While the going away parties for the Albany and St. John’s hockey community in the AHL, thought both of them could be making the playoffs, there’s one area where not much news about the AHL coming back in 2017-18 and that’s Hartford.
In the middle of last season, the Wolf Pack and the XL Center announced a lease extension for 2016-17, which was the first of two possible option years from the previous agreement. There has not been much news about talks or anything in regards to the lease agreement coming forth in the 2017-18 season for the Wolf Pack.
There’s a reason to wonder if Hartford would be back in the AHL, especially with the push that is on to bring the New York Islanders to the XL Center and the possibility of huge upgrades needed in order to get the Isles into the old arena. Should XL Center be serious about it and the Isles take them up on that offer, obviously the Wolf Pack would be out. Yet, the Wolf Pack has been discussed in shuffling, too– with rumors of the Rangers moving their AHL affiliate to Bridgeport after the Islanders moving out their affiliate to the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum (though that has been denied by the Sound Tigers’ president).
(NOTE: Emails to the XL Center and Wolf Pack have not been replied to as of the time of this writing. This post will be updated if/when they are replied to)
It has been a rough past couple of years for the Wolf Pack on the ice, as they are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. Yet, in the only time they’ve made the playoffs, they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals– which they were swept by eventual champion Manchester. This season will also be the first time the Wolf Pack will not reach the 30-win plateau and not reaching the .500 mark since moving to Hartford in 1997. There has been some identity crisis with the Connecticut Whale being a thing from 2010 until 2013, they still had competitive teams– especially considering they’ve always been over-.500 until this year.
Though Nicklas Jensen has been leading the way on offense with Matt Carey as his secondary scorer (and only two with 20+ goals) as Taylor Beck is shuttled up and down to the Rangers, the defense has been pretty horrific. The goaltending has been a big let-down, with Magnus Hellberg ranked 31st in GAA…and he got called up for the Rangers’ playoffs. Rookie Brandon Halverson is ranked 45th out of 46 goalies qualified in the AHL in GAA. The loss of Mat Bodie to the NHL has been a huge hit to not only the defense, but as the captain of the Wolf Pack– it took away an important voice in the room for the young team. Chris Summers is the only defenseman who has played over 30 games and has a plus/minus under double-digits for that blue line. Much is needed for this team going forward– whether it’s in Hartford or otherwise.
Attendance hasn’t been a big drop-off by Wolf Pack standards as they are around 4,200 a game and last season they were around 4,400– so the losing has hit them a bit, but not enough to say losing is the reason for a box-office problem.
If nothing else, should the Wolf Pack move, it wouldn’t be the first time in this team’s lineage. They are considered the oldest continuous AHL team despite the Wolf Pack not recognizing the past. This team started in Providence as the Reds in 1926 until 1976, then moved to Binghamton from 1977 until 1997 when they moved to Hartford. Where they land next is anyone’s guess, but wherever that is– that’s some useless info to carry with you despite not recognizing it in the rafters or record books.