Tag Archives: Connecticut Whalers

FROM THE CREASE with BRUCE BERLET

bruce mug shot 1BY: Bruce Berlet

The New York Rangers’ Summer of Success continued Thursday on several fronts.

The Rangers again averted often contentious salary arbitration, and this time it was with former Hartford Wolf Pack forward Brandon Dubinsky, their leading scorer last season.

Before a scheduled arbitration hearing in Toronto, Dubinsky signed a four-year, $16.8 million contract, leaving former Wolf Pack linemate Ryan Callahan as the only restricted free agent still to be signed. The Rangers hope to get a deal done with one of their alternate captains and expected successor to bought-out Trumbull native Chris Drury as captain before his scheduled arbitration hearing next Thursday.

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NIGHT VISION

Bruce HeadshotBy Bruce Berlet

Wolf Pack Grads Continue To Excel on Broadway

Wolf Pack graduates from Asylum Street continue to make vital contributions for the parent team on Broadway.

In the Rangers’ 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Saturday night, center Artem Anisimov scored the first goal and won a team-high nine of 17 face-offs. Defenseman Marc Staal scored the winner 48 seconds into the second period on an assist from right wing/alternate captain Ryan Callahan, who notched his 100th career NHL point. Rookie defenseman Michael Sauer, who missed much of the last two seasons with the Wolf Pack because of injuries, recorded his first NHL point, the primary assist on Alex Frolov’s first-period goal, which came 27 seconds after Anisimov scored. And left wing Brandon Dubinsky had an assist on Anisimov’s goal.

Then in a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night, Callahan scored his first goal of the season, the game-winner on a power-play deflection of Dubinsky’s shot, and then assisted on an empty-net goal by Dubinsky, who shook off a thunderous third-period check by Matt Corrente to score with one second left. Callahan has at least a point in each of three consecutive victories that have put the Rangers two games above .500 for the first time this season (4-2-1).

Dubinsky leads the team in scoring (four goals, three assists), average ice time for forwards (21 minutes, 41 seconds) and won seven of 12 faceoffs when he moved from left wing into the circle. Defenseman Dan Girardi is tied for second in the NHL with a team-high 24 blocked shots and ranks third in average ice time (24:03).

With leading scorer Marian Gaborik (separated left shoulder), versatile Vinny Prospal (knee) and captain/Trumbull native Chris Drury (broken finger) sidelined three to six weeks, the Blueblood Line of Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan has been the best for the Blueshirts. And the Staal-Girardi pairing is No. 1 on defense, though they have been split up at times the last few games.

When asked after Sunday’s victory about doing the little things needed to win, Callahan said, “That’s what I try to do. I try to be good on the puck, be really good on the forecheck, take the body and do what I can. Obviously, I want to chip in with the goals when I can, too, but when that’s not going well, you definitely have to concentrate on the other things, and when you do that, you start to get bounces toward the net and start getting more chances. … I try to go out there and lead by example, finishing checks and blocking shots. If guys are jumping on board with it, that’s great. And I think everyone has bought into the system we’re trying to do – hard on the forecheck, sacrificing ourselves for the team. These three games, I think we’ve seen that.”

Rangers coach John Tortorella gushed about Callahan, an All-Star with the Wolf Pack who Hartford and New York fans love for his grit and tenacity, as demonstrated by making four of the Rangers’ 21 blocked shots against the Devils.

“He does everything,” Tortorella said. “And I’m happy for him that he gets the winner. You watch him block shots, you see the things he does on the wall, everything about him. I like the way he stepped up in the locker room in between periods there (in Boston on Saturday night) when we taking all those penalties. It’s the most I’ve heard him say in the locker room since I’ve been with him. So I think he’s embracing being a leader on this club, too. It’s good stuff.”

Good, indeed, for a fourth-round pick – and reminiscent of the best third-round pick in Whalers history, Kevin Dineen. Callahan has been the Rangers’ de facto captain in Drury’s absence, and Dineen was captain of the Whalers and scored the last goal in franchise history in a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 13, 1997.

