Chronological Blog List

Time to go in a different direction with the fourth line

On Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that the team had traded Marcus Kruger and a third-round draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Jordan Martinook and a fourth-round pick. I offered my thoughts on that trade HERE. With the move, both Josh Jooris and Marcus Kruger who were added only 10 months ago to solidify the fourth line are both gone. Jordan Martinook adds another young veteran player to compete for a depth forward slot along with Joakim Nordstrom and Phil Di Giuseppe if both are re-signed. But more so than a new round of veteran checking line forwards filling out the bottom of the lineup, the move could pave the way for a transition to stocking the fourth line with young players who are scoring-capable and in the process working toward a more balanced lineup. In a new NHL where teams no longer carry skating-lite enforcers, good teams with depth are moving quickly in this direction. Last season, when a Columbus fourth line with Scott Hartnell and Sam Gagner started scoring, Coach John Tortorella opted to leave the line intact and create lineup balance and match up challenges for opponents. The move flew in the face of old school NHL tactics that saw producing fourth-liners quickly promoted to a higher line. A key strength of the Vegas Knights is their depth and the fact that their fourth line is pretty close to on par with the team’s higher lines. And one can bet that the trend will continue. The Hurricanes may not be quite where they need to be in terms of forward depth for the 2018-19 season,...

Hurricanes trade Marcus Kruger to Coyotes for Jordan Martinook

Today, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that the team had traded center Marcus Kruger to the Arizona Coyotes for depth wing/center Jordan Martinook. As part of the deal, the Hurricanes retained 10 percent of Kruger’s salary, and the teams swapped draft picks with the Hurricanes giving up a third-round draft pick and receiving a fourth-round pick in return.   Closing the book on last summer’s strategy to build an experienced fourth line The trade closes the door on an ill-fated attempt to build a solid, veteran fourth line that could play behind Jordan Staal’s line and solidify things defensively. The strategy failed on multiple fronts. Somewhat as expected, the line primarily comprised of Joakim Nordstrom and additions Josh Jooris and Marcus Kruger scored virtually nothing. But more significantly, the line did not excel in areas that figured to be its strength. The Hurricanes penalty kill took a significant step backward with Kruger in a leading role, and the line was fair, not great as an even strength shutdown unit. When one nets it out, the line was light on scoring even for a fourth line. The players also led to a step down for the penalty kill. After waiting it out for a long time, the original plan was finally jettisoned when Josh Jooris was traded at the trade deadline and Marcus Kruger was demoted to the AHL. In his short stint with the Hurricanes, Marcus Kruger scored only a single goal on an odd forechecking deflection that found the net and five assists for a total of six points in 48 games. To his credit, he was a class...

Might it be time to double down on rebuilding for the 2018-19 season?

Approaching a full month past the end of the 2017-18 season, time has passed to allow the disappointing season to sink in and be processed. The general thought process is to try to fix what is broken and push into the playoffs in the 2018-19 season. And while that is entirely possible, I think it might be more challenging that some think, and I also think that pursuing a win now at all costs approach does not mesh well with what the team has for strengths right now. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe explores some of the challenges with fixing the current version of the Hurricanes and simultaneously considers that patience and another smaller round of rebuilding might be the better course of action.   Fixing what is broken is challenging Fixing what is broken or needs to be significantly improved is challenging in a couple respects. Those who think it is as simple as making a checklist and working through it are misguided in my opinion for two reasons. First is the magnitude of a couple of the easily identifiable things that need to be fixed or improved. Somewhere near the top of the list is goaltending. But with Scott Darling signed for three more years at $4.1 million per year simply upgrading the position is complicated, especially financially. Darling could well rebound in 2018-19, but counting on that as a cornerstone of a playoff push is much more of a dice roll or patient rebuild than it is a safe and certain plan. The other big need is adding at least one higher-end offensive player, ideally a...

Assembling the Carolina Hurricanes new management team

With Ron Francis officially out of the picture, the Carolina Hurricanes lurched quickly forward into the next era of management leadership. I wrote about Ron Francis’ legacy as the Hurricanes general manager yesterday, and with the hiring of Rick Dudley today, I will shift toward considering the next era of Hurricanes hockey leadership.   The current Carolina Hurricanes executive team Don Waddell–Interim General Manager (potentially for awhile now?): Don Waddell has seemingly been gathering clout since the ownership change seems to be the closest thing to a general manager right now and also seems to have a significant role in building out the hockey operations team. The most recent hire (see below) is pretty directly a result of his influence. Whereas Ron Francis and Tom Dundon never seemed to click, Waddell seems to have slid into much of what was previously Francis’ responsibility. Rick Dudley–Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations: On Tuesday, while the ink was still drying on the terse press release announcing Francis’ contract being terminated, the team announced that it had hired Rick Dudley into the role of Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. Dudley, who was in a similar role with the Montreal Canadiens, adds another veteran NHL executive with broad experience with a number of teams and in a variety of roles. The X-factor in Dudley’s hiring is his extensive ties to Don Waddell and most significantly their time together leading the Atlanta Thrashers organization. Paul Krepelka–Vice President of Hockey Operations: Somewhat more quietly, the Hurricanes also added former agent Paul Krepelka to the mix. Krepelka seems destined to fill sort of an assistant general...

