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Two Tickets to Paradise

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Hurricane's General Manager Jim Rutherford gave the "state of the union" address on Tuesday sharing his perspective about the franchise during the past season as well as alluding to some insight into the future. Was the gist of the press conference that the Canes were going to have to raise ticket prices again next year? You be the judge. The entire transcript can be found here.

Just for the fun of it, I'm going to copy and paste some excerpts of the transcript and read between the lines a bit and translate to what he really means!

RUTHERFORD: We expected a letdown for a period of time, but we certainly didn’t expect a letdown for 82 games. The fact that we were inconsistent for most of the season, we still put ourselves in a strong position even with a few weeks left in the season.

When you look at it all, we had 88 points, I’m sure easily with our core play and inconsistency you could look at a minimum of five games or six games that would have got us to 100 points in a year where we were inconsistent and not focused from the start. We can look at this on a negative side, which it is, we can take as many positives out of it and move forward, which I think that’s what we intend to do. We intend to prepare ourselves, prepare ourselves for the first day of camp like we did the year we won and have a chance to win again.


Translation... Some of the players took too many nights off. If they would have played harder for just 5 or 6 more games, we would be making money this year instead of losing it!


RUTHERFORD: Both our goalies are good, John Grahame gave us some games, he’s a good goalie. Cam Ward is going to have a great career, but his toughest year of his career is behind him, that transition year. So if you carry that over into your question about the Devils and where this team can go with the need to have great goaltending to win the Stanley Cup again, your answer is yes, we could do that. The nucleus of this team is very strong, we have a lot of good players, and we have the structure in place to win again.

Translation... Like it or not, both of these goalies will be back again next year.

RUTHERFORD:


I think if you go back in general, the year we won the cup, there was a focus from the first day of camp, and it was all business. The players were anxious to play, and anxious to win. We might as well not have even had training camp this year. Not anybody’s fault, but the players were still tired. They weren’t rested. There wasn’t the focus on that camp that there needs to be, and that’s one thing that we’re going to be able to do this year, unfortunately. We’ll have five months to prepare for it. But we’ll have the same focus at the start of next year’s training camp as the year we won the cup. We’ll get off to a better start, we’ll have more team togetherness, and the players will be more hungry. That’s basically the general message I’m getting from the players.

Translation... Last year's training camp was one big party. Players were out of shape, hung-over, and tired. If we don't trade them, the players promise to do better in next season's camp. We will also put a ban on having champagne in the dressing room.

RUTHERFORD: It’s not any one of those issues. It would be for the same reason that if you had to work your job 30 days in a row and somebody would ask you to work 24 hours the next day and be on top of your game. It is very, very difficult. No excuses, we make no excuses for what happened this year, it’s nobody’s fault but our own. We all played our part and played a role in what happened.

But the fact of the matter is, we did not have the energy coming into camp for the start of the season, and quite frankly, there were times when the team started to play better through stretches but just couldn’t quite get that energy level on a consistent basis. Everyone can relate to it in their own personal life. There’s times where you go through stretches with your kids when you get worn out, there’s times where you go through stretches with your job when you get worn out, and this is what happened to our team this year.

Translation... Nobody can be expected to work hard on their job all the time, even if they are playing a game for a living and making millions a year to do it! It's difficult to come into camp with any energy when you just signed a multi-year contract worth millions a year and you have been celebrating non-stop all summer! Come on now, we've all been there, we all know it's very difficult!

RUTHERFORD: We don’t know yet. We get these little injures that turn into big injuries where players have little tears on their shoulders, little tears on their knees. Doctors have to decide, are they going to heal over a few months or do they need to be operated on? I can’t give you a good answer on that. One, we wont’ be in as serious of a problem that we had last year because we have longer for these guys to heal, and two, if a player has to be operated on, the doctors and the trainers will make that decision a lot earlier than they did last year.

Translation... Hopefully no one will decide a week before the season starts that they need surgery that puts them out of commission for most of the year, like they did to us last season.

RUTHERFORD: It’s a tough one, because the reason they wait is to see if the player heals, and they’d prefer to them to heal than operate on them. But now with what happened last year, I think that everyone is looking at making a decision a little earlier. It makes it tougher on the doctor but we will trust in their decisions and certainly hope not to be put in a position like we were with Stillman and Kaberle.

