Coaching isn’t the only thing the Rangers need to change in Hartford
Every Ranger fan knows the Hartford Wolf Pack is one of the worst AHL affiliates and the Rangers seem to finally understand that needs to be fixed. Young prospects develop better in a winning environment and while that’s the main goal here, there are some often overlooked aspects that factor in which will be more obvious when looking at the more successful AHL teams.
Having a capable coaching staff is obvious, so we won’t be focusing on that. The same goes for the need for quality players. But the 2 aspects that are often overlooked are branding and experience on the ice.
Experience on the ice
The AHL is a development league but for the prospects to develop properly, having experienced teammates is incredibly important. The last 2 years it seemed like they understood that with the signing of Cole Schneider and Paul Carey, the minor league trades for Peter Holland and Ryan Sproul but it didn’t have the desired effect.
When we look at teams like the Syracuse Crunch, Hershey Bears, Charlotte Checkers and Toronto Marlies we see they have experienced contributors like Aaron Ness, Bobby Sanguinetti, Peter Mueller and Reid Boucher. Ranger fans are not going to like hearing his name, but if the Wolf Pack could add Bobby Sanguinetti to the team it would be huge for this organization. With the young defensemen signed this upcoming season, he can be the leader of the defense and unlike Rob O’Gara he is an elite defenseman at the AHL level.
Will John Davidson address this issue and acquire some players who bring that much needed veteran leadership on top of AHL caliber play? If he does, I feel it goes a long way towards fixing the giant mess up on Hartford. Far too long have we seen a team full of kids unable to compete and it has ruined the development of several prospects.
Relocating and re-branding
This is more a personal gripe but I truly feel it makes a difference. When you look at most teams in the AHL, you can easily tell which NHL organization they are affiliated to and to illustrate this, I will use photos of Cory Conacher, Nate Prosser, Bobby Sanguinetti and Reid Boucher.
Above you see the Syracuse Crunch, Iowa Wild, the Charlotte Checkers and Utica Comets and there is no doubt which team they belong to. The same applies to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Toronto Marlies, Binghamton Senators and many others. When we take a look at the Hartford Wolf Pack, it’s a completely different story. I feel this matters.
Having an AHL team play in the same colors/uniform style as the NHL team makes it feel part of the franchise to fans but also to players. Hartford has a history with the NHL with the Whalers until 1996 and that history resulted in the Wolf Pack’s rebranding to the Connecticut Whale and it wasn’t a success.
Relocating the team where they can have a fresh start, with a new identity closer to that of the Rangers will make the team and players feel more connected to the Blueshirts. The older fans will remember the Binghamton Rangers in the 90s. That should be the blueprint (no pun intended) for the AHL affiliate.