Hartford Wolf Pack start new era without Kris Knoblauch behind the bench

Dylan Garand
Dylan Garand keeps his eye on the play for the Hartford Wolf Pack (Photo: John Mrakovcich/Hartford Wolf Pack)

The Hartford Wolf Pack had a wild weekend in their second three-in-three set. As the injury bug persists, an unexpected change occurred behind the bench when the Edmonton Oilers hired Kris Knoblauch on Sunday. The club continues to face adversity in November, but were able to secure three out of a possible six points to maintain solid positioning in the competitive Atlantic Division.

As a new week approaches, this will be a measuring stick for the Pack. To date, they’ve responded well thanks to a deep roster and strong leadership.

Related: Latest NY Rangers College Prospects Update

Hartford Wolf Pack Weekly

Kris Knoblauch
Kris Knoblauch (Photo: John Mrakovcich / Hartford Wolf Pack)

Wolf Pack deal with coaching change

Early Sunday, the Edmonton Oilers relieved head coach Jay Woodcroft and assistant coach Dave Manson from their responsibilities. The new staff includes Kris Knoblauch as head coach and Paul Coffey as a new assistant.

As the New York Rangers were searching for a new head coach, Knoblauch was an interesting possibility after helping Hartford become competitive in the AHL once again. However, the Rangers elected to pursue coaches with extensive resumes in the National Hockey League leading to the hiring of Peter Laviolette.

While Knoblauch was not considered, the coach was well respected and thought off throughout the hockey world. Then opportunity knocked on the door with the Oilers offering his first NHL coaching job. The Rangers were supportive and allowed him to pursue his goal of being an NHL head coach.

It is a bittersweet moment for the Wolf Pack and their fans, as Knoblauch left them a lot to be proud of during his tenure. He leaves the club and the organization in a good position to remain competitive and to further develop the prospects in a winning environment.

Turning attention to the post Knoblauch era, the Hartford Wolf Pack named Steve Smith as the interim head coach as the search begins for a permanent replacement. Smith joined the Wolf Pack on August 24th, 2021 and spent the last two seasons under Knoblauch. Jamie Tardif will remain as the lone assistant coach as he joined the club on August 29th, 2022.

Generally speaking, a coaching change middle of the season can be disruptive to a club. For the Wolf Pack, this was the best course of action as Smith and Tardif can continue to build on the framework of what Knoblauch leaves behind.

Another factor to consider is the availability of coaches early in a season. Currently there are a limited number of coaches available to examine. In the AHL, the search is narrower. There is a possibility Hartford remains status quo with their staff until the off season. This would prevent further disruption and gives the next head coach a clean slate instead of joining mid-season.

Kris Knoblauch’s Wolf Pack tenure secured him a record of 119-90-18-14 in 241 games as the organization’s head coach.

Injury Bug Persists

In Friday’s game against the Bridgeport Islanders, the Wolf Pack were playing with 11 forwards and 5 defensemen once again due to injuries. Jake Leschyshyn left the game in the first period as he absorbed a hard hit. As a result, he has an injury that brings the forward to a status of week to week.

Later in the same game, defenseman Mac Hollowell went to the locker room after a brutal open ice hit in the second frame. Hollowell appeared to be hip checked, which caused an awkward collision between the players and resulting in the defenseman hitting the ice hard on his head/neck area. He was assisted by his teammates to the locker room and did not return. Hollowell has missed the last two games and is reported to be “day to day”. Further updates will be posted once available.

As the Rangers continue gradual progress of healing, depth is being seriously tested. If Ryan Lindgren is unable to return for Saturday’s contest versus the Devils, Hartford could face another possible call up. In addition to Connor Mackey, Nikolas Brouillard is likely the next defenseman up for the Rangers.

Here is a current list of injuries from the Wolf Pack’s side:

  • Ben Harpur – Week to Week
  • Jake Leschyshyn – Week to Week
  • Mac Hollowell – Day to Day

Weekend Takeaways

Diving into Hartford’s three games from last weekend, the club posted a 1-1-1 record. The Wolf Pack defeated Bridgeport by a score of 3-0 Friday, followed by two losses to Providence on Saturday and Sunday. Returning to the XL Center in front of 6,349 fans, the Wolf Pack were shutout 2-0. Sunday’s game in Providence featured the group collecting a point and losing in overtime, 3-2.

The Pack need to correct two major issues going forward and that’s turnovers and penalties. While Hartford has strong penalty kill units, they were unable to be successful in Sunday’s game against the Bruins, giving Providence two power play goals. Overall, Hartford received 11 penalties in three games. They simply need to stay out of the box.

Dylan Garand Takes Advantage of Playing Time

The 21 year-old prospect is receiving top minutes while Louis Domingue is with the Rangers. Garand is comfortable in the starter role and has played well despite team struggles in front of him. The prospect notched his first shutout of the season against Bridgeport, stopping 37 shots. Garand continues to show that he is a dependable goalie and is developing well.

Through 7 games, Garand is 4-1-2 with a 2.30 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.

Olof Lindbom Gets Opportunity

Spending time in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones, 23 year-old prospect Olof Lindbom played his first game in the AHL this season. After shaky in the first couple of minutes, the prospect became comfortable in net and made a few impressive saves throughout the contest. Lindbom faced 19 shots and gave up two goals against a tough Bruins club.

One Timers

  • Riley Nash had a strong weekend. He secured 2 goals against Bridgeport Friday and 1 assist in Sunday’s game against Providence.
  • Rookie Brett Berard continues to play well despite his point streak ending at 4 games (6 assists). Sunday’s game featured Berard generating numerous offensive chances and had a season high of shots at 9 in a game.
  • Defenseman Brendon Scanlin recorded his first goal of the season on Sunday.
  • Entering the week, the Wolf Pack are ranked 16th in the league for attendance. Through 4 games, Hartford’s average attendance is 5,629. Their attendance continues to impress in the first half of the season. In the AHL, the first half of the season is often difficult to draw.
  • Hartford will be home the next 7 of 9 games.

Hartford Wolf Pack Schedule

Wednesday, November 15th vs Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis) at 11am, XL Center

  • This is the 3rd of 10 meetings in the season series. Hartford is 1-1 against the Thunderbirds. Hartford dropped the last meeting by a score of 5-2 on October 27th. The fourth meeting will be in Springfield on November 24th.
  • Entering the week, Springfield is 7-6-1 for 15 points. That ranks the group 3rd in the Atlantic Division and 5th in the Eastern Conference. The Thunderbirds are on a 2 game skid (0-1-1) and lost their last 3 of 5 outings.
  • The Thunderbirds have 2 players leading the league in points. Forward Adam Gaudette is ranked first in the league in points, securing 11 goals and 7 assists for 18 points. Nathan Walker is second in the league, securing 9 goals and 8 assists for 17 points.
  • Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.

Friday, November 17th vs Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay) at 7pm, Upstate Medical Arena at The Oncenter War Memorial

  • This is the 1st of 2 meetings in the season series. Hartford split the season series last year, 1-1. Both meetings this season will wrap up in one weekend as this will be a home at home series.
  • Entering the week, Syracuse is 6-3-0-2 for 14 points. That ranks the group 4th in the North Division and 9th in the Eastern Conference. The Crunch snapped a 3 game losing streak last Saturday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
  • Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.

Saturday, November 18th vs Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay) at 7pm, XL Center

  • This is the 2nd and final meeting of the season series.
  • Listen – Mixlr. Watch – AHLTV.

Ricky Milliner is a Hartford Wolf Pack season ticket holder. While growing up, he discovered hockey by attending a... More about Ricky Milliner

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