Bill Peters and Ron Francis both now scheduled for 5-year terms
Earlier this summer, it was announced the Coach Bill Peters had been extended through the 2018-19 season. That would be his fifth year at helm of the Carolina Hurricanes coaching staff. Today it was announced that Ron Francis had also been extended through the 2018-19 season.
NHL general managers and coaches are subject to be fired on short notice when things are not going well, so just because they are signed through the 2018-19 NHL season does not guarantee that both even just 1 of them will still be employed by the Hurricanes. But as Peter Karmanos actually has a track record of slow with the trigger even in down times. Ron Francis is only the second Carolina Hurricanes GM since the team moved to North Carolina now almost 20 years ago. And during the same time, the Hurricanes have had a modest 4 coaches.
In addition, I think the 5-year term makes sense and offers enough runway for the duo to prove what it can do as measured by results. The team and organization that Francis and Peters inherited was not very good at the NHL level and significantly was also light on top-end youth who could change that quickly.
Ron Francis – A plan and follow through to build a younger Hurricanes organization
Thus far, Francis deserves significant credit for verbally laying out a blue print that built from youth. In his 3 years as GM, he has taken 4 more draft picks than the standard 21 allocated to each team including many extras in the top half of the draft. And he has also added higher-end prospects Roland McKeown, Aleksi Saarela and Valentin Zykov. And along the way he added young roster players Andrej Nestrasil, Joakim Nordstrom and Teuvo Teravainen via trade or waivers. As noted, Francis deserves high marks for formulating a plan and following it, but in the end it is a matter of if the plan yields success.
Bill Peters – Accountability and a winning system
At a basic level, Coach Bill Peters receives nearly unanimous positive reviews from Hurricanes fans through 2 years. There is some substance to that with the team’s significant improvement to 86 points for the 2015-16 season. Hurricanes fans also like the approach Peters has taken, but I actually think he is harder to grade through 2 years simply because an A is earned by making the playoffs, but Peters really has yet to have enough talent to have much of a chance. If you look at where the Hurricanes ended the 2015-16 season, I one can make a case that the team will enter the 2016-17 season with at least a chance of making the playoffs. In a league where more than half of the teams do exactly that, it is not impossible.
Eric Tulsky – The new NHL
Out of the spotlight is a third key player in the Hurricanes rebuilding effort. Eric Tulsky originally joined the team as a part-time consultant but is a full-time member of the team now. It would be interesting if his contract also ran through the 2018-19 season. On July 25, I wrote in some detail about Tulsky and the Hurricanes effort in the advanced statistics and analytics department. It is impossible to know the details of Tulsky’s role, input and relationships, but the fact that he is still employed by the Hurricanes might in itself suggest that the Hurricanes are ahead of many other teams who are already on version 2 of trying to include an analytics professional in the decision-making process.
When is it fair to expect results?
The burning question is when it becomes fair to expect measurable results. The bare minimum would be a playoff berth which would make a significant and measurable step forward. As noted above, I think it would be unfair to hold management to this standard in either of the first 2 years. What they inherited just was not very good.
While I do think the playoffs are a possibility in 2016-17, I still think it is 1 year early. As I wrote on August 8, the challenge this year is how much of a bet Francis is making on player growth to improve again in 2016-17. Two-thirds of the 2015-16 third line in Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask suddenly becomes the first (scoring at least) line. A couple more veterans depart from the blue line pushing the young defensemen quickly into bigger roles. And then there are a couple rookies who could play significant roles. When you net it out about half of the top half of the Hurricanes roster is comprised of players being asked to take on a bigger role than the 2015-16 season. Oftentimes this rebuilding from sees both successes and setbacks. When you net them out, it seems challenging but possible to have everything work and for the team to push up about another 10 points to win a playoff spot.
I really think the fairer measuring point will be the 2017-18 season. The 2016-17 season’s sink or swim roster approach for the youth will determine who can handle it and where there are gaps that might need to be addressed externally. In addition, the young roster will add another year of NHL experience and see the biggest group of players with 2 NHL seasons under their belts.
When I net it all out, I like the general process and early results as much as the next Canes follower, but I am slow to hand out any final grades until success is achieved (or not achieved). While I think there is a chance that young players push the team up into the playoffs this season, I think a fairer ‘it’s time/measuring stick’ season for Ron Francis and Bill Peters is actually the 2017-18 season.
What say you Canes fans? Will the young stars take another step forward and push up into the playoffs in 2016-17? Or will a mix of advances and setbacks leave the Canes still a bit short this season and more realistically tracking toward a 2017-18 playoff return?