Wolf Pack Weekly: Hartford in Similar Situation as Last Season – FOREVER BLUESHIRTS
The Wolf Pack are in similar territory as last season. After doing better in the first half of the season, the group tapered off as the season progressed. Hartford is healthier and has dealt with fewer call-ups from New York this season. But after the club snapped a nine-game losing streak, the Pack found themselves back in the loss column to finish last week.
As we chug along February and approach the NHL trade deadline, Chris Drury and Rangers management must look ahead and prepare for the 2019-2020 season in Hartford. Getting players for the upcoming season for the Wolf Pack at the deadline is never a bad idea, especially considering this season is a washout unless the club goes on a lengthy winning streak.
Hartford is preparing for three games this week. The eighth-place Wolf Pack have a record of 20-25-3-3 for 46 points. In the conference, the group is last at 16 and is 29th in the league.
Discussion Time: Who’s to Blame?
Head coach Keith McCambridge has looked questionable as the season continued. Considering a better roster than last season, what is the issue? A trend that I have noticed is his unusual coaching during games is pulling goalies multiple times when the game is already over. For instance, during Friday’s 6-0 loss to the Syracuse Crunch, with about two minutes remaining in the contest, Hartford was down 4-0. He pulled the goalie and Syracuse scored. Then again moments later to make the game 6-0 Syracuse. Lias Andersson was on the ice late in the game, looking crushed mentally and lost. That is a red flag to me because one of your top prospects in Hartford should not look that way.
The question I have with Keith McCambridge is his actions. He could be hurting the prospects in Hartford with his actions. There is a noticeable regression than progression with some of the players. This was not the first time he pulled the goalie when the game was over. That concept seems unusual when you are down more than four goals.
Another eye-opener is benching your players during games. When the Pack are down and need a spark, often times he puts players such as Peter Holland (your leading scorer), Vinni Lettieri, or other prospects at the bottom in hopes to change the game. I see where Keith McCambridge comes from, however, I do not think that is the best way to go about games. The league is for development, not benching your top players.
Chris Drury has had his hands tied. As the Wolf Pack general manager, he is unable to do much on the fly. He can sign players, release, or trade for AHL players. However, the issue becomes how will he enhance the roster. He has not found the winning formula for the Wolf Pack. He has to work hand in hand with Jeff Gorton as well. After this season is completed, I am sure Chris Drury will be looking at everything in Hartford.
The reputation for AHL teams also plays a role in players taking a liking to the organization, especially from an AHL veteran’s standpoint. You must have a likable coach in place, as well as a team that is known to win. Unfortunately, Hartford lacks a good reputation from the winning standpoint. When opposing teams enter the XL Center, they know Hartford is an easy opponent and will not be nervous facing them. Then, when the Pack are on the road, teams consider them as an easy opponent. This reputation began in the early stages of 2012. Five of last six seasons produced no playoffs, and from a player’s standpoint, Hartford is not an attractive destination.
John Gilmour Expected to Break Franchise Record
Defenseman John Gilmour’s 16 goals this season has crept him close to the all-time record for goals by a Wolf Pack defenseman. The record is held by Andrew Hutchinson, who netted 18 tallies back in the 2007-08 season. As the Rangers prospect’s contract is up, I expect him to return. He deserves it.
Also, on a side note, John Gilmour is second in the league in points by a defenseman. He has 16 goals, 21 assists for 37 points. He is two points behind the leader Zach Redmond of Rochester with 39 points. In addition, John Gilmour is second in AHL defenseman with goals.
- Peter Holland has goals in back to back games. He snapped a three-game drought. He still leads the team in points at 47.
- Hartford has given up 180 goals in 51 games. That ranks them last in the Eastern Conference. They are ranked 29th in the league in goals against.
- The power play continues to be “middle of the pack” in the league. Hartford is ranked 15th, converting at 18%. The group has given up 10 short-handed goals as well.
- The penalty kill is in the bottom portion of the league. The penalty kill is ranked 20th in the league, killing 80.6% of penalties. The group has scored six goals while down a man.
- Hartford has 25 games remaining in their season, 13 at home and 12 away.
Rangers Dealt Marek Mazanec
Tuesday afternoon featured a trade with Wolf Pack goalie Marek Mazanec. You can read about the trade here.
The move was unexpected as Hartford’s goalie situation was not the issue this season. I believe the move is for the future. The Pack has struggled this season and perhaps the Rangers are turning the page on this season in Hartford.
Brandon Halverson has played well in Maine and is now expected to stay in Hartford for the remainder of the season.
Wednesday, February 13th vs Toronto Marlies (Maple Leafs) at 7 pm, XL Center
- This is the second and final meeting of the season series between both organizations. The first meeting was in Toronto on October 20th as the Pack dropped a 3-2 decision.
- Toronto has points in their last six games and has won six of their last ten outings.
- The Marlies are third in the North
Divsionwith a record of 25-16-5-3 for 58 points.
Saturday, February 16th vs Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Islanders) at 7 pm, Webster Bank Arena
- This is the tenth and final meeting between both organizations. Hartford is 4-3-1-1 in the season series.
- Bridgeport is second in the Atlantic Division with a record of 28-18-4-2 for 62 points. The group enters the week winning two straight.
- Last time out, Hartford lost in the shootout against Bridgeport on February 4th in Hartford. The Pack built themselves a 2-0 lead only to
haveit washed away.
Sunday, February 17th vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh) at 3 pm, XL Center
- This is the fourth of six meetings against the Penguins. Hartford is 1-2 in the season series. All three prior meetings were during the first two weeks of November.
- The Penguins are sixth in the Atlantic Division with a record of 24-21-4-1 for 53 points. Hartford is behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by seven points.
- The Penguins are 5-5 in their last ten outings entering the week.
Author: Ricky Milliner