Yes, I’m stealing this format from Brett (with his permission). There are a few things I want to address from today’s press conference, none of which rise to the level of a full column, but each worthy of a minute or two of comment.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: this tweet that went viral soon after I posted it.
Dundon: I’ve come to the conclusion that strategy is pretty overrated. I don’t believe the strategy differences are as important as getting the right culture and the right attitude. I think he gives us the best chance of getting the most out of our players.— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) May 9, 2018
As per usual on social media, this was blown way out of proportion. I don’t want to say it was taken out of context, because it wasn’t (I went back and listened to it again just to make sure). But what Dundon is saying here isn’t that he’s going to have a roster full of 19 Neanderthals plus Sebastian Aho. What he’s saying is that all the planning and strategizing in the world is meaningless when you don’t have players that are 100% committed.
It’s less an endorsement of Rod Brind’Amour than a shot at Bill Peters, whose shadow loomed large throughout the press conference. If I’m, say, Eric Tulsky, I’m not suddenly concerned for my job; far from it. Dundon’s point is not that strategy is to be avoided. What he, and the multi-headed management monster, will be looking for going forward are players that buy in on every shift — very much in the mold of who their head coach was as a player. Get that right, and the strategy will follow.
Co-Captains: An Experiment That Ran Its Course
Brind’Amour had the line of the press conference when speaking about Justin Williams: “If we had 20 of him, we’d be slow - but we’d win.” Williams is odds-on to be the next captain of the Hurricanes, although Brind’Amour made a point of saying that letters may mean more to folks outside the locker room than those inside it, which leaves the door open for Jordan Staal to remain as captain. If he were demoted to an alternate, it would be through absolutely no fault of his own.
But Williams was brought in last summer to fill a specific role, Peters passed over him for that role, and Brind’Amour intends to rectify that post haste.
And where does this leave Justin Faulk? Well, funny you should ask...
Agents of Change
There are going to be changes to the composition of the Hurricanes next season. That much was glaringly clear. But there was also an undercurrent of thought that Brind’Amour’s presence will get more out of the players than Peters’ did, and that could mean that more current players will be on the opening night roster than we thought would be the case even a couple of weeks ago.
To that end, it’s probably more likely today than it was yesterday that Jeff Skinner remains on the roster to start the season. Heading into the last year of his contract, it’s far from certain he signs an extension, of course, but Dundon was clear in saying that Brind’Amour’s remit is to get the most out of his roster. It’s going to be Brind’Amour’s responsibility to decide if the players he has can do what he needs them to, but the way things are set up now, he will go straight to Dundon if they can’t.
The question for Brind’Amour is, if you decide that players aren’t going to be able to buy in, then what? Turnover is fine, but excessive turnover kind of defeats the purpose. They will have to be very careful to not go overboard, because doing too much is no better than doing nothing.
It’s All Been Done...Or Not
Dundon, perhaps accidentally, put to rest the notion that he’s going to be a hands-off owner. He will have the final call on any major decision. What makes this such a fascinating experiment is that it’s very much a businesslike atmosphere — show me a CEO who doesn’t get involved in the details, and I’ll show you a company that fails more often than not — and complete anathema to how hockey teams have traditionally been run.
Waddell is the GM, but not as the sport has typically understood the term. Think of him more as the chief operating officer. Dundon will have the final sign-off, but he will be involved every step of the way. So will Brind’Amour, Paul Krepelka, Mike Vellucci (who Waddell expects to remain with the organization, he told us today), Eric Tulsky, and a good number of other people.
Remember press conferences from years gone by when Ron Francis would talk about getting Peter Karmanos to sign off on major moves? The implication was that Francis was the decision maker who needed his boss’s imprimatur to execute. By the time things get to Dundon’s desk, by contrast, they will have been vetted by a small army of stakeholders.
Will it work? That’s still up in the air. But it’s May 9, and we’re five months away from the ultimate answer to that question: how the team performs on the ice. It might not be a popular statement in a culture rife with hot takes, but I’ll make it anyway: this setup is so new, so unconventional, that it deserves a chance to succeed or fail on the merits. And you can’t pass judgment on those merits until we see them in action.