BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Brian Burke, Vice President and General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks, visited Bakersfield on Saturday to see the home opener of Anaheim’s new ECHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors.
The Bakersfield Californian beat writer Mike Griffth caught up with Burke during the second intermission to talk about the affiliation and what it means for the Ducks and the Condors.
How much does an ECHL affiliation mean to the Ducks and what are the benefits?
From our perspective, we’re only allowed to have 50 players under (NHL or AHL) contract. Every NHL team has a max of 50. So if you have 22 or 23 in Anaheim and another 22 or 23 in Des Moines (where Anaheim’s AHL team, the Iowa Chops are located), then you have a number of players who are just under minor league contract and they don’t count (against the 50) so you goal is to have 52-55 players under contract. We want to have depth for purposes of recall to Des Moines from here. And we want to develop some young players here.
I think our goaltender (David McKee) has been really sharp tonight. The two college defensemen (Sean) Hurley and (Andrew) Thomas have been steady. (Matt) Caruana has been good, Bobby Bolt has had some good shifts, (Charlie) Kronschnabel has thrown his weight around. I’m really happy with their play tonight.
Depth. Is that a new trend in the NHL to have more depth and utilize the ECHL level more?
When you draft a kid, a college kid stays in college and junior kid can not turn pro until he’s 20. As 18 and 19 year olds, they have to go back to their junior team. We have a number of players back at their junior teams developing at that level and we want to have a half-dozen or so players here as well as the other two full teams. If we could afford it we’d have every player here under contract to us but obviously we’re not able to do that.
What do you expect from the players at this level and why are they at this level?
A player gets assigned here because we either want him to develop further (due to) deficiencies in his game or we’ve got a log jam at that position at the American League level.
What we want with coach Marty Raymond — Marty Raymond was a finalist for the job in Des Moines and we think very highly of him — we want to see individual skill development, positional development and depth for Des Moines. If you look at the number of ECHL players that have played in the NHL it’s a surprising number (361 as of Thursday).
Sometimes they’re late bloomers, sometimes they need to develop at this level first. We view this as a serious developmental league. We’re serious about the players we’ve sent here. We’re serious about the affiliation agreements. Again, being here tonight I couldn’t be happier.
Do the Ducks, as an organization, have a lot of depth?
Yes. We told the players that come here, don’t view it as a permanent assignment. We’re perfectly willing to yo-yo players between here and Des Moines if their play warrants it. We’ve told the players here this is not a dead end, this is a starting point. Watching our players here tonight I’m happy with the play of most of them.