Gerry Fleming has been the coach of Edmonton’s top farm club for three seasons, one in Oklahoma City and the last two years in Bakersfield. His Barons lost in the second round in 2015, and the Condors have yet to make the AHL playoffs. This is his fourth year as head coach with the organization and his track record is coming into view.
It’s difficult to measure success for the AHL coach, because wins and losses aren’t the main goal. A successful team is ideal, but getting young prospects headed in a good direction is Job One for the coach of the minor league team. In the years Fleming has been head coach of the AHL squad, he’s had some success.
- Iiro Pakarinen: 48 AHL games, 101 NHL games
- Tyler Pitlick: 51 AHL games, 70 NHL games
- Anton Slepyshev: 59 AHL games, 59 NHL games
- Brad Hunt: 142 AHL games, 39 NHL games
- Griffin Reinhart: 145 AHL games, 37 NHL games
- Jujhar Khaira: 133 AHL games, 31 NHL games
- Jesse Puljujarvi: 46 AHL games, 28 NHL games
- Jordan Oesterle: 157 AHL games, 28 NHL games
- Laurent Brossoit: 125 AHL games, 17 NHL games
With the exception of Jesse Puljujarvi, these are all exactly the kinds of players one would expect to emerge as NHL options after time in the AHL. You could also point to Griffin Reinhart, who was a high draft pick, but did not have a dynamic offensive side to his game.
- What is the best thing you can say about Fleming? The Oilers can plug-and-play callups upon arrival in the NHL. It hasn’t always been that way, Fleming should get some credit. Todd McLellan puts them in roles they can prosper in, so maybe some for the NHL coach, too. Most of the credit, as always, should go to the player.
- How many legit NHL prospects are in Bakersfield this fall? I will list Jesse Puljujarvi, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, Nick Ellis, Joey Laleggia, Ziyat Paigin and Ryan Mantha. There could be others, but that’s seven.
- How many of those will make it? That number is always less than hoped for, bet the under. Fleming was an assistant coach for the 2008-09 Springfield Falcons. That team featured prospects Devan Dubnyk, Rob Schremp, Ryan Potulny, Ryan Stone, Slava Trukhno, J-F Jacques, Gilbert Brule, Colin McDonald, Taylor Chorney, Theo Peckham, Ryan O’Marra, Liam Reddox. That is 12. Only Devan Dubnyk is an NHL regular. Always bet the under.
- How many of those men played 100 NHL games? Nine. Only Dubnyk had a significant career, though.
- Are there any of the current seven who are locks for 100 games? Jesse Puljujarvi is at 28 games and is a former No. 4 overall. He’s a lock. After that, I’d say we are waiting for most of the group to emerge. It would be unfair (and too soon) to pick a single player from the rest of the group.
- Is there anything about the Condors’ deployment that is good or bad? I suspect but cannot prove that the Oilers minor league teams do not play their 20-year olds enough. We have discussed this at length. A good counter argument is the number of early games played by the four horsemen on defense. Fleming is playing a lot of inexperience on the back line.
- Anything else? I also think the recent college invasion (Ellis, Benning, Benik, Russell, Caggiula, Gambardella, Starrett) is both a Godsend and a giant condemnation of some of the drafted kids out of the CHL.
- Is there anything you would change? I think the organization is uncovering some reasonable talent here on AHL-only types, might be an idea to invest an NHL contract on one or two. As fans, we probably get too excited about Chad Butcher scoring two early goals, but at some point one of these AHL-only deals is going to make an NHL dent ala Mark Arcobello.
- Are you generally satisfied with the progress of Edmonton’s prospects? Gerry Fleming shouldn’t be judged by wins and losses, but rather on how many players develop under his watch. Fleming was head coach for a portion of Brandon Davidson’s development, and that is exactly the kind of player we should be seeing rising from the crowd. Jesse Puljujarvi is the main item on the menu.
- What about Puljujarvi? General manager Peter Chiarelli drafted Jesse Puljujarvi, that usually indicates special handling. However, the three centers JP has seen in Bakersfield—Brad Malone, Josh Currie, Grayson Downing—are not impact offensive centers at the AHL level. I’m uncertain what the plan is, but this current situation is a little curious. Puljujarvi—and Fleming—will have to muddle through.