Wolf Pack Weekly: Rangers affiliate continues “Lame Duck” season

Wolf Pack

The weeks leading up to the trade deadline had the New York Rangers busy with the Wolf Pack’s roster. More moves could be on the way considering how the season has unfolded in Hartford. Coming into the 2018-19 season, the expectation was a group ready to develop and compete in the Atlantic Division. It didn’t pan out that way, therefore the Rangers are looking ahead and preparing moves that will benefit the farm team in the 2019-2020 season.

As the Pack traded away high impact veteran players, the moves tell me that the organization has given up on the season. Hartford is 11 points out of a playoff spot and has to jump at least four teams to get in.

Currently the Wolf Pack are last in the Atlantic Division, eighth with a record of 21-25-5-3 for 50 points. The group is also last in the Eastern Conference at 16 and in 29th in the league overall.

Let’s get to business regarding the latest happenings for the Wolf Pack group.

Looking Ahead…

The expectations moving forward is that the roster will have a plenty of changes. Over the summer the Pack will have new veterans signed along with a few potential other prospects joining in. In addition, a few players such as John Gilmour is expected to return given their contributions this season. The Rangers will have wiggle room on enhancing the roster for Hartford.

Roster Moves

The group had a few transactions in recent weeks. Let’s check them out:

  • Forward Zac Lynch, defenseman Matt Finn joined Hartford through PTOs.
  • Forwards Drew Melanson and Jason Salvaggio was also called up. Jason Salvaggio was also re-assigned from Hartford to Wichita of the ECHL.
  • Peter Holland gets removed from a trade and defenseman Darren Raddysh joins.
  • Derek Pratt was another defenseman called up and was released on Tuesday.
  • Vinni Lettieri joined Hartford last Wednesday, followed by Connor Brickley recalled to New York.
  • Defenseman Matt Petgrave was also released last week.

Injury Update

There are a few injuries recently, which led Hartford to become active on the transaction wire:

  • Brandon Crawley- Injured over the last few weeks. No update is given. It is unknown when he will return.
  • Chris Bigras- Last Wednesday against the Toronto Marlies, the defenseman collided with a Marlies forward and fell awkwardly. He was unable to put weight on one of his legs. His injury could be season ending. I do not expect him to return to the lineup.
  • Rob O’Gara- Injury information not released and will be out for a few more games, the very least.
  • Ville Meskanen- Injured from a game last week. He should be back soon as I expect the injury to be not serious.
  • Ty Ronning- He had abundance of injuries this season. he is back on the scratch list due to another injury. He should be back soon.
  • Injury updates are not provided by the organization in Hartford. If information is given, I will provide updates when available.

Analysis On Peter Holland Trade

Monday evening the Rangers announced a trade regarding veteran forward Peter Holland in exchange for defenseman Darren Raddysh. You can read more information regarding the trade here by my colleague, Zak Chiger.

Let me start answering the question; “was this a good trade?” The answer is yes but needs a deeper explanation. There are a few areas to look at when considering the value of the trade for Hartford.

  • The good news: Peter Holland’s contract was up this season. The Rangers dealt him and got a player who is signed next season. The defense gets another prospect on the crowded pipeline and is a solid player on the blue line, which Hartford desperately needs. The trade improves the struggling defense.
  • The bad news: Hartford removed another leader in the locker room. On ice, Holland led the team in points with 49 points. He was nearly a point per game player. The second in points was John Gilmour with 38, then it dips to 33 points for Steven Fogarty. Hartford traded away their top two points players in recent weeks.
  • There is lack of leadership in the locker room now. The prospects only have a few to rely on (Matt Beleskey, Rob O’Gara, and Shawn O’Donnell).
  • Since the Cole Schneider trade, Hartford is 3-12. Trading away the captain sank the group, standings wise. Let’s see the effect on the Peter Holland trade in the upcoming weeks.
  • The newest Rangers prospect will debut on Friday against Springfield. He is wearing number two.

AHL Playoff Primer

If you are interested, the American Hockey League released their annual playoff primer. The premier is updated daily and shows where the team stands in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, we do not have much use for it. Currently, Hartford still has a chance. Hartford needs 58 points. However, they have 22 games remaining. They will need a bunch of help in the standings. You can check out the primer here.

Off-Ice Updates

Regarding the home of the Wolf Pack, the XL Center has no news, yet. As you may recall, the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) pushed ahead a plan to renovate the capital city venue last year for $250 million. That plan fell through as the state of Connecticut did not want to include the building funds in the budget.

Looking ahead, the CRDA is doing a similar plan, this time with less cost. The scaled back renovation plan has a price tag of roughly $100 million. The CRDA will have to persude the new governor plus the state that the XL Center needs the much needed renovations. The process starts up soon and I will give you updates as they come.

Regarding the Wolf Pack, we are currently in year one of the five year deal. The 2019-2020 season is year two and is the last year on the first stage of the deal. After that, there are three one year extensions that can be exercised from either party (Madison Square Garden or Spectra/CRDA).

Wolf Pack attendance this season had a noticeable decline. As we enter this week, Hartford’s average is 3,560. Generally, the Pack average around 4,100+ by the time the season ends. I suspect the decline in attendance is not due to poor play, but with an increase of ticket pricing plus the arena management struggling to find ways to put people in seats. The Wolf Pack never averaged below 4,100 in franchise history.

The XL Center has 11 games remaining. To match last year’s average of 4,138 (157,243 fans), Hartford must get 61,133 fans (currently at 96,100). That equates to each game having 5,557 fans per game. That is possible, considering some games should have larger crowds than others. We shall see.

According to Gerry Cantlon from Howlings, Spectra had many games below 2,000 in franchise history. Here is a quote from last Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Marlies.

“The attendance of 1,548 was the fifth worst recorded in franchise history. Of the 36 under crowds of 2,000, a total of 23 have come during the Global/Spectra management run.”

Gerry Cantlon

In addition, Spectra had five of the 23 lowest attended crowds happen this season in Hartford. Yikes. The franchise lowest crowd was on Tuesday February 5th with a crowd of 1,274.

Upcoming Games

Hartford has a three in three weekend coming up. Hartford is home in the next three of four games.

Friday, January 22nd vs Springfield Thunderbirds (Florida) at 7:15pm, XL Center

  • This is the seventh of ten meetings against Springfield. Hartford is 2-4 in the season series against the Thunderbirds.
  • Springfield is four points behind Springfield. The Thunderbirds has lost their last eight of ten outings.
  • Hartford is 2-5-2-1 in their last ten outings.
  • Springfield is seventh in the Atlantic Division with a record of 22-22-6-4 for 54 points.

Saturday, January 23rd vs Providence Bruins (Boston) at 7pm, XL Center

  • Hartford is 4-3-1 in the ten game season series against Providence. The Bruins won the last three meetings, which all were in Providence.
  • The Bruins are 4th in the Atlantic Division with a record of 27-19-6-1 for 61 points.
  • Providence has won their last seven out ten outings. However, they enter the week losing two straight in regulation.

Sunday, January 24th vs Providence Bruins (Boston) at 3:05pm, Dunkin Donuts Center Providence

  • This is the tenth and final meeting in the season series against Providence.
  • After Sunday’s game, Hartford finished two season series out of three against their rivals (Bridgeport, Springfield).
  • After Sunday, Hartford has nine home games remaining. They also have ten road games remaining.

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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