When Jim Rutherford stepped down from General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, the franchise embarked on a new era. A press conference with Rutherford, Hurricanes Owner Peter Karmanos, and Hurricanes Legend Ron Francis initiated the sequence into the Ron Francis reign as new General Manager of the franchise. Alongside Francis will sit Assistant General Manager Brian Tatum and Assistant GM and Director of Hockey Operations Mike Velucci.
As the Francis era began, it didn’t take long for the new chief of staff to take action on what had been a tumultuous past few seasons prior to his hiring. The rookie GM made a clean sweep of the coaching staff, firing head coach Kirk Muller and his assistants John McLean and Dave Lewis.
Rumor has it that Francis’ top candidates for the head coaching position are former teammates including Kevin Dineen and Ulf Samuelsson. However, Francis told the News and Observer "It’s an open search. I don’t have anyone in mind. I have a few names I put on a list, and we’ll go forward looking to see who is the best fit for our team."
The Carolina Hurricanes have a past history of bringing back familiar faces to the franchise such as Paul Maurice’s immortal return in the 2008-09 season.
With the recent unsatisfying performance of the team, there may be one candidate that is slightly overlooked. We’ve seen his famous/infamous/hilarious post-game press conferences and interviews. There was a line brawl halfway through the season in his first year behind the bench in the Pacific Northwest. And he might be one of the most censored sports figures on television. That man is John Tortorella.
His resume includes three division titles, the Jack Adams Award, and a Stanley Cup ring. Although Tortorella isn’t included in Francis’ former interaction as a player, he may be the best fit.
What makes Tortorella different from most coaches is the way he goes about saying what is on his mind. In the past there have been times where his lip and various actions got him in trouble and was disciplined for it. However, the personalities seem to be a little bland in the Hurricanes’ locker room since Ray Whitney and Chad LaRose departed. The addition of Tortorella may add a little more glow and flavor to the franchise.
It is no secret that the Carolina Hurricanes are not one of the top recognized franchises in the NHL. Placing Tortorella behind the bench might change that not only because of his personality, but his ability to win and put a team into playoff contention. There is a similarity in the roster the Hurricanes have at the moment and the 2003-2004 Tampa Bay Lightning roster that Tortorella won the Stanley Cup with. A core roster with star players and experience in the league that have the ability to get the job done. With the right mindset and a coach’s will power to put the team in playoff contention, the tables could soon turn for the Hurricanes.
The issue here is going into next season with the right mindset. It is also crucial that the Hurricanes start the season on time. Most teams who make it to the finals, whether it be conference or Stanley cup, have an outstanding player who finishes within the top tier of the leagues’ best scoring. Eric Staal hasn’t had one of those seasons since 05-06. What Tortorella has that Kirk Muller didn’t is the ability to call players out without any hesitation. His ability to tell players what he wants from them or what they are doing wrong and having the courage to bench them if need be can make a light bulb go off in a players head. We’ve all seen what kind of seasons Eric Staal and Alex Semin are capable of producing and Tortorella’s fiery nature and brutally honest opinion could be the one that brings them back to what they are capable of producing.
So his track record isn’t exactly clean, but his fire and intensity could be exactly what the Hurricanes need to put them back in to Stanley Cup contention. His lifetime winning percentage is .538 and he has made numerous trips to the Playoffs with the Rangers and the Lighting. He is a guy with experience under his belt and determination to have a winning team. We know what to expect from Tortorella, media attention and W's. Who wouldn't want this guy coaching their team?
If Ron Francis wants to go in a different direction, this would surely be different.