Saturday, April 09, 2011

Time For A Summer Cleaning Job In Carolina

After the 2006 season, I thought that good times were as far as the eye could see as it pertained to the Carolina Hurricanes.  The Canes had just won the Stanley Cup and with the farm system not being as strong as it once was, but still in the top half of the league, I believed that the Canes would win the division a couple of times.  Possibly be a perennial threat to be the Eastern Conference representative in the Stanley Cup final.  Boy, how I was wrong.

Over the past 5 seasons, Carolina has only qualified once for the post-season.  And even that was by the skin of their teeth.  And after pulling out two game 7's in that 2009 run to the Eastern Confernece final, I still held the belief that the Canes could be a force in the East.  After 2 years of missing the playoffs, we got back in and did some damage in 2009.  Last year, we had injuries up the Wazoo and didn't finish strong.  This year, there was no excuse.  We had the least games lost due to injury in the NHL.  The team has fallen and cannot get up.  It is time to fix the team and compete with the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Southeast division crown.  And I believe that I have the plan.

1.  Fire (or move) the braintrust.  Jim Rutherford has been the architect of this team for a long time now.  And he also needs to take the blame for the disappointing results that the team has given it's fans.  Time to promote him to President only.  The General Manager title should be taken away from him and either given to Jason Karmanos and have his Vice-President title stripped from him or go outside the organization to find a person who's sole responsibility is to perform the General Manager duties for this team.  Because right now, our farm system isn't looking too good and the parent club needs help.

2.  Say Good-bye to Paul Maurice yet again.  Mr. Rutherford went back to a coach that he was comfortable with when he fired Peter Laviolette.  It was another wrong decision that has plagued the club for the past couple of years.  Maurice proved in his first tenure as Canes coach and in Toronto that he doesn't have the skills to take teams farther than what there talent level is.  The 2002 Stanley Cup run was a fluke.  The history since that season proves it in regards to Maurice.  I would look at a Head Coach that has experience, but if there is a coach in the minors that really impresses, maybe go that way.  Either way, talk to Ken Hitchcock and see what he might bring to the club.  It couldn't hurt.

3.  Be active in Free Agency.  A few good veteran free agent could be a big difference in the fortunes of this team.  Take a look at this roster.  Only 4 players are 30 years or older.  Eric Cole, Cory Stillman, Bryan Allen, and Joe Corvo.  Not exactly the veterans that you think of that will bring you Stanley Cups.  A nice 3rd Line Center would do wonders.  A Top 6 Defenseman would also help in the form of a veteran.  I don't think that Justin Peters is the answer as the backup for Cam Ward.  Maybe bring in a veteran that can help win games when Ward needs a night off.

4.  Start investing in the farm.  The NHL club is not where the young players need to develop their game.  Charlotte has a couple of players that will crack the roster within the next few years, but there needs to be that steady pipeline of players ready to contribute fairly well to the NHL club and that hasn't happened over the past couple of years.  We are going to have some front line help over the next couple of years from the farm and anything that the Goalies down there show, should be used as trade bait unless you get rid of Cam Ward, and I don't think that is happening.

5.  Stop being a cheapskate as an owner and start worrying about making the team a powerhouse.  This point is directed at owner, Peter Karmanos.  The product can make you money, but you must take the risk of paying out more money to make it happen.  I understand that you are looking for a minority owner in this club.  And yes, I know that you don't play in the major markets of the NHL, but you have a rabid fan base down in Carolina and can make a profit down there while providing the fans with a winning product.  I am tired of the self-imposed salary cap that doesn't allow for any mistakes on personnel decisions.  That has contributed to our dismal finishes in the past couple of years.  Mr. Karmanos must realize that he can't take his money with him and that his family is taken care of for the next couple of generations.  Time to take the satisfaction in having a team that is a powerhouse and forget about saving a couple of million dollars more for the financial coffers. 

The Carolina Hurricanes are one of those teams that have become a bottom feeder in the league.  And that sentence is one of the hardest that I have wrote since I have started blogging.  This franchise should be the model of the Southeast Division.  But yet we are looking up at Tampa Bay and Washington.  Florida and Atlanta should be an afterthought for us in the standings, but yet we have to worry about them.  It is sad when the blasted Toronto Maple Leafs have more faith in the future than us Hurricane fans.  There isn't a big jump needed right now to get the 'Canes back to playing playoff hockey and stunning those favorites of the league.  But if they decide to ignore their problems, then a major overhaul of the organization will be needed a few years down the road.


R.J. said...

