With the completion of the Carolina Hurricanes 2016-17 season on Sunday, this week has the usual round of end of season interviews for players and staff. The players did their exit interviews and media availability on Tuesday, and General Manager Ron Francis and Coach Bill Peters did their end of season media availability on Wednesday.
Oftentimes, the formal media availability can be full of pat answers and generalities and light on substance and depth. That actually was not the case on Wednesday. Bill Peters especially was open and in-depth in his responses. His comments offered significant insight into how he sees the team right now and what he thinks needs to happen to push up into the playoffs in 2017-18. Francis was a bit more guarded with some of the usual “will explore all opportunities to improve” type of comments, but he too shared some insight into how he sees the current roster.
I have a set of hand-jotted notes from the press conference and will comment on those. My hope is to follow up with additional comments if I can get/find full video/audio from the press conference and listen again.
Here are a couple highlights that I gleaned and my interpretations/insight into what was said.
The Hurricanes goalie situation
Ron Francis on the goalie situation: The press conference started with Francis being asked a fairly open-ended question on room for improvement. Francis started by stating the team’s rank in goals against and save percentage and followed up by saying that the team “needed to look at and do something about that” and also said something about “the need to dig deeper into our situation.” Later in the press conference Francis said that goalie coach David Marcoux had been told that his contract would not be renewed.
Matt’s comments: Francis acknowledging the goaltending problem is encouraging. Step 1 is recognizing that there is a problem there, and it also shows that he does not have his head in the sand. I was early on the David Marcoux thing last summer. After seeing Anton Khudobin and Eddie Lack both take big steps down in terms of level of play in pre and post-Marcoux seasons, I was ready to just try something different last summer. Nevertheless, moving forward is a step in the right direction. On the day that Peters blasted Eddie Lack, I said that the path to an Eddie Lack buyout had been paved. Unless Francis can include him in part of a package deal for another goalie, I think that is still the case.
Elias Lindholm and Sebastian Aho at the wing position at least for now
Bill Peters on Lindholm and Aho: Peters pretty definitely said that he likes Lindholm’s game better at right wing and that he had him pegged as a top 6 right wing for the 2017-18 season. He went on to say that he thought Sebastian Aho could one-day be a good NHL center but also that he thought it was unfair to push him into that role now. He did not say it as directly as he did for Lindholm, but Peters pretty strongly suggested that he prefers Aho at wing at least to start the 2017-18 season.
Matt’s comments: I agree completely on Lindholm. Lindholm is good enough positionally and responsibility-wise to be an adequate NHL center, but now in multiple short trials, he has never excelled in that role or looked like he had a higher gear moving back to his original position. In addition, the Hurricanes are light at right wing at the NHL level, so he helps balance out the roster. With Peters offering direct answers about what he expected for players roles, I am surprised that none of the media in attendance followed up by asking about Teravainen. He is the the last of the 3 players who mostly played wing last season who could theoretically play center. I view him as better off in the wing position. If Peters agrees that would leave 2 center positions open behind Jordan Staal and Victor Rask. I figure 1 slot gets filled internally with Derek Ryan and Lucas Wallmark as the front-runners and the other slot is a candidate for an external upgrade.
Bill Peters lobbying for more NHL help
Bill Peters on the need for “specific” roles: For me, the most interesting part of the media session was Peters’ straight shooter comments basically asking for a bit more help. He made a comment that the Canes had 7 picks in the first 3 rounds and that he hoped that the team used 3 of those basically implying that he wanted Francis to spend some of those futures to add to the 2017-18 NHL roster. He went on to say that the team needed help with specific roles and that he would make specific name recommendations. A little while later he made a comment to the effect of not wanting to put young players in roles “hoping” they were ready but instead “knowing” they were ready. Francis also noted the 5/6 slots on the blue line as an issue.
Matt’s comments: I am sure that the 2 have had a similar conversation in private, but it was still striking how assertive Peters was in saying that he needed more help at the NHL level. The comment about hoping vs. knowing in terms of young players was made generally, but I interpret that to be commentary about both filling another roster slot or 2 at the forward position with proven players but maybe more significantly, I think it could suggest that Peters does not want to gamble with youth on the third pairing on defense.
The expansion draft
Ron Francis on the potential for the expansion draft to make players available: Francis talked about this in some depth and suggested it could be an avenue to add a player or 2 with teams not wanting to lose a player for nothing.
Matt comments: On March 29, I wrote an article on the expansion draft and suggested that this could be the best avenue to upgrade the goalie position. I continue to think that the Hurricanes could exploit the expansion draft to add a 1A/1B type goalie who is young but with some NHL experience.