Whether with Condors or Oilers, Malone making his mark

Photo: Mark Nessia

📝 by Patrick Williams

Bakersfield Condors captain Brad Malone has planted roots in his adopted American Hockey League home, but his National Hockey League ambitions remain very much alive.

If you want something, ask for it. Better yet, earn it. Malone put those credos to work when contract negotiation time arrived following the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past June. Malone wanted to stay with the Edmonton Oilers organization, and he was not about to play games.

“I just put it on the table that I was willing and hoping that we could get something done, and then things progressed here fairly quickly,” Malone said. Shortly thereafter, the two sides had a deal to cap a memorable 11th pro season for Malone.

For much of the 2021-22 campaign, Malone was dutifully going about his business helping the Condors to once again be a Pacific Division contender.

Then came a call from the Oilers. Malone was playing on the back end of a two-year AHL contract with the Condors when Edmonton tore it up and gave him an NHL deal for the remainder of the season. On March 1, Malone played his first NHL game in nearly three years, skating 9:22 for the Oilers in a game at Philadelphia.

Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft had only been in that post for three weeks when Malone went into the Edmonton lineup. Promoted from the same role with the Condors, Woodcroft was well aware of the diligent, workmanlike game that Malone could bring to the NHL club. Malone can fit into a structure, know his role, and execute it, something that any head coach craves.

Eight days after that game in Philadelphia, Malone had a goal and an assist in a home game against the Washington Capitals and stuck with Edmonton before returning to the Condors for their own stretch-drive run.

Malone finished with 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 52 games for Bakersfield before tying for the team lead with four points (two goals, two assists) in five playoff games. But his season was not done yet. When Bakersfield’s playoff run ended, Malone returned to the Oilers with confidence.

“I just thought when I got up there, I deserved to be there, to be honest,” Malone said.

Even more, he soon found himself back in Edmonton’s lineup, playing Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Final against the Colorado Avalanche ― the team that had drafted Malone back in 2007.

“[It was a] pretty incredible experience,” Malone said. “The magnitude of getting into those playoff games was something I’ve never experienced at that level of hockey. My son got to make it to those games, so that was a pretty special moment that he and I’ll be able to share as he gets older.

“The vibe around Edmonton was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was straight out of a movie. It was really awesome to see the city rally around the team.”

Photo: Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A week after Edmonton’s season ended, Malone got a two-year deal from the Oilers, who have had Malone a part of the organization since 2017. Before last season’s run, Malone’s NHL time with the Oilers had been limited to 23 games across four seasons, but he had done plenty with the Condors helping to mentor several key prospects as the organization rebuilt its base of young talent, and Edmonton management had taken notice.

“I think it was kind of one of those things where I just expressed my interest in staying with Bakersfield and with the organization,” Malone said shortly after signing his new contract.

Malone went on to stick with the Oilers out of training camp and dressed for a pair of early-season games before returning to the Condors, who take a three-game winning streak into this week’s action.

While desire for more NHL games is always there, being back in Bakersfield is a good fit for Malone. With a young family, Malone knew what he wanted both hockey-wise and personally when he sat down with Edmonton management to hammer out a new contract.

“The lifestyle that our family gets to live is something that we really appreciate and cherish in Bakersfield, and now we’ve got a pretty good sense of community there,” Malone said. “I think I just find value and stability, and that’s not something that’s very common in this business. The familiarity of the ins and outs of each day, the friends that we’ve made there in the community.

“The family and I kind of know what to expect, and we know that we’re going to be enjoying life on a day-to-day basis away from the rink. So, I think that side of it brings a lot of value to why we wanted to go back.

“It’s something that I love doing, going to work every day with the staff that’s been there with me the whole time, and the group of guys that have [come] through.”