The bigger Anisimov from long sessions in the gym with Rangers strength and conditioning coach Reg Grant has made the biggest improvement in his second season with the Rangers after being an All-Star with the Wolf Pack in 2008-09.

“He’s gotten a lot stronger,” Callahan told the New York Post’s Jay Greenberg in a story that appeared Tuesday. “This summer he put on a little meat, and it’s helped his game tremendously, holding on to pucks for that extra second.”

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Anisimov has three goals and two assists and drawn comparisons to former Montreal Canadiens standout Peter Mahovlich, not Hall of Fame brother Frank. No one knows if Anisimov regularly scores 20 or 30 goals, but having a skilled, gritty center with enough size to go against big centers is something that Rangers fans have begged for for years.

“He’s still just a puppy as far as his body goes,” Tortorella said. “You see him bring the puck to the net and he’s impressive. And he’s already one of our better defensive players. I think about him a lot, want to make sure with he and (rookie center Derek) Stepan that we don’t miss the steps in the growing process. I took a couple shifts away (in Sunday’s game) because I worry about that. I just want to make sure I am careful not to give him too much. Last year, I thought I knocked him down a bit when I put him in the second line. He was very honest with me about being nervous and you could tell.”

Anisimov, a second-round pick in 2006, had an honest answer when asked about increased responsibility, from being part of the first power-play unit with Gaborik and Prospal out, to helping protect one-goal leads in the final minute against six attackers with Drury sidelined.

“Trust is everything for me,” he said.

The Rangers return to action Wednesday night when they host the Atlanta Thrashers at 7:05 in the second game of a three-game homestand.

 

Nylander’s Season Is Over

Former Whalers and Rangers center Michael Nylander had successful surgery to fuse together the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae (C-1 is the highest toward the head) in his neck Monday, ending this season but apparently not his career. The 38-year-old Nylander will need an estimated six months of rehabilitation to return to the ice after sustaining the injury in the second period of the Rochester Americans’ 4-1 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday night.

“He’ll definitely have to do some soul-searching when he has recovered,” Amerks coach Chuck Weber told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “The little bit I do know him, I don’t think this is the way he’ll want to go out.”

Nylander was injured when he was checked from behind along the right-wing boards by Griffins defenseman Brendan Smith. Nylander fell into the boards at an awkward angle on a hit that appeared to be legal, with no penalty assessed. Nylander immediately knew he was seriously injured as he skated right to the bench, leaving behind his equipment and a slew of expletives.

“Thankfully this happened without neurologic deficit, he didn’t lose feeling,” Dr. Robert Bronstein, the Amerks’ team physician, told the Democrat and Chronicle. “A cervical spine injury can be catastrophic. This is why we clamor at the youth hockey levels right up to the pro levels that you can’t hit from behind. … The higher the level, the worse it becomes because more nerves can be involved. If everything goes as expected, he (spinal specialist Dr. Robert Molinari) feels he would be able to go back and play.”

The 19-year pro veteran, loaned to the Amerks in late September by the Washington Capitals, is in the final year of a contract paying him $3 million this season. The Amerks’ parent club, the Florida Panthers, paid about $1 million to the Capitals for him to play in Rochester. Since Nylander won’t receive medical clearance until around May 1, the Panthers have started a search for a replacement. … A day after beating the Wolf Pack, the Binghamton Senator lost 2-1 in a shootout with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who remain the AHL’s only unbeaten team at 6-0-0-0, with five wins being by a one goal. Former Wolf Pack center Corey Locke got the Senators a standings point with 10.6 seconds left in regulation, spoiling John Curry’s bid for a shutout. Chris Conner scored in the eighth round of the shootout, and Curry then stopped Jim O’Brien, who assisted on Erik Condra’s goal that beat the Wolf Pack. Curry had 37 saves, and the Senators’ Barry Brust stopped 36 of 37 shots, making him 122-for-126 (.968 percent) in his last three starts. … Former Wolf Pack wing Alexandre Giroux, the two-time defending AHL goal-scoring champion, scored with 1:02 left in overtime to give Oklahoma City a 3-2 road victory over Hamilton on Sunday in a game nationally televised on Canadian Broadcasting Company and the NHL Network. Giroux, who is with the Barons this season after winning consecutive Calder Cups in Hershey, notched his fourth goal and eighth point of the season to remain tied with Brad Moran (three goals, five assists) for the team scoring lead. … Milwaukee Admirals left wing Linus Klasen was named AHL Player of the Week for getting three goals and three assists in two victories and a loss. Goalie Dov Grumet-Morris was the Wolf Pack nominee after making 22 saves in his team debut in a 2-1 overtime loss to Syracuse on Saturday night.

