NEW YORK, May 16, 2017 – New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that Ken Gernander has been relieved of his coaching duties with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL). A replacement will be announced by the team at a later date.
“We want to thank Ken for his service and all of his contributions to the Wolf Pack and the Rangers organization,” Gorton said. “We wish him and his family all the best in his future endeavors.”
In addition, Rangers Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager Jim Schoenfeld has relinquished his duties as General Manager of the Wolf Pack and will focus solely on his duties in New York. Rangers Assistant General Manager Chris Drury will assume the role of General Manager of the Wolf Pack.
“I want to thank Ken for his tireless work and dedication to the Wolf Pack and the Rangers organization,” Schoenfeld said. “He represented the organization the right way, both on and off the ice. I have had the good fortune working closely with Kenny as a player, assistant coach, and head coach over the last 12 years and wish him all the best going forward.”
Drury completed his first season as Assistant General Manager in 2016-17 after being promoted to the post on September 2, 2016. He served as Director of Player Development for one season after rejoining the Rangers organization on September 4, 2015.
Gernander served as the Wolf Pack’s Head Coach for the past 10 seasons, posting a 388-304-84 record in 776 games. He guided Hartford to the playoffs in five of his 10 seasons as the team’s Head Coach and helped the Wolf Pack advance to the Eastern Conference Final in 2014-15.
(courtesy of New York Rangers’ PR)
The decision to move on from Ken Gernander is one that should come as no surprise.
The Hartford Wolf Pack finished the 2016-17 AHL season with a record of 24-46-6 and 54 points. The season was the worst in franchise history, and the first time the Pack failed to record at least 70 points in a single season. Before this year, the Pack’s worst overall campaign was the 2012-13 season in which the then Connecticut Whale went 30-32-5 and finished with 79 points.
This year was supposed to be a year of growth for the Pack considering the amount of young talent that was infused in the lineup, but it never materialized. Forwards like Robin Kovacs and Malte Stromwall came over from Europe and spent time in the bottom six, whereas Tanner Glass received top-six minutes. When Hartford was way out of playoff contention it would have been nice to see some future combinations tried out, but deployment stayed the same for the most part. It was supposed to be a turning point for a franchise that failed to make the playoffs a year after qualifying for the Conference Final, but instead, it was a disaster. Outside the Conference Final appearance in 2014-15, Hartford has missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.
It was supposed to be a turning point for a franchise that failed to make the playoffs a year after qualifying for the Conference Final, but instead, it was a disaster. Outside the Conference Final appearance in 2014-15, Hartford has missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.
Gernander had been behind the bench since July 23, 2007, and prior to that, he skated as a player for the Pack and was the captain for eight seasons. The time for a change was now, and it makes a whole lot more sense considering Drury is now in charge.
He has the right to bring in a coach who shares his vision, and it will likely be one in line with the types of signings he has been part of.
Drury has been with the club for a short time, but to date he’s had a sizable impact. He was named the Director of Player Development in September of 2015, and a year later he was given the title of Assistant General Manager. He was wanted by the Buffalo Sabres before they hired Jason Botterill, and it makes sense why the Rangers didn’t let him interview.
Chris Drury is a valued piece in NYR management. I can appreciate why NY would deny the Sabres permission to speak to him about gm job.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) April 28, 2017
The Blueshirts have signed NCAA free agents such as forward Vinni Lettieri from the University of Minnesota, defenseman Vince Pedrie from Penn State, Chris Nell from Bowling Green State and most recently sophomore defender Neal Pionk from Minnesota Duluth.
NY Rangers signed Neal Pionk from Minny Duluth. A highly coveted college free agent, Pionk is a smart puck… https://t.co/46EzuZ0WGf
— (((Corey Pronman))) (@coreypronman) May 2, 2017
Simply stated, Hartford needs to be more competitive. It is fair to point out that the Rangers have burned through many of their first-round picks in recent years and haven’t provided their farm team top tier talent to work with, but that’s the reality of the situation. Look for Drury and the Rangers to continue to be aggressive in pursuit of talented free agents in an attempt to make up for lack of draft picks over the past few years.
It will be interesting to see where the organization goes for its next coach, as it could tell a lot about the future direction of the parent club. The goal is to create synergy between the Rangers and Hartford so that players can develop in the AHL and make a seamless jump to the NHL level. Either way changes are coming for Hartford, and they should only help to improve the Blueshirts’ franchise in the long run.
Make sure to check out the June edition of the Wolf Den for an in-depth look at what is next for the roster.