Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis and coach Bill Peters met the media on Wednesday afternoon at PNC Arena. The major headlines:
- David Marcoux’s contract will not be renewed and the future of the rest of the coaching staff will be discussed in the coming weeks
- As many as seven players are headed to the World Championships
- The Canes know that overtime and the shootout are an issue and will address it early and often next season
- The expansion draft provides a rare opportunity for the Canes to add to their team at minimal expense.
Here’s more from Wednesday’s conversation.
RF: I met with Steve Smith, Rod Brind’Amour and David Marcoux individually since the end of the season. I usually give Bill some time between the end of the season and when we need to take the emotions out of it, we’ll meet at some point and discuss the staff and the direction he wants to go. I informed David Marcoux yesterday that we would not be renewing his deal that expires at the end of June. I still need to have meetings with the medical staff whose contracts are up.
I do feel that the amateur scouting staff is well taken care of. On the pro staff, there’s one situation I’m trying to get a read on an individual’s time commitment moving forward and everything will fall into place after that. For the most part, a lot of the things are taken care of. The big things will take place here in the next few weeks.
What will the Canes look at with positional questions going forward?
BP: I think we have specific needs, very specific needs. As a coach, I’m going to give very specific names and put them in situations where they’re going to help a player on a line, in theory. I think we have obvious needs that need to be filled. I see Elias Lindholm as a winger moving forward full-time. Can he play center? Yes. If we played him at center, would he be wonderful there? Yeah he would.
Sebastian Aho can play center right now. It wouldn’t be fair to him, but he could. At some point, sooner or later, he will be a dominant center. But I don’t want to put guys in situations before they’re ready. Those are the conversations we have to have: we might agree, we might disagree. But I want to know when a person plays a position, he’s capable of playing it.
Biggest off season priority:
RF: It’s not a secret: our goals against was 18th, our save percentage was tied for 27th. That’s certainly an area that we have to look at real closely and fix for next season.
I think we’re in a position where we have some options to look at doing some things. With the expansion draft, there may be goaltenders that teams are going to lose that they’re willing to trade. There are goaltenders who will be on the free agent market. We’ll also dive deeper into our situation and figure out what’s going on there as well.
Overtime and shootout:
BP: That’s going to be a big priority this summer. We’re going to dive into it. They’ve already started upstairs with that a little bit, but there will be a lot of time spent on the 3-on-3. There are a lot of trends that have developed from the successful teams. Shootouts are a 1-on-1 skills competition, but that’s going to be an emphasis for sure.
We practiced 3-on-3, I think, enough, but we’ll practice it more moving forward, especially early in the year. It’s an area that needs to be better, and it will be better. What I’ve started to do - and it will take a while to get the project done - is that anything we’ve done over my three years here that isn’t in the top 10 in the NHL needs to be better. You don’t want to be in the middle of the pack. We have certain things that we’re strong, and anything that’s outside the top 10 for me needs to be addressed and fixed.
RF: We’re hoping with the fact that teams feel they’re going to lose things, they may be looking to pick up an asset rather than lose something for nothing. I do think with 11 picks in this year’s draft, seven coming in the first 80-85 picks, maybe we have some of the pieces necessary to do some of those things. We’re looking at all options and we’ll see how things play out.
BP: Pieces need to come in to close the gap. If we think the guys from the AHL are going to come in and close the gap, it’s not going to happen in my opinion as the coach. If this was a normal offseason with no expansion, these players who will be available would not be available. They’re coming available at a good time when our management group has stocked the cupboard with both prospects and high value picks.
I don’t think Ron’s time off is going to match mine. I’m going to beat him. His phone is going to be ringing, because people aren’t going to lose a player for free when they can get an asset - which is a draft pick - instead of letting a guy be exposed. Are we going to get them all? No, we don’t need them all. But are we going to get some of them? Yes.
On the budget for next season:
RF: I don’t have a budget yet. They’ll sit down and review that after the season, then I’ll get my numbers. We’re in a good position this year to do some things. The previous years we had some contracts that we needed to move or buy out to give us some flexibility. I think Mr. Karmanos takes a lot of heat on that [undeservedly]. I went to him one time on the Kris Versteeg deal to go above and beyond my budget by well over $1 million. We had a conversation for 15 minutes, he asked the questions that he needed to ask, and he said if this is what you need to do, go ahead and do it.
I think we’re getting to the point now between some of the things we’ve done over the past few years and some of the contracts coming off the books that we’re in a good situation to spend some money to acquire players, either through trade or free agency. We’ve done some of those things, but we’re in a better position here.
We also have to keep in mind that we have some young pieces that are going to mature here and their contracts are not going down. We have to factor that into our budget moving forward. But we do our projections out two, three, four years, and we feel comfortable where we are and what we can add to this team to make it better.
Expectations on the season:
RF: I go into every season thinking that our goal is to make the playoffs and get a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. This year was no different. There are a lot of things that we got better in, there are a lot of things that stayed status quo. At the end of the day, it ended up being not good enough.
Our record against the West was a winning record. Our record overall against the East was a winning record. Where we had a losing record was in the Metro. Not a good year for us to be in the Metro, but certainly we made a lot of progress. Jeff Skinner having a career year in goals, Justin Faulk setting a record for goals for a defenseman, Aho showed a lot of people that he’s the real deal. Our young defensemen avoided the sophomore jinx and continued to get better.
We built that through the draft, internally. Those are all positive signs. We do still feel that we have more pieces in the pipeline and more pieces coming out of junior that will help supplement moving forward. Disppointing we didn’t get in, but I think we still did make progress forward. Maybe not as daunting a task as in previous years.
Are the pieces in the system already or do the Canes have to go shopping outside the organization?
RF: I don’t think you can ever be 100% sure about how guys develop, but I do think we have guys that are either playing in Charlotte or playing for different junior teams that have legitimate chances to step into the lineup and play significant roles. At this point we do feel good about the pieces we have coming.
That doesn’t mean we put blinders on and don’t look at anything outside the organization. If there’s something that makes us better, we’re open to doing that as well.
RF: Those [rosters] will be released by the teams. I can tell you that I was contacted in regards to ten of our players playing: five guys have committed, two are considering it and three turned them down.
What needs to change to start next season?
BP: There’s lots to change and lots of work to be done. It’s realistic to think that it can be accomplished. There were too many wild fluctuations: we can’t go on extended losing streaks. Our start should have been better. We wasted some points on the road, and that can’t happen and won’t happen moving forward.
I’m really excited about next year, excited about being at camp from the start and having a better handle on who we have and don’t have. I’m excited about what’s going on in Charlotte right now and who’s driving that bus. I’m excited that we have seven picks early and hopefully we only use three of them.
I’m excited about the steps that certain guys took. Look at the way Lindy played: the style of play he played is the style that we need to play more often and from more players. Really liked the progression of Noah Hanifin, especially from the deadline on. There are a lot of things going in the right direction. Our team is better now than it was a year ago when we met.
Here’s the entire 30-minute press conference courtesy of Canes PR if you’d like to listen for yourself.