Andrews To Receive Patrick Award Wednesday Night

Congratulations to AHL president and CEO David Andrews, who will receive much-deserved recognition Wednesday night when he accepts the Lester Patrick Trophy from the NHL and USA Hockey for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.

Andrews will receive one of hockey’s most prestigious awards for 16 years as leader of minor-league hockey’s top league after seven years as the Edmonton Oilers’ director of AHL operations, including the Cape Breton Oilers’ 1993 Calder Cup championship season. He previously was a senior consultant with SportCanada and head coach and director of hockey operations for the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Cougars. He was inducted into the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame (2005) and the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame (2006).

The native of Nova Scotia will be honored with Boston Bruins legendary right wing Cam Neely, Boston College coach Jerry York and Boston University coach Jack Parker. The trophy was presented to the NHL by the Rangers in 1966 to honor the memory of Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach and general manager. In 20-plus years with the Rangers, Patrick won two Stanley Cups as head coach (1928, 1933) and one as the general manager (1940). Former Rangers coach and GM and Whalers GM Emile Francis received the award in 1982.

Enjoy your special night, Dave. You earned it and deserve it.

UPDATES

New York ROne-time Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman, he was here for a cup of coffee, Marc Staal has signed a five year deal with the New York Rangers the team has just announced. Andrew Gross reports that the deal is five years at $3.975mm per. A great number because it leaves the Rangers some wiggle room to sign perhaps one, two or more of the veterans that are in their try-out camp. See the official release below.

In other news, the birth of the Connecticut Whalers is getting closer. Rumors suggest that the sign-off on the agreement between WhalersEntertainment (Howard Baldwin), the New York Rangers and AEG should be forthcoming very shortly, perhaps as early as next week. While the take over may happen next week, it’s unclear if the team will switch names right away. When the change is made official is still not clear. If we were guessing, and that’s all we’d be doing, making the switch at the outdoor game in February as part of the Whalers fest would seem to make the most sense. It would gather the most attention and get it out to the greatest number of fans.

What really needs to happen now, more than anything else, is a truce between the hard-core Wolf Pack fans who have been treated shabbily AT BEST by Whalers’ fans almost form the outset. Wolf Pack fans also have to recognize that it’s the same team just wearing different laundry. The same players that they have grown so attached to can’t e faulted and neither can the staff of the team that has worked so incredibly hard. This agreement, when it’s made official, is great for the players, great for the fans and great for the city. Whalers

How you ask?

The players benefit because the building will be more full. Playing in front of bigger crowds helps their development.

Hartford Wolf Pack CT LotteryThe fans benefit because Howard Baldwin is an innovator who wants to make the experience of coming to a game better. He has a goal in mind of bringing an NHL team to Hartford. The ONLY way that happens is by getting a full house and making a lot of noise. Then he’ll need to upgrade the building to NL standards…which I’ve heard is already in the plan… So expect more energy being put into getting a product out to the fans that they will like more.

Lastly it benefits the city. There will be more tickets which means more revenue. It means more people spending money in downtown businesses which will also increase revenue for the state as well as the city.

It’s a win-win and something that should be extolled NOT attacked.

Our only negative, we like the Wolf Pack name and colors better, but there are worse things…for example, has anyone taken a look at the state of their retirement plans lately…?

RANGERS AGREE TO TERMS WITH DEFENSEMAN MARC STAAL

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has agreed to terms with defenseman Marc Staal on a new contract.

