The evaluation of Ron Francis’ offseason efforts (which are not yet complete) and consideration for adding another player or 2 like Jiri Hudler partly depends on what the goal is. Is this summer part of a gradual rebuilding process that might take another season or 2? Or is there a modest amount of urgency to build upon the 2015-16 season and at least push into the playoffs.
This is not an all or none decision, but my sense is that Francis leans fairly heavily toward prioritizing ‘the process’ over the 2016-17 season. At least that I have heard, he has not said this directly as an either/or type of choice, but Francis has continued be very consistent in talking about his goal to build from within with youth. I detailed the volume of forwards either new to the NHL or pushing up into bigger roles on August 19. The situation is the same on the blue line where the young guns will be given even bigger responsibilities in 2016-17. The situation as it stands right now very clearly says that the next rise up the standings and into the playoffs come from improvement within the organization not from pulling in help from outside of it.
In terms of being methodical, strategic, patient, consistent and all of those good things, Ron Francis deserves a ton of credit. The question is whether this approach is out of touch with the local fan base that seemed to lose its appetite for patience over the last 2 seasons as measured by attendance. The reports this summer on season ticket sales are positive, but at this point increases are measured from a base that was hacked away at over the couple previous summers. It is more gut instinct than math, but my impression is that there are not nearly enough of us who can be sold on hope, futures and promising but relatively unproven players like Noah Hanifin and Sebastian Aho. I think a significant portion of the fan base returns only after actual winning and not because of hope for it.
The questions are many:
* Is it just a matter of patiently riding out this down time and making sure that the next playoff berth is the first of many that rebuilds the fan base?
* Or is there a need to push a bit harder for the playoffs that seem to be within reach to stop the slide where it is now?
* Etc., etc., etc.
What do you think?