Ron Francis’ legacy as the Carolina Hurricanes general manager

In a terse press release on Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that Ron Francis’s contract had been terminated by the team. That end point was all but inevitable given the chain of events since his removal from the general manager post.   The path to get here Since that demotion, Francis had all but disappeared (literally in a couple cases). He was oddly absent from the team’s photo. Don Waddell had become the public face everything GM-ish including the general managers’ meetings and more recently the draft lottery. And the team had added a vice president responsible for player contracts. When the Canadian media reported that Ron Francis was working from home, some in the Canes Twitterverse tried to say it was the Canadian media making something out of nothing. When someone who was recently demoted and did not previously work from home suddenly starts doing so, it is something though. And in this case it was a very unmistakable sign for how things would end and also a pretty clear indication that the ending would be sooner than later. Sure enough, a few days later, here we are.   What happened? We might never know exactly what happened inside of 1400 Edwards Mill Road, but the basics are that Ron Francis and new owner Tom Dundon did not see eye to eye on some issues of importance. At that point, the only resolution is for Ron Francis to fall in line deferring to the new owner’s way of business or for Tom Dundon to stand down and let Francis run the hockey side of the business the way...

Carolina Hurricanes win second overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft

With only a 3 percent chance to win the first overall draft pick and generally long odds to move up from the team’s #11 starting point, the two-part NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday set up to be a boring ho-hum affair. When the Hurricanes did not appear at #11 in the backwards countdown, the even suddenly became much more interesting. Not appearing at #11 meant that the Hurricanes had moved into the top 3. The news set Twitter abuzz and made the second part of the draft lottery later in the night a ‘can’t miss’ for Canes fans who were aware of what was happening. When the Montreal Canadiens logo came up first, either the Carolina Hurricanes or the Buffalo Sabres were going to win the first overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft and with it the right to draft the consensus best player in the draft in Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. The Hurricanes did not win the final showdown, but in winning the #2 overall pick, the team gained a sizable upgrade from its original #11 starting point and also the ability to select the best forward available in the draft. That opportunity is the subject of today’s Daily Cup of Joe which also includes a few polls for the first time in awhile to cue up a Monday Coffee Shop at the same time.   Personal disclaimer and broader forewarning as we enter draft season We are quickly approaching that time of year when people who track draft age prospects exactly none for months on end, read a couple articles and quickly declare themselves up to...

Huge summer awaits for the Carolina Hurricanes general manager

Congratulations to the Charlotte Checkers for wrapping up a first-round AHL playoff series win in short order with a three-game sweep over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Thursday night.   Lost on no one who follows the team is the sarcasm in declaring the significance of the days ahead for a position that is currently unfilled or I guess filled by a committee. The summer shapes up to be a big one for general manager type decisions regardless with a number of situations that could impact that long-term success of the team.   1) Hiring (or I guess naming) the next head coach Earlier this week I made cases for and against internal candidates Rod Brind’Amour and Mike Vellucci. On my writing list is a third article that considers at least by category the options outside of the organization. Regardless of which direction the team goes, the choice for a new head coach is a huge decision that will play a significant role in the fate of the 2018-19 season.   2) Sorting out the goalie situation Like a broken record, one of the Achilles’ heels of the 2017-18 Hurricanes was again goaltending. As such, the new general manager will have tough decisions to make. Don Waddell has suggested that the team could retain Scott Darling but still possibly add another goalie. Cam Ward is a free agent who could be cut loose. There is the possibility of trying to trade Darling in a package deal that eats a bunch of salary or just buying him out. Regardless, the team needs to be better at the goalie position in 2018-19...

