I had a busy Monday, so I have not yet made it through all of the footage of media day interviews for the players. But then we unfortunately have a lot of days to fill again, so I will cover those in the days ahead.
I did finally watch Tom Dundon’s press conference. My perspective was interesting in that I managed to make it to Twitter just as it was erupting with debate, discussion and whatever else about the press conference.
My general impression from the Twitter reaction was that it was mostly an unmitigated dumpster fire. After watching it myself, I do see where that could be a reasonable partial interpretation of it, but I came away more with a feeling of uncertainty and murkiness with what lies ahead, and given that the season just ended two days ago, I think that while every team action and/or Dundon interview represents meaningful input in assessing and even just simply understanding him as an owner, I think it is premature to make final judgments on much of anything.
A late-night food analogy, and it’s not even ice cream
I feel like I just walked into a kitchen where making a pie is in process. There are apples on the table, some peels here and there, a bit of a mess of flour seemingly spilled with some even on the floor and random spices and other ingredients out on the table. If I was an expert baker, I could make some kind of assessment of the set up and organization or lack thereof and would have an impression some kind of impression of the person making the pie. But at that point, it would be premature to make a judgment on the quality of the pie to be baked.
That is about how I feel about Tom Dundon thus far. The kitchen and process seem a bit messy. That could legitimately generate some skepticism about the likelihood for success with the full process. But I think it is too early to assume and/or judge what the results will be.
Comments on the press conference
I will not so much report/rehash the press conference details. You can find the press conference HERE and also find news outlets that rehashed key points. Rather, I will pick out a few key points and offer my thoughts on their significance.
Tom Dundon front and center
The fact that the press conference did not include Bill Peters or anyone else for that matter stood out like a sore thumb. News that Dundon also conducted the player exit interviews by himself seemed even odder. (Historically, they were done by the general manager with the coach included in the meeting.) Dundon talks about building a team, hiring good people and giving the power. But that is not the current reality. Who knows where former general manager Ron Francis even is these days? The only evidence that we have that he is even in Raleigh is his picture quietly giving Cam Ward his 300-win memento on the ice before any fans had even arrived. Missing from the press conference and player exit interviews, Bill Peters seems to heading quickly in the direction of the next disappearing act. Don Waddell seems to be moving up in the world with his Interim General Manager title but was not included either on Monday. It was just Tom Dundon by himself.
Matt’s 2 cents: To be fair, the real assessment point for Dundon’s role cannot come until after he hires a new general manager, but I do not care for the early trend. At a basic level, I like the idea of thinking outside the box, but that must be balanced with incorporating experience and acquired business knowledge into the decision-making process.
On Bill Peters
Tom Dundon has not yet made a decision on retaining Bill Peters. When asked about a time table at the beginning of the press conference, he said “before next season.” Dundon later talked about Peters and everyone else fitting into the way he wants to do things.
My 2 cents: I am on record on March 14 (and sticking to that assertion) as saying that I thought Bill Peters should have been let go after the horrid loss to Boston following a couple other brutal outings. That aside, I think Dundon’s meandering lack of clarity on Peters’ situation was probably the one specific data point that concerned me most about the press conference. There is minimal if any new information to be considered in making this decision. And what is more is that there does not seem to be a time table, process or anything else established. Dundon mentioned Peters having other options and also him having other options. He said something about Peters needing to fit into how he wants to do it. I am not so much concerned with the fact that a decision was not made instantly when the season ended as I am concerned that there does not really seem to be a plan in place to make this important decision. I guess it could turn out that Dundon wanted to leave this for a new general manager, but then that might just add more uncertainty.
On the general manager situation
Much like the coaching situation, there did not seem to be a clear path in place for the general manager search. Dundon stated that Don Waddell was the interim general manager and basically said that the team had people in place run the team. Just like with the coaching situation Dundon did not offer much for specifics in terms of process and desired timeline for adding a new general manager.
Matt’s 2 cents: I am okay with whatever makes sense given current personnel to keep the business running in the interim. But the key word is interim. I shudder thinking what Waddell did to the Atlanta Thrashers, and I worry that especially if the general manager search does not heat up that the interim structure could quickly become too comfortable.
A few quotes
Dundon talked a lot about the need for improvement to a man, everything being wrong and other words that suggested that changes were on the way. “We’re not good enough.” “Needs a major shake up.” Those are two Dundon quotes that suggested changes. He also said there was “something missing in terms of engagement.” And again alluding to his way, Dundon said, “Everyone has to do it different if they want to be part of the way I do things.”
Matt’s 2 cents: This is maybe most where Canes fans are at an uncomfortable cross roads. Prior to the sale of the team, the din from Canes fans demanding change was nearly deafening. Tom Dundon came aboard and was mostly lauded for his self-described “impatience” and the changes that were bound to come. But now we are at the point where the changes are becoming reality, and those changes invariably do not match up to each fan’s hopes for exactly what would be changed. So now ironically, there suddenly seems to be resistance to change and the uncertainty the comes with it. At a basic level, changes are needed and despite the fact that there are risks and uncertainty and no guarantees for success, it beats the status quo that was not working.
Lack of empathy with the core of the fan base
Dundon was asked about attendance in general and then about the opposing fan bases invading PNC Arena. He spoke somewhat pragmatically about both. He said that winning would draw fans. He also seemed fine with opposing fans attending Canes games in bunches because of the potential that they would also become Canes fans and support the team even if it was as a second team.
Matt’s 2 cents: Conceptually, the idea of having local opposing fans in attendance being a long-term positive for building the fan base is debatable but with some merit. But bigger picture, the way he spoke about this continues to show a lack of understanding of and empathy for the core of the fan base. Enduring (and that is not a haphazardly chosen word) the games when PNC Arena is filled with opposing fans has become a hard burden for the most loyal of Canes fans. The atmosphere for many of these games is toxic. No doubt, winning and boosting attendance in total will help remedy the situation, but for Dundon to talk about these games from a pragmatic angle without acknowledging the problem that they have become shows a lack of understanding and empathy. His general lack of direct engagement with the core of the fan base continues to be puzzling. But one can imagine that just as the foundation is being shaken on the hockey operations side, that changes are inbound on the business side too now that the season is over. So again, time will tell if this situation changes as changes are made in marketing and other areas that touch the fan base.
I touched on only a handful for things that stood out to me which means we can also use this for the regular Coffee Shop discussion.
What say you Canes fans?
1) At a general level, what were your impressions of Tom Dundon and the press conference?
2) What items jumped out as most significant from what was covered (especially things not already noted above)?