AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Continuing on in the series about how not to rebuild a team, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the Carolina Hurricanes in the wake of their firing of their general manager, Ron Francis. What makes the Canes especially interesting is that they’re not in an Edmonton or Buffalo situation – they’re a decent team with decent players, it’s just that every year they seem to be on the cusp and can never quite get over the hump. Why is that?

Let’s start with the good – Ron Francis has done a fine job of managing his salary cap, the details of which can be found here, on CapFriendly, with the real big doozy here being Jordan Staal’s long-term contract, signed before Francis became GM. After that their next highest paid forward is Victor Rask, who, although he isn’t exactly star talent, is hardly what’s ailing the Hurricanes, at least in terms of dollars and cents. Justin Faulk’s contract is reasonable for the kind of player he is, and the Pesce and Slavin contracts are (at least in my opinion) veritable steals as far as locking down two excellent young d-men go for many years at reasonable cost. Really, aside from that Staal contract, the next big issue is the risk Francis took on Scott Darling, who although he’s had a rough year, could conceivably bounce back (or not) depending on a coaching change, the personnel in front of him, etc.

The bad, and this is where the Rangers should be concerned, is that the Hurricanes never finished low enough in the standings to get elite talent in the draft, and when they did, they kind of blew it. In 2013 (although this is before Francis’ tenure) they drafted fifth overall and picked Elias Lindholm, and when they had the same pick in 2015 they picked Noah Hanifin. While neither of these two drafts were particularly stacked in 2013 they could have, for example, picked Sean Monahan, Valeri Nichushkin, Bo Horvat, of Andre Burakovsky, any of whom would alleviate their issues at forward. Similarly, in 2015, in addition to passing on Zach Werenski, had they not gone for best player available and drafted based on team need they could have gotten Pavel Zacha, Brock Boeser, Matthew Barzal, or Kyle Connor.

Indeed, going for best player available seems to have contributed to Carolina’s surplus of defensemen, and although they have a good stock of them, it would seem that they could use some help up front (sans Sebastian Aho, who was an absolute steal at 35). Although we do have the benefit of hindsight here (not unlike with the Oilers) the plan of drafting and developing only works if you 1. have at least one or two stellar draft picks (and get lucky as far as which draft you have them in) and 2. knock it out of the park with those picks (and the rest of them, which they’ve actually done pretty OK with).

The next big issue is something I’m not as concerned about with the Rangers, and that’s a reluctance to make big trades. Ron Francis didn’t make any big blockbuster trades in his time as Hurricanes GM and that seems to have hurt the team as well. Aside from snatching Teuvo Teravainen away from Chicago, the reluctance to deal from a place of strength has held the team back and left it lacking in, for example, a true 1C.

So much of a being a successful GM is figuring out where your strengths are and dealing from those areas to make up for areas of need, and Francis instead simply amassed a ton of draft picks and defensemen and sat on them. If nothing else, it frustrates the fanbase to see your GM do, well, nothing. You’ve simply got to take risks at some point, and again, aside from Scott Darling, Francis never really did that. Along those lines as a GM you’ve got to evolve at some point – even the famously stingy Kevin Cheveldayoff has changed his way to some extent, with the recent acquisition of Paul Stastny pushing the Winnipeg Jets from dark horse to true Cup contender.

Obviously the Hurricanes aren’t quite in the same position as the Jets, and Winnipeg had the benefit of drafting Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, but it bears repeating that in this league you’ve got to give to get. When you’ve got a lot to give, and you don’t get, well, it can become a problem. Some of this may have been due to internal budgetary constraints that will hopefully be relieved under new ownership, some of it may have been due to overvaluing of assets and a belief that everything had to be a bargain or a steal, but in any event, Francis’ reluctant asset management was certainly one of his big issues as a GM.

The last big problem area for Francis is something Rangers fans can get behind – a commitment to bad coaching. After numerous bites at the apple goaltending is still an issue for the Carolina Hurricanes, raising the question of whether it’s the goalies or the system. The latter option would gesture towards coach Bill Peters and his staff, who then double down and play Cam Ward despite his best days clearly being behind him.

That one isn’t quite analogous to the Rangers, but Peters’ inability to adjust his lines and combinations correctly will surely strike a chord with Rangers fans. Coupled with Francis’ hesitancy to call up young talent from the AHL (Valentin Zykov for example has 30 goals in the AHL, but is yet to play an NHL game this season) and give Peters the right tools to play his best lineup, and you can see how things might be similar to the Rangers predicament. Now, with a GM change things may be different, although new owner Tom Dundon has hinted that he’s open to keeping Peters. This too is similar to how, even though the Rangers have resigned themselves to a rebuild (and rightly so), there is a non-zero chance that Jeff Gorton keeps AV after the end of this season (which I think we all can agree would be bad).

So there you have it folks, a blueprint on how to wind up a middling team throughout an attempt at a rebuild. Although there’s hope for the future (again, it’s not Edmonton) the Carolina Hurricanes, right now at least, are stuck in a little bit of a rut. Issues at the draft, a major reluctance to take risks and improve the team, and not putting pressure on coaching to make the right adjustments (or simply not firing the coach and finding a new one) have put the Hurricanes on the unfortunate road to mediocrity. There’s still plenty of ways for their new GM to steer them into a more successful direction, but the Canes certainly do serve as a cautionary tale of what not to do, at least in some respects.

The Rangers are coming out of their glory years under the King’s reign, and in order to give Lundqvist one last shot at the Cup (my hope is that they re-sign him for one-year contracts continuously as the rebuild is wrapping up, keeping him around behind Shestyorkin until the team seals the deal and his coronation is finally complete) and return to playoff success we’re going to need to bounce back right. As with the cautionary tale of Edmonton, all of this is easier said than done of course, but if Jeff Gorton is doing his due diligence on how to rebuild the right way, he’d do well to take a look at the Carolina Hurricanes as far as what not to do.

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