Ouch! The biggest reason why the Leafs have a great future is because we fleeced the Calgary Flames in the Dion Phaneuf deal. Not only is he a lot better than the players we gave up but Keith Aulie, the "throw in", has now become a big-minute shutdown defender.

Your GM needs to speak to Brent Sutter about swinging a trade while Sutter still has a job. Matt Stajan would make a good third or even second line center with the right linemates.

Brent said...

Center is the one position that we don't need young talent at. Right now we could have 5 lines centered by young talent that would be good. However, none of those kids have been through the wars. Bring in a veteran that is willing to be a leader and teach these kids about how to be a player and a leader on the team. Having Francis and Brind'Amour as advisors is great, but you need better veteran leadership.

DC Homer said...

Well said. But the problem isn't the Canes themselves, but the NHL who refuse to believe that hockey's only similarity to NASCAR is the oval shape of the rink and the frequent collisions. Other than that, hockey in the south just doesn't work. It hasn't worked twice in Atlanta and despite two Stanley Cups (one each in NC and FL), I don't believe the southern states can sustain a sport they're just not endeared to. Even the NBA is proving to be a difficult sell in the south. How many times has basketball come to New Orleans? And despite Lebron James, football (and NASCAR) still rules Florida. The league should compress Nashville, Carolina, Tampa, Florida, Atlanta, and Phoenix, move Washington back to the Atlantic, and reestablish those teams back in Hartford, Winnepeg, and Quebec.

Brent said...

I disagree. The capacity for the RBC Center in Raleigh is 18,176. This past year the average attendance is 16,343. 20th in the NHL. The building fills to 88% of capacity. And look at the crap that the Hurricanes organization has put on the ice. If you put a compelling team on the ice, then you attendance will go up. If you compare the attendance to a complete sellout every night, the canes could have sold an additional 73,320 tickets. Let's say that each ticket is $35. That figures out to $2,566,200 that the organization has left on the table in ticket sales. Let's not mention the other revenue like advertising and sponsorship that could also be made better with capacity crowds.

The bad thing about moving back to those cities is that we will fall back into the rut of having 8,000 attend a Whalers home game or 9,500 attend a Winnipeg Jets game. And we are right back into a situation where the league is looking for more spots to move a franchise that might draw heavier crowds. That is the reason that they were allowed to move in the 1st place.

However, I do agree that 4 franchises must be moved almost immediately. The Panthers, Islanders, Thrashers, and Coyotes should be moved. The 'Yotes back to Winnipeg. The Thrashers move to Seattle. The Panthers to Kansas City. And the Islanders to Hamilton, Ont.

Oh, I will have more posts about the NHL this spring and summer about how to make the best game in the world even better. And even some controversial thoughts on how the New Jersey Devils should be shipped out into the wilds of Saskatchewan.

DC Homer said...

OMG! I just wrote what I thought was a pretty nice reply and that darn gmail authentication process deleted my post! Damn if I'm going to write it again, so here's the Cliff Notes:

1. Disagree: Hartford suffered from a small market, satuated by split fan loyalty for teams all over New England. Owner was too aggressive, impatient, and unwilling to give the fans a break. He damanded 10,000 seats sold per game the season prior to the move, but refused to sell mini season tix packages, only full season tix pkgs. Then he traded away the team player legacy.

2. I'm from DC, but all my family is from (and lives) in Raleigh; I went to school in Raleigh. Rarely do I encounter "serious" hockey fans there.

3. Canes attendance is successful because of that one Cup, and the fact that the fan base has absolutely no competition from local or other sports (NHL, NBA, MLB or NFL) within a 300 mile radius (the Mudcats and Charlotte excepted). Canes are also successful because the Southeast is, honestly, a weak conference. It's traditionally dominated by the Caps, Lightening, and Canes (and the Caps dominate them!)

4. Hockey in Atlanta just won't work--done that twice. Faggitaboutit!

5. If you move the Fishsticks out, then I say move the Caps to the Atlantic (we'll leave the Southeast to the Canes to dominate). I yearn for the old 90's Patrick Division (Caps, Devils, Rangers, Islanders, Penguins, Flyers).

Brent said...

Point #1: I agree about the Hartford market being small and that fans there have way too many regional teams to pick from. Maybe the owner was a little too impatient, however Mr. Karmanos has never been laid back when it comes to losing money. Not in Hartford and not in Raleigh.

Point #3: The Hurricanes are almost always around that 20th ranking for attendance. Before and after the Stanley Cup. Their ranking below that coincides with a couple of horrible teams that the put out on the ice. And if there is no competition, then there is still something broken in the Hurricanes front office because they are only pulling in 88% capacity.