The case for and against Mike Vellucci as the Carolina Hurricanes next head coach

Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe made a case for and against Rod Brind’Amour as the Carolina Hurricanes next coach. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe stays inside the organization and has similar analysis for Charlotte Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci.   The time is not now (Repeat from Brind’Amour article since it is relevant here too.) First, to be clear, I am not suggesting that the time is now to hire a coach. Best continues to be to hire a new general manager and have that new general manager play a leading role in hiring the next coach. Hiring a coach first would send a strong message as to where the new general manager sits with regard to authority and leadership and could further complicate the search process. If the current general manager by committee situation becomes longer-term, then obviously the team will need to hire a coach with the current brain trust making the decision.   Where I ultimately land Despite acknowledging that there was a case to be made for Brind’Amour as head coach of the Hurricanes, I ultimately voted ‘no’ simply because I did not think the timing as right to roll the dice with a coach with no head coaching experience. Mike Vellucci is different from Brind’Amour in that he actually has many years (and success) of experience at a head coach though all at lower levels. He has added a strong AHL season to his resume but has nothing for NHL coaching experience either as a head coach or an assistant. Vellucci’s potential as an up-and-comer who has succeeded at lower levels is intriguing, and...

The case for and against Rod Brind’Amour as the Carolina Hurricanes next head coach

With the departure of Bill Peters last Friday and not much for news on the general manager front, attention has recently turned to the Carolina Hurricanes head coaching vacancy. In addition to the myriad of possibilities outside of the organization, two names internally have also been bandied around. Mike Vellucci who is coaching the Charlotte Checkers in the playoffs right now is one name. And franchise hero Rod Brind’Amour is the other. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers the pros and cons to Rod Brind’Amour as a potential bench boss.   The time is not now First, to be clear, I am not suggesting that the time is now to hire a coach. Best continues to be to hire a new general manager and have that new general manager play a leading role in hiring the next coach. Hiring a coach first would send a strong message as to where the new general manager sits with regard to authority and leadership and could further complicate the search process. If the current general manager by committee situation becomes longer-term, then obviously the team will need to hire a coach with the current brain trust making the decision.   Where I ultimately land Before I try to balance pros and cons, let me say upfront that despite believing it could work and seeing a decent number of positives, I would prefer a coach with head coaching experience. I am somewhat more open to hiring an up-and-comer who has succeeded at lower levels but not the NHL level, but the idea of hiring someone who has never been a head coach at...

Canes catch up: Charlotte Checkers, Aho/Teravainen, GM options, Martin Necas and more

In addition to the big news of Bill Peters’ resignation on Friday and his fast landing in Calgary on Monday (My article on Peters’ resignation is HERE.), the news wire for the Carolina Hurricanes has been pretty busy otherwise with smaller news too.   Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen join Team Finland for world tourney On Monday, it was announced that Teravainen and Aho would be joining Team Finland. I am in favor of these young players, especially Aho extending their season by a bit. My hope is that Aho gets more time at the center position, and it also should help him to play some games after the regular 82-game slate to season length with playoffs.   The Charlotte Checkers win first two games in their playoff series After what seemed to be a losing effort through two periods in Friday’s series opener, the Checkers stormed back for two goals in the third period and an overtime game-winner to steal game one in the series. The Checkers then followed that up with a 2-0 win on Saturday. The series now moves to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where the Checkers just need to win one of three on the road to win the five-game series and advance to the next round of the playoffs. The first win saw Aleksi Saarela finally break the ice in the third period, Valentin Zykov score the tying goal on the power play and Lucas Wallmark score on a tip to win the game in overtime. Haydn Fleury scored early and Josiah Didier scored later to stake the Checkers to a 2-1 lead. Two empty-net tallies resulted...

Carolina Hurricanes Coach Bill Peters resigns (Article finally up)

From the category of ‘where there is smoke, there is fire’, on Friday the Carolina Hurricanes announced that Bill Peters had exercised his contract out and resigned from his coaching role with the Hurricanes. So as I said on Twitter, just like that the Kinetico Water era of Hurricanes history has come to a close. Between a busy end of the week and the need to digest the information and figure out which of seemingly dozens of angles to discuss, I will post an article hopefully sometime on Saturday or Sunday at the latest.   Finally catching up after a busy weekend that was largely scheduled out. Huge thanks to everyone who has already shared their thoughts on Bill Peters’ resignation. Below are my thoughts in quick-hitter format…   Peters’ 2017-18 In simple terms, it was not good enough. Say what you want about the players he had/did not have. In terms of raw talent, one could make a case for the team being about where they landed in the standings, but here is the thing…Teams can and do surprise every year. Seven out of the 16 teams that made the 2018 playoffs were 2017 draft lottery entrants just like the Hurricanes. Not only is it possible for teams to rebound quickly, it is the norm. Was this team definitely a playoff team with another coach? No. But was it possible? Yes.   But the goaltending The one wild card that I struggle with the most is the effect of the team’s goaltending struggles. I very much thing Peters’ made his own bed and then had to lie in...

