A new head coach in the American Hockey League could have a trickle-down effect on the South Carolina Stingrays.
Spencer Carbery, a former Stingrays player and coach, was named the head coach for the Hershey Bears on Tuesday, the AHL team announced. Carbery, 36, will be officially introduced as the Bears’ 26th head coach at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Carbery replaces Troy Mann, whose contract was not extended after the season.
Ryan Warsofsky, South Carolina’s current head coach, served as Carbery’s assistant with the Stingrays for three seasons and the two could be reunited on the Bears’ coaching staff.
“Spencer and I have had a couple of conversations over the past couple of days and we’ll see what happens,” said Warsofsky in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “If the opportunity is there, it’s going to be a tough decision. I love Charleston, I love the Stingrays and the organization and working with our president Rob Concannon and our new owner Todd Halloran. The city and the organization have been so good to me and my family."
The lure of working with Carbery again might be too much for Warsofsky to resist. The Stingrays were 132-61-23 in the three seasons that Carbery and Warsofsky worked together. South Carolina advanced to the Kelly Cup finals against the Allen Americans in 2015 and made it to two straight ECHL Eastern Conference finals during that stretch.
“We had a lot of success when we worked together because we have such a good relationship,” Warsofsky said. “I know what makes him tick and he knows what I bring to the table. The only reason I’d be tempted to leave Charleston and the Stingrays would be the chance to work with Spencer again at the AHL level.”
Hershey is expected to retain at least one assistant coach in Reid Cashman, who worked with the Bears' defensemen last year. However, the Washington Capitals are expected to promote assistant coach Todd Reirden to replace Barry Trotz, who resigned last week after leading the Capitals to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title to become the head coach with the New York Islanders. Cashman is considered to be a strong candidate to join the Capitals coaching staff, which would open the door for Warsofsky.
“The ECHL isn’t just a developmental league for players, it’s one for coaches as well,” said Stingrays president Rob Concannon. “We’re used to guys moving up the ranks within our organization and in professional hockey. I know Ryan and Spencer have a great relationship. I know they talk often during the season. Ryan has come such a long way in the five years he’s been with the organization and I know he’d be a great fit on any coaching staff.”
The decision to bring Warsofsky on board might not be Carbery’s to make. The Capitals have final veto power on Hershey’s coaching staff. However, Warsofsky has a powerful ally within the Capitals organization in Jason Fitzsimmons, a scout for Washington and former Stingrays goalie and head coach.
“The ultimate decision will be made by Washington, but either way I know that Spencer and I will be communicating a lot during the season,” Warsofsky said. “I’m really happy for Spencer. He deserves this chance to be a head coach in the American League.”
Carbery worked closely with the Bears during his five seasons as head coach of the Stingrays from 2011-16. Carbery compiled a 207-115-38 record with the Stingrays, making him the all-time winningest coach in South Carolina history. He was the ECHL coach of the year in 2014. In 2015, the Stingrays won an ECHL-record 23 consecutive games.
"Throughout this process, Spencer's passion, character and work ethic stood out and his desire to win is without equal,” said Hershey vice president of hockey operations Brian Helmer. “His familiarity with the Hershey and Washington organizations will help make this a smooth transition, and we feel he is the perfect fit to lead this franchise.”
Carbery's ties to Hershey and Washington also include coaching multiple players who advanced within the Capitals organization, including three members of the 2018 Stanley Cup champion squad — Philipp Grubauer, Nathan Walker and Pheonix Copley.
“Spencer is a great communicator, has an excellent track record for developing young players and we are confident that he will do a great job with our group in Hershey," said Washington general manager Brian MacLellan.