With Ron Francis officially out of the picture, the Carolina Hurricanes lurched quickly forward into the next era of management leadership. I wrote about Ron Francis’ legacy as the Hurricanes general manager yesterday, and with the hiring of Rick Dudley today, I will shift toward considering the next era of Hurricanes hockey leadership.
The current Carolina Hurricanes executive team
Don Waddell–Interim General Manager (potentially for awhile now?): Don Waddell has seemingly been gathering clout since the ownership change seems to be the closest thing to a general manager right now and also seems to have a significant role in building out the hockey operations team. The most recent hire (see below) is pretty directly a result of his influence. Whereas Ron Francis and Tom Dundon never seemed to click, Waddell seems to have slid into much of what was previously Francis’ responsibility.
Rick Dudley–Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations: On Tuesday, while the ink was still drying on the terse press release announcing Francis’ contract being terminated, the team announced that it had hired Rick Dudley into the role of Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. Dudley, who was in a similar role with the Montreal Canadiens, adds another veteran NHL executive with broad experience with a number of teams and in a variety of roles. The X-factor in Dudley’s hiring is his extensive ties to Don Waddell and most significantly their time together leading the Atlanta Thrashers organization.
Paul Krepelka–Vice President of Hockey Operations: Somewhat more quietly, the Hurricanes also added former agent Paul Krepelka to the mix. Krepelka seems destined to fill sort of an assistant general manager role focused on contract negotiation. His hiring also raises the question of if the expectation is that there will be more departures from the team that Dundon inherited.
Eric Tulsky–Manager of Analytics: Still in the mix and hopefully away from the fray is analytics lead Eric Tulsky and his hire Kevin Kan.
Tom Dundon: Because of his direct involvement thus far, I would be remiss not to include owner Tom Dundon on an org chart of sorts for the hockey operations team.
Also still in tow are holdover assistant general managers Brian Tatum and Ricky Olczyk and long-time director of amateur scouting Tony MacDonald and his team.
Is this it for now?
With Francis’ departure and the addition of Paul Krepelka and Rick Dudley combined with word that Don Waddell would be be interim general manager on a longer-term basis, one has to wonder if this team is it for now and the foreseeable future.
My wild speculation is yes. With news that Steve Greeley from Buffalo seems to be out of the mix and no new names emerging, there does not seem to be anything in process right now.
On the positive side, the ‘committee’ now has a sizable amount of NHL experience such that at least in terms of making the types of decisions that need to be made the experience is there.
On the negative side, it feels a bit cobbled together out of necessity more so than strategically build, but that is just my personal opinion.
The Atlanta Thrashers live
I will be direct and just say that I am not thrilled that somehow through all of the gyrations of firings, interviewing, maneuvering ad what else, the Carolina Hurricanes hockey operations are suddenly led by the duo that led the Thrashers out of Atlanta.
No doubt there are any number of contributing circumstances, and certainly someone could make a case that it was not Waddell’s and Dudley’s fault, but at the end of the day in a results business, those results stink royally.
I am just beginning to research and form an impression and opinion on Rick Dudley, but Don Waddell is a known quantity albeit in a different role for the Hurricanes. As the lead on the business side, I think he is out of touch with the market and the fan base. Perhaps out of necessity to market the team, Waddell spoke proudly about the team’s financials. But below the top line numbers, his strategy to dramatically decrease promotions without much of a plan to back fill some of those attendees has directly led to a cataclysmic drop in the quality of the entertainment product that the team is selling. Even on weekends, the arena is mostly devoid of any kind of energy and vibe that would help hook new fans. Perhaps as indicated also by his inability to make the business side work in Atlanta, perhaps Waddell is a better fit on the hockey side of the operation. And perhaps, he and Dudley’s experience working together can help fast track the assembly of a committee to run the hockey side of the team successfully.
But again, paint me as frightened by the fact that my southern market hockey team is now managed by the duo that led the Thrashers out of Atlanta.
‘What I’m watching’
Right now, I am watching multiple situations with regard to the Hurricanes management.
1) With Rick Dudley on board, is this the group that starts to move on the coaching decision?
2) What, if anything, happens with Tony MacDonald and the amateur scouting team? Most of that group dates back to Jim Rutherford’s time as general manager. As such, they have many years of working for and with Ron Francis. Are Tony MacDonald and that group tied to the team, or is there a chance that they are loyal to Francis and the previous group? With the 2018 NHL Draft now less than two months away, movement from this group would not be good right now.
3) Who does what? If you count Waddell as new (having shifted across from the business side), the group suddenly has three new faces. I will be curious to see how takes on what roles as the summer progresses.
4) What is Tom Dundon’s role and does it begin to decrease? With the three people in place, will we begin to see a gradual decrease in Dundon’s day to day involvement, or will he remain highly involved?
5) Does the search for a general manager resume in earnest or is it to be back-burnered at this point?
What say you Canes fans?
1) Who else gets nervous thinking about the Atlanta Thrashers’ brain trust leading our hockey team?
2) With a committee of three now in place to go with remaining holdovers, do you think the organization has the skill sets necessary to proceed into the summer effectively and tackle key decisions including hiring a head coach?
3) What other questions/watch points do you have right now?