Canes-centric comments on NHL playoffs thus far

The closest Canes fans will get to playoff hockey for the 2017-18 season starts tonight when the Charlotte Checkers kick off their playoff series at home. If you missed it, please also check out my Canes-centric Charlotte Checkers playoff preview from yesterday. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a few quick-hitters from the NHL playoffs thus far.   Offense wins The playoffs have historically featured close-checking hockey with tamped down scoring, but that has not been the case thus far for the 2018 playoffs. Of the seven teams who have either already advanced or are up 3-1 in their respective series, five of those teams are above or very close to four goals per game. Vegas advanced behind stingy defense and goaltending, and Winnipeg has not been quite as lights out offensively, but the other five teams have mostly won by scoring in bunches. Where will the Hurricanes find more offense this summer?   What might have been with Marc-Andre Fleury? One has to wonder if the Hurricanes could have had Marc-Andre Fleury this past summer. The Penguins were going to lose a goalie and were committed to keeping young Matt Murray which meant Fleury was leaving. Could the Hurricanes have brokered a trade directly with Pittsburgh before the expansion draft? Or if Rutherford would not have been willing to deal him within the division, might Vegas have given him up during their early wheeling and dealing phase? And what difference might Fleury have made in a Hurricanes uniform in 2017-18?   Star power carries the day in the Eastern Conference thus far Time and time again playoff games...

Canes-centric preview for the Charlotte Checkers playoff series

We will have to wait at least another year before we see playoff hockey in Raleigh, but for the second season in a row, the Charlotte Checkers have provided live playoff hockey to the contingent of Canes fans willing to make the 2 1/2-ish hour drive down I-40 to Bojangles’ Coliseum in Charlotte. The schedule lines up absolutely wonderfully for a road trip with the series starting in Charlotte at 7pm on Friday and then continuing with game 2 at 6pm on Saturday. I will not be able to make the trip but am 100 percent jealous of what should be a sizable group that does for one or both of the games.   Charlotte Checkers vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins series basics The Checkers are actually the lower seed in the #2 versus #3 match up but start at home by virtue of the AHL’s 2-3 format that minimizes travel. The Checkers won three of four games against the Penguins during the regular season and maybe more significantly enter the playoffs red hot with seven straight wins and points in their last 10 games. As long as the four days off does not slow them down, the Checkers should enter the series with a head of steam. As long as the playoffs do not suck the offense out of it, the series has the potential to be an exciting and entertaining one. The Checkers led the entire AHL in scoring with 262 goals, and the Penguins were not far behind with 252. For more details on the Penguins side of the series and great coverage in general, I highly recommend...

Is the grass really greener?

With 16 teams competing in the NHL playoffs (I guess actually five with Los Angeles’ early ouster), there are plenty of reasons to be envious of other teams right now. And no doubt, the Canes fun meter continues to hover near all-time lows with nine consecutive playoff misses that represent the longest streak in the NHL right now. And certainly there are teams with multiple recent Cup wins whose fan bases are in a better place right now. But when one looks objectively at the lot of the other 30 teams in the NHL, how many would a Canes fan rightfully trade places with right now when looking at an extended history that reaches back behind the Hurricanes current down times? I do not think it as close to 30 teams as some might think. For every Pittsburgh Penguins there are a couple teams who have had it as bad or worse than the Carolina Hurricanes.   Columbus Blue Jackets No doubt, the Blue Jackets are in a better place right now with a 2-1 lead in their series with the Washington Capitals. But that franchise has truly had a tough go of it in terms of post-season success. In 18 years of existence, the team has yet to win a playoff series. The team has played in only four series counting their current one, and with their loss at home on Tuesday night, fans through the years have seen only two home playoff wins in eight tries. One could debate whether the Blue Jackets’ future looks better than the Hurricanes right now, but there is no way I...

An early look at the center position for the 2018-19 season: Part 3-My 2 cents

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe is part 3 of 3 considering one of the projects that lies ahead for the Carolina Hurricanes during the current offseason – figuring out the center position heading into the 2018-19 season. Part 1 last Friday looked at the recent history that lead up to this point. Part 2 on Monday considered the options for going forward. Today’s part 3 offers my thoughts on the various options and which direction I am leaning.   Jordan Staal as a foundation Say what you want about Jordan Staal’s scoring totals as compared to other top centers in the league, but he still fits as a cornerstone of a good hockey team at the center position. No doubt, more scoring would be appreciated, but something like 50 in a role that does not ‘use up’ higher-end scoring talent on his wings and plays break even hockey against other teams’ best lines can be a valuable and contributing component on a playoff hockey team. The key for this are the two things I mentioned plus one more. As stated above, Staal’s 50 points in the middle just is not enough if he plays between two scoring wings. His 19 even strength assists when flanked most of the season by Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen just are not enough. That duo is better-served aiming even higher (think a point per game), but that requires a more scoring-capable third. No doubt, the inevitable need to shuffle and spark a lineup here and there over the course of a long NHL season will see TSA reunited, but if Jordan Staal is...
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