. It was a great learning experience.”

Bakersfield hit its stride down the stretch last season, going 19-12-1-2 under Chaulk, followed by a first-round series sweep over Abbotsford and a feeling of optimism heading into the 2022-23 season.

And if last year was quick, the offseason and early portions of this season are a “crock pot,” according to Chaulk.

“It’s a slow cook and we have time to interject our messaging over time. Our focus is to be efficient in every aspect of what we do. That’s what you have to do in the AHL. Whatever makes an impact in a season for a player’s development and winning needs to continue and will continue.”

That slow cook started with building out his staff, adding Keith McCambridge and Josh Green behind the bench. Both bring different ingredients to the pot to both complement and elevate the team’s identity.

“Having been an assistant, you’re listening, and you’re making solutions. You’re not there to make problems,” Chaulk said. “You need to have a valued opinion. Now in a head coach role, you know what those guys feel, because you’ve been there.”

McCambridge works primarily with the defensive group and brings seven seasons of head coaching experience at the AHL level with him. Green is in the midst of his first professional season behind the bench, having played professionally for two decades and been part of the Oilers organization.

“With Josh being fresh out of the game with his extensive NHL playing experience (341 games), I thought he could lean on our players in a positive way,” Chaulk said. “Being an Oiler, feeling that love for the organization.

“Then Keith being an experienced guy, probably been there, done that… nothing’s going to faze him. Seen a lot, mature, been an assistant, been a head. Worn many hats, been in different organizations. I wanted to draw on those experiences. And lastly, it was a fit. They have to fit with me and Sly (Sylvain Rodrigue, goaltending coach in his 10th season) and we felt like those guys were the best fit that could come in and work with our group and be in the inner circle.”

It’s been a message of work ethic and will that have laid the foundation for the 2022-23 Condors. The messaging, which Chaulk says starts with the coaching staff, has extended to the leadership group and permeated the dressing room.

“Veteran players extend your message when you leave the room and we have a great group of leaders who are able to do that. We have the right leaders. They do the right things, they push to be in the NHL, and lead by example here.”

The organization celebrates 25 seasons of hockey in Condorstown in 2022-23, an important milestone for any franchise. With multiple first-round picks on this year’s roster and a slew of prospects on the cusp of full-time NHL work, it is a pivotal season for many. The slow cook will simmer throughout the season as the organization, led by Chaulk, looks to continue the recent history of players moving on to Edmonton, plugging and playing, and becoming permanent NHL fixtures.