It is a bit delayed from the normal Monday posting, but a new Coffee Shop post is up with ‘stay or go’ polls for the Hurricanes forwards.
The most common question I get about Hurricanes hockey right now has to do with the team’s search for a new general manager. I have written very little about it simply because I do not have much for insight on the situation past what everyone is already seeing fly across Twitter.
Trying to summarize the chain of events
Hearing that Carolina had preliminary phone call with Mike Futa (LA) Friday; also believe Hurricanes have reached out to former Canucks AGM Laurence Gilman. Belief is Carolina has reached out to Nashville regarding Paul Fenton and Tampa regarding Julien Brisebois, obvious names..
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 10, 2018
A few other names were added to the list, and then it seemed to immediately start shrinking.
Hearing that Mike Futa, concerned about the search being in the middle of LA’s playoff race, has “respectfully withdrawn” his name from consideration for the CAR GM job
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 13, 2018
Hearing this afternoon that Nashville's Paul Fenton has withdrawn his candidacy for the Carolina GM job.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 16, 2018
Heard tonight that NJ's Tom Fitzgerald also pulled out of the CAR GM search. Reached for comment, he said, "This is nothing against Tom Dundon. I am very happy in New Jersey and this is not the right time for me."
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 17, 2018
I believe that leaves the Carolina GM candidates as: Mike Vellucci, Laurence Gilman, Tom Fitzgerald and Steve Greeley. Some of them next week will have in-person interviews. The process could still expand at some point with new candidates, but for now appears those are the guys. https://t.co/8RhOPogSxR
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 16, 2018
Pierre LeBrun’s tweet above seems to be the most recent list, though Tom Fitzgerald is another who fell off per Elliotte Friedman.
My understanding is that Carolina is now shifting gears. Going to put a pause on the new GM search until the off-season when a wider field of candidates may emerge. Timing wasn't right for many guys.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 17, 2018
Trying to make sense of the situation
When I try to summarize my thoughts on the current situation, it breaks down into two parts — First is the reported state of the search and candidates. Second is everything else that is swirling around the situation.
The state of the search and candidates
For me personally, this feels a bit like the NHL draft. Starting about two weeks before the draft, the volume of people who are experts on pre-NHL prospects grows by a factor of 10. People who barely track players for 50 out of 52 weeks of the year do a bit of research and are suddenly experts. The general manager thing is similar. People go from doing Google research on a new candidate name who just came onto the radar to being an expert on his qualifications in about 20 minutes. While I am aware of some of the names in the pool, I will not pretend to suddenly be an expert on evaluating them.
But at a more general level, here are my thoughts…
If one assumes that the original list of people considered was significantly bigger than the desired interview list (seems reasonable), the team seems to be casting a wide net to start. That is generally a positive.
But because of the need to have a deep understanding of the specifics of the NHL and a large number of players, the pool of potential candidates is fairly narrow. This is not like the business world where there are always 10 more possibilities if you recast the net. Once you build a list of 15 or 20 or whatever it is candidates, that really is the list. As such, the fact that a couple of the top candidates were reported to very quickly take themselves out of consideration is a concern.
Everything else swirling around
Potentially more interesting than the general manager search is everything else swirling around Tom Dundon right now. When he acquired the team, he was largely an unknown, so it was not clear exactly what his role would be with the team as compared to previous owner Peter Karmanos or other NHL owners. Early indications from the business side were that he would be very hands on down to a micro level. Ticket promotions, game experience tinkering, merchandise changes and other things were different by February (if not sooner) which was only two months after the acquisition date.
On the hockey side, the removal of Ron Francis from the general manager position was Dundon’s first big move, and what a move it was. This article is more about trying to make sense of the path forward, but if you missed it, you can find my original article on Ron Francis’ removal HERE.
The swirling itself is interesting. Increasingly, Tom Dundon is being painted as at least potentially being an over-involved owner by the broad hockey media. Is this a function of the Canadian media standing up for its own and pushing back against an outsider? Or is this impression/accusation accurate? Speculation will run rampant in this regard, and I like many others will be watching closely for clues. But I think it will take some time for this to become clear. There are just so many possibilities. Might Dundon be intentionally trying to put a lightning rod right through the roof of PNC Arena to try to jolt the entire organization with the intent that once he generates a necessary reset, sees who is in and who is extra and then puts a few key people in place that he will gradually be less involved with the day to day. Will he mostly stay away from the hockey side once a new general manager is in place? The questions are numerous right now and the answers are sparse. Cory Lavalette from the North State Journal did a fairly lengthy interview with Tom Dundon shortly after the Francis announcement (If you missed them, Part 1 and Part 2.). The article offers a bunch questions and words, but after reading it multiple times, it mostly meanders and does not really offer much in terms of clarity. Actions will speak louder than words anyway.
Mike Vellucci is interesting
Again, not so much from the angle of being able to evaluate him as a general manager, but more from a conceptual level Mike Vellucci is arguably the most interesting candidate on a couple levels.
First, he is from within the organization but is maybe the only person uncovered by the dark shadow that has come over the organization. By virtue of leading a Checkers team that seems destined for the playoffs, he has an air of winning over him.
His ties to Raleigh and the team might also make it easier to recruit him even given whatever risks candidates are tagging to the position.
Finally, I do not know details of Vellucci’s relationship with Ron Francis, but if they had a good working relationship, there is at least a chance that giving Vellucci this role makes it possible to keep Francis with the organization.
The other side of the coin is the possibility that Dundon wants a cleaner break from the old group and someone who is his person in the general manager role.
The interrelationship with the coaching position
Another interesting situation is the potential interrelationship between hiring a general manager and making a decision coaching-wise going forward. At the simplest level, a general manager would be responsible for hiring and firing coaches. But as I noted on Twitter after Tuesdays’ game, the situation is more complex than that for the Hurricanes right now.
Tom Dundon is in a really tough spot right now. It could not be more obvious that Peters has lost this team, but with no @NHLCanes GM & building rumblings/impression that Dundon is too hands on, firing Peters is another step in that direction.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) March 21, 2018
I continue to be of the opinion that Peters should have been relieved of his duties after last Tuesday’s debacle against the Bruins. It is becoming increasingly clear that he has lost this team and that wheels are coming off the thing. If there were one or two games left, it would make sense to ride things out. But nine games is A LOT, and I think especially with a young team, significant damage is potentially being done to the team’s psyche and culture right now.
But the fact that the Hurricanes are without a general manager right now and that Tom Dundon’s seemingly hands on approach might be a negative in this regard complicate the coaching situation. If Dundon acts on this before hiring a general manager, it will be perceived as another step in the direction of doing too much with hockey operations. And the team would then be without a coach or a general manager hurtling toward the offseason.
The positive could be the complete restart that maybe is needed and also a jolt to the entire organization that sparks it. The negative could be that because of the seeming chaos, it becomes incredibly difficult to bring in good people because those with other good options decide it best to watch and wait for awhile before jumping into a highly uncertain situation.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts specifically on the general manager search? From your research, do you have a preferred candidate? What do you make of the number of quick ‘no thank yous’?
2) Do you see the general manager, Tom Dundon and coaching triangle as being as complex and murky as I do right now?