Staal, 23, skated in 82 games with the Rangers last season, registering eight goals and 19 assists for 27 points, along with 44 penalty minutes and a plus-11 rating.  He established career-highs in goals, assists and points.  He was one of four Rangers to skate in all 82 games, and has played in 202 consecutive games including the playoffs, dating back to February 19, 2008, at Montreal.  Staal led the team in average ice-time, logging a career-high 23:07 of icetime per game, and eclipsed the 30:00 mark twice including a Rangers season-high 30:45 of icetime on December 19 at Philadelphia.  He ranked fourth on the Rangers in even strength points (27), and tied for third in blocked shots (97), fourth in road goals (seven) and fifth in road points (14).  He also tied for second on the team and 12th among NHL defensemen with 178 hits.  Staal led all Rangers defensemen with a career-high two game-winning goals and a plus-11 rating, ranked second in goals and points and third in assists.  Seven of his eight goals were tallied away from Madison Square Garden, including a career-high three-game goal streak (three goals) from March 30 at the Islanders to April 3 at Florida.  Staal tallied his first career multi-assist performance with two assists on January 31 at Colorado, and registered a career-high four-game point streak from November 27 at Tampa Bay to December 5 at Buffalo (one goal and three assists).  He skated in his 200th career NHL game on December 26 vs. the Islanders.

The  6-4, 210-pounder has skated in 244 career NHL games in three seasons with the Rangers, registering 13 goals and 39 assists for 52 points, along with 150 penalty minutes.  Staal established career-highs in hits (189) and shots (96) during the 2008-09 season, and was selected to participate in the NHL YoungStars Game at the 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend on January 24, 2009, in Montreal for the second consecutive season.  As a rookie in 2007-08, Staal won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award as the top rookie in Rangers training camp.  He made his NHL debut in the season-opener on October 4, 2007, vs. Florida, and registered his first point with an assist on November 1, 2007, vs. Washington.  In addition, Staal has skated in 17 career playoff contests, registering two goals and two assists, along with eight penalty minutes.  He established playoff career-highs in games played (10), assists (two), points (three) and penalty minutes (eight) during the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Internationally, Staal has represented his native country in several tournaments, most recently skating with Team Canada at the 2010 World Championship in Germany.  He registered one assist and tied for second on the team with a plus-two rating in seven games.  Staal also captured back-to-back gold medals with Canada at the World Junior Championship in 2006 and 2007, and was named the top defenseman at the 2006 World Junior Championship.

The Thunder Bay, Ontario native was originally selected as the Rangers first round choice, 12th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

TIME FOR A LITTLE Q AND A

“Time to try something new…” That’s what I always used to say…It might explain the three marriages, but I digress…

We haven’t done a Q&A here since we started Howlings over three years ago. I think it’s high time we tried.

So here it is…your chance to ask anything you like in terms of The New York Rangers, The Hartford Wolf Pack / Connecticut Whalers, The Charlotte Checkers or even the Greenville Road Warriors.

Fire away and you know you’ll get nothing but the truth…so help me Dolan… Well, he seems to think so anyway…

SPIN THE DIAL…

TCvsDdjZODQAAHvD4EM609 Nobody is saying officially what team is going to be the new ECHL affiliate for the AHL’s soon-to-be Connecticut Whalers and the parent New York Rangers.

That doesn’t mean though that talks aren’t going on.

Howlings has been checking around and has concluded that the most likely place the team will wind up having their new affiliation is with ex-Ranger’s GM, Neil Smith’s team, the Greenville Road Warriors.

Here’s the logic.

There’s obviously the connection and familiarity between Neil Smith and the New York Rangers.

Both teams are in a position of need. The Rangers need an ECHL affiliate and Smith needs to find a team to supply him with players.

When the Blueshirts had their East Coast affiliation with the Charlotte Checkers, the team had excellent attendance. Now to be fair to Charlotte, they also did an unbelievably great job in marketing their team to the community. The Checkers also put on an outstanding program night-in and night-out. Did we mention the Check-mates? They were worth watching even if the team at times wasn’t. But put that aside, Neil Smith is by a country mile, perhaps the most underrated and savvy hockey minds in the sport. Smith will not be afraid to take marketing chances and doing what he needs to do to get the job done for his team in Greenville.

