If you missed part 1 yesterday, I highly recommend reading it. Part 1 covered the most significant highlights from the press conference.
I apologize if some of this is a little bit redundant. Between personal schedule and not being able to find the full audio/video for the press conference to listen for a second time, I was unable to do the thorough version of this last night. Most of what is included below is new, but I did rehash some of yesterday’s post to make sure the context is included.
Overriding theme from Bill Peters
As noted in part 1, the biggest takeaway from the 30 minutes was Bill Peters’ assertiveness about needing/wanting more NHL level players and more specifically players who fill targeted roles. Important to note was that his comments were in no way in a negative tone toward Ron Francis, but at the same time, his comments were pointed and direct and made it incredibly clear that he has a small shopping list for this summer that is much more targeted than vague ‘we need to add a good player or 2’ type comments.
Details on Bill Peters’ call for upgradees and specific players
I touched on this yesterday and highlighted the theme above, but I think this really is the most significant thing to come out of the interview (and we have a long off-season to fill with hockey stuff), so let me break it down in a bit more detail.
Peters’ desire to use draft picks to gain immediate NHL-level help
Early in the interview, Francis said, “With 11 picks in this year’s draft with 7 that will come in the first 80-85 picks in the draft that maybe we have some of the pieces necessary to do some things.” That is not as emphatic as Peters’ comments, but it does show that the 2 are on the same page at a basic level.
The quote of the session, was Peters saying, “…excited that we have 7 picks early, and I hope we use maybe 3 of them…” The comment was a salvo fired (politely) at Francis suggesting that the time was now to spend futures to upgrade the NHL roster for 2017-18.
Peters went a step further when he later said, “I think we have specific needs, very specific needs, so as a coach, I am going to give very specific names and put them in situations where they are going to help a specific person on a line. I think we have obvious needs, specific needs that need to be filled.”
Matt’s comments: I think the 2 are on the same page, but push comes to shove if the prices for the type of players that Peters wants to add are mostly unreasonable. Francis mode of operation so far has been to opportunistically shop the market to find players on sale for 75 cents on the dollar. The next phase will be more like having a short shopping list and needing to fill it even if the prices is $1.20 on the dollar. This is uncharted territory for Ron Francis having a very targeted shopping list and needing to creatively find a way to fill it even if the market does not spit out a bargain.
Peters’ thoughts on filling key roster slots from within
Peters followed up on the theme of needing to add players from outside the organization a couple times. When talking about the Metropolitan Division in 2016-17, Peters said, “The pieces need to come in to close that gap. If we think guys from the American League (AHL) are going to come in and close that gap, it’s not happening in my opinion as the coach. He later followed that comment up by saying, “I don’t want to put a guy in a situation hoping without knowing. I want to know that he’s capable of playing that position. We have specific needs. If we can fill those specific needs, then you don’t have to jam a guy in there.”
Matt’s comments: This is significant, and I mostly agree with it. While I think the Hurricanes can and will fill a couple depth slots with young players and fringe AHL/NHL players already in the system, the Canes also need a difference-maker or 2 to play in the top half of the roster. Might an inexperienced prospect pull an Aho and be instantly NHL ready? Sure. But that is the “hoping” that Peters refers to and it is a ‘rolling the dice’ way to build a 2017-18 playoff team. That dice role could easily turn up ‘still rebuilding’.
The final salvo from Bill Peters
Climbing out of his coach’s seat and going fully into Francis’ realm, Peters went on to hypothesize about the expansion draft possibilities, saying, “They’re coming available at a time when our management has stocked the cupboard with prospects and picks.”
For good measure, Peters chimed in along the way with, “I’m going to have a good summer and get some time off. (Speaking of Francis) I don’t think his time off is going to match mine.”
Matt’s comments: By all accounts and based on everything we have seen, Peters and Francis have a very good working relationship. And there was no animosity or negativity in Peters’ comments on Wednesday. But that said, Peters definitely issued a challenge to Francis to build a better roster for 2017-18.
Francis identifies 3 specific needs
The Hurricanes goalie situation
I touched on this yesterday. Most of Francis’ comments on the goalie position were at the the very front of the media time and came from a general questions looking for improvements. I noted Francis acknowledgment of the team’s deficiency for the 2016-17 season and also that Marcoux would not be re-signed. Francis made 2 other comments. First in a leaving no stone unturned vein, he said, “Certainly with the expansion draft there are some teams that are going to lose players…” and he also said, “Free agency, we can look at that.” Toward then end of his discussion on the goalie situation, Francis threw out a somewhat vague but interesting comment when he said, “We’ll also dive deeper into our situation and try to figure out what’s going on there.”
Matt’s comments: As I said yesterday, letting David Marcoux go is a year late in my opinion, but I think it is significant in that it shows Francis awareness. The closing comment about “our situation” is a curious and potentially cryptic 1 with more meaning than first glance. I think Marcoux definitely falls under this category, but the way Francis noted it even after Marcoux was gone is curious. Just a wild guess, but my hunch is that he thinks the goalies already in house could have been better, and maybe he is not chalking it all up to Marcoux? If there is meaning behind that cryptic comment, it could be 1 of a couple things. First is doing more analysis on how best to use a goalie tandem. Partly due to the injuries to Eddie Lack, the team struggled to find any rhythm in net besides simply riding Cam Ward every single game when he was hot.