4. We agree about Atlanta. That city is a place of death for all Pro Sports teams.

5. I do move the Fish Sticks out of that Division. But I don't move Washington into the Atlantic. For the Southeast, I have Nashville, Washington, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Dallas. I move Boston into the Atlantic Division and the Fish Sticks moving to Hamilton go into the Northeast.

That being said, the Northeast would be one big rivalry division. Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, and Hamilton. I can imagine the Bad Blood being spilled in a division like that. At least we would have the cheapshot Bruins in the same division as the cheapshot Rangers.

Brent said...

After looking at a map, it might be best if Washington went into the Atlantic, and moving Pittsburgh out of that division and move them into the "Midwest" Division of Pittsburgh, Carolina, Nashville, Columbus, and Tampa Bay?

DC Homer said...

The reason I'd like to see Washigton in the Atlantic is because there were some very good rivalries growing when the Patrick broke up, between the Caps, Rangers, and Flyers, particularly. If you haven't figured it out already, I'm Caps biased! But while the Verizon Center is usually full of energy (when the Caps are winning), it's just not the same between Southeast rivals, as when Atlantic teams come to town. Now, I think that's mostly because of the city itself--being a very transitory town with a lot of non-DC'er residents. The Phone Booth just isn't filled with a lot of Lightening, Panthers, or Thrasher jerseys, and it’s almost like cheering to yourself when we play Division teams...there's no opposing fan to turn to for that "in your face" effect when we score, unlike the NFL, where on any given Sunday, half of FedEx Field is be filled with visiting fans. The same with MLB--half of the Nats seats are filled with fans from the other NL teams, especially Mets, Braves and (God help me)--the Filthadelphia Sillies! But when the Cubs, Yanks, Sox, Dodgers, Giants, and Cards come to town, you can barely find a Nats fan! I guess I'd just love to get that kind of energy back on a regular basis if we were in the Atlantic.

As for Hamilton (noticed you mentioned that a few times)--I can live with expansion in Canada; so one or two more (especially if revitalizing Winnipeg and Quebec). Move the Isles? Okay, I think the Ranger, Pens, Devils and Flowers fans might be upset--they were kinda counting on those six "wins!" Pittsburgh in a "Midwest Division" with the Canes, the Preds, Blue Jackets and Lighening? I swear, I think the NHL will expand to Miami before that happens. Here's an article I found on that subject:

"Money or no money, NHL’s not expanding in Canada" (by BRIAN MILNER - The Globe and Mail)

"Credit the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation for grabbing headlines with an economic study that is as meaningless as it is irrelevant. Which, come to think of it, is far from rare in the field. The study, which carries the bold title "The New Economics of the NHL," comes to the less than startling conclusion that six Canadian markets would produce more than enough gate revenue to support a new NHL team, including Winnipeg, Hamilton and Quebec City. The Toronto area could easily handle two teams, even if another one landed in Hamilton. The academics also found that attempts to promote the game in the southern U.S. have not met with success. Having written extensively about the NHL and its mistaken “Southern strategy” in the past, I didn’t need a new study to tell me that Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville and any part of Florida make for lousy hockey markets, especially when the teams are terrible. There’s a reason most of them have been on the selling block, with no takers. By contrast, the Toronto Maple Leafs have become by far the most valuable franchise in the league with even worse records on the ice. The folks who run the NHL are well aware of these facts of life in their business. By focusing on potential gate revenues (and leaving aside the issue of indemnity that would be required by the Leafs for encroaching on their market area), the study missed the point. The Phoenix Coyotes exist, for now, solely because they operate in one of the top five TV markets in North America. Another leading TV market happens to be in Miami. When commissioner Gary Bettman goes in search of better U.S. network TV deals, does anyone really think that new teams in Winnipeg or Hamilton or anywhere else in Canada are going to mean anything to an ESPN or NBC, which now controls Versus, the cable channel currently carrying NHL games in the U.S.? And will visits by a revived Winnipeg Jets or Hamilton Whatevers boost TV ratings in markets like, say, Anaheim or Washington? There's about as much chance of that as there is of Don Cherry wearing a sober jacket and plain tie."

Brent said...

Um...There is already a franchise in Miami. It is called the Florida Panthers. I understand where people might forget that there is a team there, but it still exists. I would expand west. Seattle and Portland have supported their minor league teams for years.

So here is the divisions that I would have:

New York Rangers
New Jersey


Tampa Bay
St. Louis
Kansas City


San Jose
Los Angeles


And having more stable temas in markets that will support those teams will mean better ratings for the networks if they promote those teams that are actually playing well instead of focusing mostly on the major market teams.