While the New York Rangers made a splash with the dawn of free agency they have also quietly gone about improving their top AHL farm club in Hartford.
While embarking on a rebuild of the New York Rangers, the team hierarchy also knew they had to perform similar surgery on their top farm club. The Hartford Wolf Pack finished last in the Atlantic Division for the second time in four years and have missed the Calder Cup playoffs for four straight seasons.
Even worse, as a development team for the Rangers, Hartford was a disaster. Instead of establishing a feeder system and preparing prospects for the Rangers’ style of play, there was no shared vision between the Wolf Pack and the Blueshirts. It was never more evident than this past season when defenseman Libor Hajek struggled at the AHL level, but excelled when he was promoted to the big leagues.
Chris Drury’s mission
Chris Drury was named general manager of the Wolf Pack two summers ago and was tasked with the challenge of fixing it. You cannot accuse Drury of moving quickly. It took him two years to fire the coaching staff he had inherited (though he played a part in the decision to hired Keith McCambridge).
Drury is still looking for a coaching staff that will embrace the David Quinn philosophy of coaching so that the impressive crop of prospects will be integrated into the NHL seamlessly. There’s no word on how the search is going, but in the meantime, he had gone about strengthening the team.
What most fans don’t know is that there are rules regarding AHL roster. Considered a developmental league, no team can load up with veterans. Of the 18 skaters who dress for a game, 13 have to be players in development with a limit on the number of games they have played as professionals. 12 have to have played in fewer than 260 pro games and one must have played in fewer than 320. Professional games include the AHL, NHL and European elite leagues.
That means an AHL team can have five veteran players on the roster and that’s where the Wolf Pack made some moves.