The Whale will maintain most of it’s core leadership this year. The leadership of an AHL team is very important. One reason is for the development of players. Another reason is to keep the team cohesive and acting as one unit throughout the season. Rosters in the AHL change like tabloid headlines. Players move in and out of the roster much more frequently than in the NHL making leadership within the AHL roster more important in some cases. Every AHL team needs a solid core of players with experience and leadership skills, you will always find veterans on any AHL team. Last year the team had other leaders like Brendan Bell and Jordan Owens. Guys who know the ropes in the league and have had experiences with more than one team. Going into this year there are three leaders that come to mind in Hartford. Two on ice and one off the ice.
A big part of the leadership in Hartford is done on the ice by Kris Newbury. Newbury is a rugged, feisty center with a nose for the net and for the penalty box too. Newbury has been in Hartford since the 09-10 season tallying over 60 points in the last two seasons. Newbury also has played in 66 NHL games, 18 of those for the Rangers. Newbury also has amassed over 130 penalty minutes in the last two seasons. Newbury is not shy when it comes to getting busy with the opposing players. His gloves can be seen on the ice at the XL Center on a regular basis.
The other big piece of the leadership core for the Whale is Wade Redden. You probably remember Redden from his 11 seasons with the Ottawa Senators. He was elected to be an All Star in 2004. Redden has played in almost 1000 NHL games. He has played in 101 NHL playoff games, scored over 100 NHL goals and he has amassed 450 NHL points. The Rangers signed Redden to a large contract in 2008 but after two seasons of declining play the Rangers sent him down to play for the Whale. After two seasons in Hartford, Coach Gernander and the Whale named Redden Captain of the team. There had not been a Captain since Dane Byers was Captain of the Wolf Pack back in October 2010. Redden is entering the fifth year of a six year deal and at 35 years old, its most likely that Redden will continue to be Captain until his contract expires.
The most significant part of the Connecticut Whale leadership is of course Ken Gernander. Gernander will begin his 8th season coaching the Whale, his 6th as head coach. During Gernander’s time as head coach he has had a .588 winning percentage. He has also coached the team to 208 wins in just 5 seasons, that’s almost 42 wins every season. Gernander has been a part of Hartford hockey since the team came to Hartford for the 97-98 AHL season. Gernander is the only Wolf Pack/Whale player to have his number retired. He also was an inductee into the Connecticut Hall of Fame last year. Gernander has seen it all in Hartford, as Captain of the team and now as head coach. He won a Calder Cup with the team in 2000. When it comes to leadership of the Whale you can’t have a guy with any more experience than Ken Gernander.
This season will have some more leadership added as well. As we wait for a the final roster and with a looming lockout approaching for the NHL, the Whale could have some number of players joining them this season. It should not be anything that Gernander, Redden and Newbury haven’t seen before, however as you can see the three of them may have seen it all with their combined experience.