Halfway though the ECHL season, the Condors have a new focus and a new captain.
Defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer, who has played for the Condors since he got in three games during spring break as a senior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.) in 2010, was named captain on Jan. 2, marking the second straight season coach Matt O'Dette has changed captains midstream.
"I think I made the mistake of not putting enough responsibility into the guys that suffered through last season," O'Dette said. "We put the leadership on new players that came in this year and I don't think they ended up being the right guys.
"This was our opportunity to make it right."
Levi Nelson was named captain a couple of weeks into the season, but when problems arose O'Dette decided to go back to three assistant captains. When Nelson was traded to Greenville, N.C., on Dec. 31, O'Dette knew it was time to name a new captain.
"Nelson wasn't the right guy," O'Dette said. "To be a leader you have to be able lead when the going's tough, and when things aren't going your way you still have to lead, and (Nelson) had a hard time doing that.
"Burgie is a guy that's stepped up from Day 1. He took up the slack for the other guys that had letters and had the 'C' that weren't leading properly. He's done a great job. He's evolved into that guy who holds the guys accountable, he is an ultimate pro and a good teammate. He's definitely taken another step in that development. He's a better leader every day."
Before making the decision, O'Dette polled his players with a questionnaire.
"It was 11 questions, an assortment of questions," O'Dette said. "Who's the most professional on the team?; Who's the most prepared?; Who will hold you accountable?; Who do you lean on for advice?; Who do you trust?; Who cares the most? All questions like that, and Burgie's name was all over that.
"As well as Boyder (Peter Boyd) and Ryan Annesley. Those three guys sort of separated from the group and it was along the same line I was thinking."
For his part, Burgdoerfer said being named captain is a privilege and an honor, but doesn't think it changes the way he approaches anything.
"I think I've been trying to do the right thing all along," he said. "I don't really see anything changing. Just day in and day out keep doing what I'm doing."
Burgdoerfer takes over the captain's role for a struggling team (8-25-1), which has just one victory in the past 10 games.
It also comes at a time of flux for the team, as well as the league.
The Condors have acquired six new players since Dec. 17 and traded away three, and will be getting a new player -- rookie forward Nicolas Tremblay -- today. And their opponents, many of them loaded up with talent because of the trickle-down effect of the NHL lockout, have seen those talented players leave (more than 60 league-wide) during the past few days as the lockout has ended and the NHL season is about to begin. The Condors have not lost one player to a call-up since the lockout ended.
"For us, it doesn't mean anything," Burgdoerfer said. "For us, it means we have to keep working at our game and getting better. For the other teams it means they've lost a lot of their key guys, so it definitely helps us out because the playing field has been leveled. But we need to keep working hard and improving."
As for the changes in players, Burgdoerfer said everyone still around should take notice.
"It lights a fire under everyone," he said "No one's job is safe."
Nor should anyone's job be safe when a team has eight wins in 36 games.
"When things aren't working well for you it's a good thing," Burgdoerfer said of changes.
And a better thing if those changes equate to wins.
"A lot of people are saying it's our time to shine because other teams have lost good players and stuff, but you can't look as this is our time and look way ahead like that," Burgdoerfer said. "You have to look to Friday and get a win Friday. After Friday's you have to look to get a win on Saturday, You just can't (say), 'Oh we're going to go on a run here.' When you look ahead that's when what's right in front of you doesn't happen.
"It's very cliche (one game at a time) but that's what's got to be done."