Rangers front office has a major challenge ahead in rebuilding Wolf Pack

Emily Lipshetz

The Rangers were quiet on their AHL plans until recently when John Davidson divulged his plans for the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Year after year of dismal records, improper coaching, and development that lacked in all areas of the game, JD has committed to revitalizing the once great Wolf Pack. Fans of the franchise remember the good times, where making the playoffs were a yearly occurrence with a competitive roster. But those days are long gone. Slowly but surely, the Rangers neglected the general well-being of their AHL team, which led to poor performances year after year and a team that is viewed as somewhat of a joke in the AHL. Trading for the now and not restocking for the future led to the demise of the franchise, along with signing underperforming veterans.

After a while, writing about a losing season gets tiresome. Writing what needs to be improved continually is also becoming stale while covering the Rangers of tomorrow. JD understands what’s missing in Hartford and will begin making his mark on the Blueshirts’ farm system. The Wolf Pack desperately need a change, and when JD spoke with the New York Post, he brought up some interesting points.

“We’re putting more of everything into Hartford, from A to Z. You want to have a winning culture there, that’s to everyone’s advantage, you want to bring in high quality and character vets to establish a template for your kids, but the priority is development and you can never emphasize that enough. That’s where it starts. That’s the focus. That’s where it’s at.”

John Davidson

The Wolf Pack have lacked a winning culture. Hartford GM Chis Drury has tried to create a winning culture but has failed to do so. The Rangers have to bring in the best of the best in free agency for Hartford. Those veterans are critical in providing mentorship and establishing a consistent level of play on the ice.

In addition to the added resources, finding a brand new coaching staff is a tedious process. Anyone can coach, but they must be able to develop, win, and communicate with players that are trying to improve every day.

“That job in Hartford as head coach has huge importance to it — huge,” team president John Davidson told The Post on Wednesday night. “We want someone there who is a great communicator, not only with the players, but with the other coaches and support personnel we’re going to have there.”

John Davidson

The Wolf Pack have not had a coach since the end of the season. There are no indications that a final decision has been made as to who the replacement will be for Keith McCambridge. The search seems to be a big role item for JD and I expect him to carefully choose his coaching staff for Hartford.

Currently, there is one other AHL coaching vacancy. Cleveland’s John Madden left the Columbus Blue Jackets organization for other opportunities. The speculation is that JD may contact Madden in hopes of bringing him to Hartford. John Madden coached the Monsters from 2016-2019, going 101-99-19-9 in three seasons. In his tenure, Cleveland made the playoffs once, while missing out in the previous two.

Another route JD can go is through Hockey East. Current Rangers head coach David Quinn was from Hockey East and has proven successful thus far with the roster he’s been given in the NHL. Perhaps another Hockey East coach could benefit the organization.

Under JD’s tenure with the Columbus organization, the AHL affiliate made the postseason in four of the last seven seasons (two in Springfield and two in Cleveland). In that time, Columbus’s AHL affiliate won the Calder Cup in the 2015-16 season. Having prospects play in deep playoff runs helps prepare them for NHL playoff runs, along with giving them additional experience to build on as they develop. JD has a sense of what needs to be done in Hartford to address the situation.

Emily Lipshetz

Transforming Hartford back into a formidable team won’t be easy. While I am optimistic for the upcoming season, there is not much room for improvement. JD must have the prospects playing on another level, a level that we have not seen in a long time. The Rangers have talent in Hartford, now they need to build the pieces around that talent to make them successful. Last season had high expectations and the group was underwhelming to say the least. Having prospects struggle in Hartford and then perform better in New York raises a red flag for me. The AHL franchise should not hamper a player’s performance. Instead, it should benefit a prospect and help them sharpen their game.

Next season will depend on a few things. Free agency is critical to Hartford. JD and Chris Drury must sign veteran guys like former Pack players Chris Bourque, Chris Mueller, and Peter Holland, who can help guide the ”younger generation” of Baby Blueshirts.

Another aspect will be the mentality coming into next season, as well as the expectations. The Rangers must have the prospects play at a high level throughout the season and be able to handle the schedule well. The Wolf Pack must take care of business against rivals if they want to make noise and reestablish themselves as a team that is not a joke.

I have patience for the Wolf Pack. However, the patience is becoming less and less with no improvements being made for the Rangers’ AHL organization. Having JD coming into the organization is a refresher. The question is will he able to turn the Wolf Pack around within one summer? Will that take two summers? This adds to my patience. Depending on how the roster shapes up next season, we may see the Wolf Pack in the playoffs.