For the Rangers the team would essentially be in the same area as last season. For the team to recall a player to Hartford won’t be a major concern. While it’s not exactly a ten minute ride between Charlotte and Greenville, it’s near enough that the good will from Charlotte should find it’s way to South Carolina. It’s a great area to build off the good name they established with the Checkers.

From the Road Warriors perspective, the Rangers make the most sense of just about any team available. Last season Smith’s team were the Johnstown Chiefs. They had virtually no help from their affiliate relationships. They were in a decrepit building and not drawing flies to their games. Having an affiliation with the Rangers is a boon for the team’s Stanley Cup architect. The affiliation with the team that rose him to prominence will allow him to build his brand around an “Original Six” affiliation..and one that he knows so well. For the Road Warriors, they’ll be stocked with better quality and caliber of players to establish their name in the community. With a better quality team they can be more competitive which will  in turn draw him better crowds.

It just makes sense.

If an announcement is forthcoming, it’s likely to be at the end of this month and no later than the first week in September. Then it will be up to Smith and his staff to really go to work to make this thing fly. Given his understanding of the business and his ability to get things done, I’d expect Smith to turn this one around pretty quickly.

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Not that anyone asked, but this is our 1,000th posting to Howlings…yeah me….

WHALERS COMING HOME

WhalersWhalers Sports is excited to announce the following list of 23 alumni who have confirmed their involvement in the Whalers Reunion & Fan Fest. These 23 men are a large part of the Whalers legacy and will continue to make Whalers history by participating in the weekend-long Fan Fest.

All of the former players are donating their time for the Whalers Reunion and Fan Fest events to assist the Arthritis Foundation and the Whalers Wives Foundation.

Dave Babych, Wayne Babych, Norm Barnes, Don Blackburn, Jeff Brubaker, Bob Crawford, Kevin Dineen, *Ron Francis, ****Stewart Gavin, Alan Hangsleben, ***Gordie Howe, Grant Jennings, Chuck Kaiton, Chris Kotsopoulos, Andre Lacroix,

Paul Lawless, ****Mike Liut, Dana Murzyn, **Larry Pleau, Joel Quenneville, Mike Rogers, Brit Selby, Brad Shaw, Garry Swain

*Ron Francis will appear at the Arthritis Foundation Dinner and have a limited appearance schedule at the Whalers Reunion & Fan Fest

**Larry Pleau will only be able to attend the Arthritis Foundation Dinner

***Gordie Howe will only be signing his book, “Nine: A Salute to Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe,” which will be available for purchase the day of the Fan Fest. No other items will be available for Mr. Howe to sign. There will also be an additional signing fee, which will include a personalized autograph and picture with Mr. Howe. There will be a table and chairs in a roped off area to be used for the display, sale and signing of the #9 books written by Gordie Howe. At least one member of the Whalers Sports and Entertainment staff will remain at the front of the line to accept orders and pass out purchased books. Once you have purchased the book you can present it to Gordie Howe to be personalized. Along with the purchase of the book you will be given the opportunity to pose with Gordie for a photo with the book. Fee to be posted later this week.

****Still awaiting official confirmation

More player announcements and a full schedule of details to come at a later date

All players are subject to change. For future information regarding all things Fan Fest go to www.whalerssports.com

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In other news surrounding your Hartford hockey club…

Also, as many have read in local newspapers, or here on Howlings, the last hurdle has been cleared for Howard Baldwin and his Whalers Sports & Entertainment to take over operation of the Hartford Wolf Pack. Larry Gottesdiener and his Northland Investment Corporation’s essentially removed itself from the equation in the operation of the XL Center. They turned over their interests to AEG. Well, it is only a matter of time now, as early as next week, that it should become official. When that happens, the Hartford Wolf Pack will be no more and the new team will be the Connecticut Whalers. The relationship with the Rangers will remain in place. This will be a huge moment for the city of Hartford and for the players as well. With Baldwin running things there should be a renewed interest in the team and making it an event once again. Expect the team to once again start drawing big crowds and become the place to be. Howlings will stay on top of this story.