Just like last summer, how the goalie situation gets resolved is the single biggest question mark heading into the off-season. Francis has an open goaltending coaching slot. He likely adds at least 1 new goalie. And there might be some behind the scenes discussion about how to utilize the goalie tandem in 2017-18.
The Hurricanes third defense pairing
In talking about potential upgrades, Francis said, “We were all over the map on the 5-6 situation, so that’s something we need to address.” His comments that followed were interesting. Francis said, “It goes back to the summer. We thought we had what we needed, but it didn’t materialize.” He followed up by saying, “We thought we had something on July 1.” Followed by, “Then we had to scramble a bit. That’s something we need to address.”
Matt’s comments: So need #2 is filling out a third defense pairing for 2017-18. Francis comments about how the team ended up where it did last season are interesting. With the mention of July 1 which is when free agency starts, my interpretation is that that Francis tried to and almost had a depth defenseman signed which would suggest that the whole Nakladal/Dahlbeck thing at the end of training camp was plan B (or more likely C or D or E). Depth defensemen who signed early in free agency include Roman Polak (Toronto), former-Canes player (John-Michael Liles), Tom Gilbert (Los Angeles) and a few others. Had the Hurricanes found a solid and stable partner for Hanifin out of the gate, it might have made a difference in 2016-17.
It did not get the volume of air time as the other discussions, but along the way Francis did say, “If we can get another player that gets us 20 goals up front, that’s something we’re going to explore because it’s a need for us.”
Matt’s comments: I think this will be by far the toughest need to fill. Price in terms of trade assets could vary, but there will be no shortage of potential goalie options this summer. And on the blue line, Francis will be shopping for a #4/#5 or even a #5/#6 defenseman. There is usually a reasonable collection of options for an affordable price. But trying to land a scoring top 6 forward is another story. The best time to shop for such players is often November/Decemeber when some teams are unhappy with where they are and are looking to shake things up.
Rather than writing a new article about my thoughts on the Canes needs this summer, I might just pull out the article that I wrote on this topic on April 20, 2016. Here we go again. 🙂
Identifying the openings at forward based on Peters’ comments on players
As noted yesterday Peters sees Lindholm as a top 6 right wing. He also seemed to indicate that he sees Aho as a wing at least short-term.
Matt’s comments: If you take Peters assignments for Aho and Lindholm and look at the top 9 for 2017-18, you get 2 centers (Staal, Rask), 2 right wings (Lindholm, Stempniak) and 2 left wings (Skinner, Aho). Teravainen figures somewhere in the top 9 probably as a wing. That leaves Francis probably still looking for a scoring center (guess that could be the 20-goal player) and another wing.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ overtime woes
When asked about the team’s overtime record, Peters said, “That’s going to be a big priority this summer. There will be a lot of time spent on the 3-on-3. That’s going to be an area of emphasis this summer. It’s an area that needs to be better.”
Matt’s comments: More than any other part of the game except possibly special teams, tactics and strategy can impact overtime success in the NHL. In 5-on-5 hockey, many plays are dictated by lack of time and space that forces plays – dump ins, chips, low-percentage shots, etc. but in overtime, the volume of time and space completely changes the game. Puck possession for extended periods of time is possible. Playing for tired versus rested match ups is possible. And so on. On August 31, 2015 before training camp even started for the 2015-16 season, I said that the Hurricanes should already be working on 3-on-3 hockey in their informal skates. With an 8-15 overtime record in 2016-17, the Hurricanes 3.5 points on the table relative to break even. Had the Hurricanes been even slightly better than average, the point difference could easily have been 5-7 points. When preseason starts next fall, I will be watching closely to see what changes Peters and his staff make over the summer.
Bill Peters’ goal of making improvements to be top 10 in all categories
In the name of constantly improving, Bill Peters said, “Anything that hasn’t been in the top 10 in the NHL during my 3 years here, needs to be better. You can say top 15, but if it isn’t in the 12, 13, 14 range, it’s in the middle of the pack. You don’t want to be in the middle of the pack. You want to be in the top 10. We have certain things that are strong that are consistently in the top 10, and anything that is outside the top 10 for me needs to be looked at and addressed seriously and fixed.”
Matt’s comments: This comment followed shortly after the overtime discussion but also seemed like general commentary. If you look at the Canes coaching assignments and how they rank, Marcoux who coached the perennially below average goalies is already gone. Steve Smith who has primary responsibility for the penalty kill which has been phenomenal should be safe for certain. The other coach is Rod Brind’Amour who has had primary responsibility for the power play which was 15th in Peters’ first season, 24th in his second season and 21st in 2016-17. Important to note is that Brind’Amour’s responsibilities go well beyond the power play, but there is at least some small possibility that Peters’ comments turn out to be a canary in the coal mine.
What say you Caniac Nation?
Do you agree with Francis assessment of the team’s needs? What do you make of Peters’ assertive comments about needing to spend draft picks to add pieces? Do you think Francis will be able to make a successful transition from opportunistic bargain shopper to someone with a smaller, targeted shopping list that might/might not find bargains?