Photo Credit: Chris Rutsch.

The 20th anniversary for the Hartford Wolf Pack concluded in early April.  Despite failing to make postseason, there has been a lot going on in the capital city for the twenty year old hockey club.  The past season has been ranked worst in franchise history as the 2016-17 group struggled in all aspects of the game.  Prospects and veterans declined.  There was little growth.  After all said and done, they were last in the league, at thirty comfortably.  Now we look for a clean slate for the upcoming season for the Wolf Pack.  Let’s get to a few areas of discussion.

Contract Statuses

Here are the contract statuses for Hartford.  The star (*) denotes the player playing in Greenville with the Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL.

Forwards

  • Taylor Beck (RFA)
  • Daniel Catenacci (RFA)
  • Marek Hrivik (UFA)
  • Chris Brown (UFA)
  • Nicklas Jensen (RFA)
  • Malte Stromwall (Signed)
  • Seven Fogarty (Signed)
  • Cristoval Nieves (Signed)
  • Adam Chapie (Signed)*
  • Adam Tambellini (Signed)
  • Robin Koacs (Signed)
  • Vinni Lettieri (Signed)
  • Michael Joly (UFA)*

Defense

  • Tommy Hughes (UFA)
  • Troy Donnay (RFA)*
  • Chris Summers (UFA)
  • Michael Paliotta (RFA)
  • Ryan Graves (Signed)
  • John Gilmour (Signed)
  • Vince Pedrie (Signed)

Goalies

  • Mackenzie Skapski* (RFA)
  • Chris Nell (Signed)
  • Brandon Halverson (Signed)

Potential players coming in

  • Alexei Bereglazov (D)
  • Neal Pionk (D)
  • Ryan Gropp (F)
  • Dawson Leedahl (F)
  • Sergey Zborovskiy (D)
  • Sean Day (D)

Players not returning, signed elsewhere

  • Ahti Oksansen (F)
  • Magnus Hellberg (G)
  • Philip McRae (F)

Wolf Pack Personnel Changes

After spending ten seasons on the bench as Head Coach of the Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers announced they have relieved Ken Gernander of his duties.  He posted a record of 88-304-84.  In addition to the coaching change, New York also reassigned Jim Schoenfeld from Wolf Pack General Manager to sole duties with the Rangers.

You have to give both guys credit for what they have done with the Ranger’s farm team.  There was great and horrific moments.  Plenty of stellar players came from Hartford.  To this day many of them are still in the National Hockey League.  However as of late the club has struggled.  The Wolf Pack missed post-season in the past four of five seasons, and the past of five of eight.  General Manager Jim Schoenfeld has let impressive players walk.  He also did not sign quality American Hockey League veterans in the off-season.  When he did in the 2014-15 season, Hartford reached the Eastern Conference Finals.  There was a perfect mix of prospects and veterans.  The veterans helped the Ranger’s prospects develop such as Brady Skjei.  The club was rewarded with post-season that was lengthy.  That means more playing time and learning from experiences.  Jim Schoenfeld lost his touch afterwards.  He was accepting disappointing seasons.  When it became ugly he did not change the roster to help.  In the past season he let the sink ship as he simply watched.  Chris Drury will be a great fit with Hartford as he wants to bring a winning tradition to the club.  He will also bring in a change that was needed.  Jim Schoenfeld has gotten stale of his ways.  Chris Drury will help guide the club into the right direction.  It will take time to craft how he wants the club as.  The new coach, who has not been named, will also give the group a breath of fresh air.  Returning players will have a clean slate.  Majority of them did not grow.  Instead they went backwards in development.  The new coach will have new relationships with players.  There will be a change in attitude on the bench and in the locker room, for the better.  I look forward to a new look personnel in Hartford.  We shall see how they handle the upcoming season.

XL Center Upgrades

Next season will feature a complete overhaul of the ancient ice system in Hartford.  This summer the arena will be closed to upgrade the ice systems.  They will take out the current piping, cement flooring, glass, and boards.  A new metal piping system will be implemented along with new boards and glass.  However the ice chillers are not getting replaced.  The cost of the project is in the range of $3.5 to $4 million.  The project is on track and is expected to be completed in late September.

Photo Credit: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings.

In the bigger picture there has been lengthy discussion and debates regarding on the long-term future of the XL Center.  We shall see what the future holds for the 42-year-old building.  Options include a complete overhaul for the price tag of $250 million.  Another is to keep patching up the facility as is.  They could also keep the current conditions as is or close it down.  The arena has been in the red ink due to growing expenses and competition.  More to follow soon!