Translation... We fired all the physicians from last year and hired new ones.

RUTHERFORD: The players all talk to each other. The players all know exactly how the players feel that left here after least year. In Walker’s case and Ray Whitney’s case, I’ve had the exit meetings with them, they want to stay, and we’re going to do the best we can to keep them here. One of the issues I have with my job is juggling the business part of it, the financial part of it. We raised our payroll from winning the Stanley Cup to last year probably by about $8 million. Now, in order to keep these players, we’re going to have to raise our payroll another $4 million. Where does that money come from? It has to come from somewhere. So we have to figure out how we do that. We like to do the best we can with our ticket prices, we need to do better in our corporate sales, but we have to figure out where to get that money and then to pay these players properly. We’re going to the best we can in the best way we can to do it.

Translation...Get out your wallets because ticket prices are going UP, UP, UP, next year! We just don't know by how much yet.

RUTHERFORD: When you have a development team, it’s not always how you view your prospects at the start of the year; it’s more at the end of the year. Now, at the end of the year, (Brett) Carson, the first-year defenseman, has put himself in a position that he can be a depth player here next year. He can actually come up and play some games, and he’s now tracking towards be a Hurricane at some point. We had a free agent signing in Noah Babin, and he has played extremely well, granted he hasn’t played a lot of games and it’s early. He is an older player, because he’s out of college, so he’s a player now that’s a depth player. We’re signing some of our players, getting them out of junior and college, so I think we’re starting to stock the cupboards a little bit more. It’s not where we’d like it to be, but I don’t think it’s as bad as maybe it was going in to the season.

Translation... The cupboards are bare, we have no one in our development program anywhere near to making the team next year.

RUTHERFORD: I think it’s a great experience to play in international hockey. It’s a different style of hockey, and a whole different experience. And then you get to play with different players on other teams, and the other part is that they don’t get five months off, now they get more like four months, which is better for them. It’ll be a great experience. (Chad) LaRose and (Erik) Cole and Grahame will be on the U.S. team. I have not got the list yet, but I know that (Dennis) Seidenberg was asked to go, but I don’t know if he’s going. If all our guys go that were asked, it will be at least half our team, which is not any consolation for not being in the playoffs, but it’s a great experience for all our players.

Translation... I thought these guys were unmotivated, had no energy, and were tired? Now they are all going to Russia to play for another month? This is why they couldn't put in the extra effort needed to make the playoffs?

RUTHERFORD: I think you see it in all sports. A lot of players elevate their games in their contract years. But I don’t think its just about that. For guys that get their first big contracts where they get multi-million dollar contracts over multi years, you’re in a whole different dynamic now. The dressing room changes, it changes everything. Guys have to adjust to that, and the leadership has to adjust to that, and I think that played a little bit of a role in our togetherness here where that dynamic changed, and I think that can be fixed.

Translation... We had some primadonnas in the dressing room who thought they were better than everyone else and it ruined team chemistry. Also, once a player signs a big contract, don't expect them to duplicate their performance the next year. it just doesn't happen!

Okay, seriously I do have a few comments to make about his speech. First of all, he thinks it will only take 4 million more next year to sign Whitney and Walker? He's in dreamland. Whitney alone will probably get offers in the 3-4 million per year range. Walker deserves a contract worth about 2 million per year. Plus they still need to sign a 3rd line center. Hopefully they don't pick out another team's 4rth line fodder, sign him for 800K, and say, "here's our man!". They should also take a look at getting some defensive help. I don't feel warm and fuzzy with the team keeping the status quo on defense again next year.

Finally, he can't think of where the money is going to come from to sign new players? Hello? What happened to all the profits from last year? Did all that money evaporate already? So, let me get this straight and make sure I understand. Since Rutherford is admitting that the primary reason the Canes didn't make the playoffs is because some players were too complacent and had no energy, Caniacs have to foot the bill and pay more money out of their pockets for tickets next year to help pay for new player's contracts? While it's no secret that most NHL teams need to make the playoffs in order to be profitable for the year, I don't see why the fans have to be the ones to compensate for the franchise's failure to qualify for those playoffs. Maybe the players who had the "lack of energy and focus" should kick in some of their pay to make up the difference?

Just my 2 cents and a mini rant because I'm watching the playoffs with no Canes involved! Happy Thursday all!

Eddie Money