Change has been rampant among the Carolina Hurricanes this offseason. Franchise players have been traded to other destinations. Captains have come and gone. Youth has taken a forefront in the resurgence of the franchise. But the dynamic broadcasting duo of John Forslund and Tripp Tracy remains a pair of familiar faces around PNC Arena.
Forslund and Tracy return for their 21st season together as Fox Sports Carolinas play-by-play announcers after the Hurricanes agreed to a contract extension with the pair on July 1st. The two sat down recently with Canes Country to preview the upcoming season.
The Hurricanes will be without another longtime player as Justin Faulk was shipped out to the St. Louis Blues after seeing Jeff Skinner shipped out a season ago. Forslund says he watched Faulk mature from a boy to a man and spoke highly of Faulk’s character. “I have nothing but great things to say about him. I think he was a leader for this team. I think he was an outstanding person in the community and I think his heart was always in the right place,” says Forslund. “It’s going to be a different dynamic without him on the team moving forward, in my opinion.”
The veteran broadcaster says Faulk battled through inconsistencies, put his head down and went to work, despite being on some teams that aren’t as deep as the Canes current defensive corps stands.
Tracy recalled his first memory of Faulk, watching him on a Hurricanes road trip in his hotel room in Atlanta as Faulk quarterbacked the Minnesota-Duluth power play. He says Faulk has always been “a very important teammate in the dressing room” and was a vital part of the chemistry formed during the 2018-19 season that saw the Hurricanes clinch their first playoff berth since the 2008-09 season. He said Faulk elevated his game down the stretch and into the playoffs and flourished in playoff hockey, recalling the third period and both overtime periods against the Washington Capitals in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With Calvin de Haan now in Chicago and Faulk in St. Louis, Forslund raised the question of who will step up on the penalty kill, citing new addition Joel Edmunson as a target to step up and fill big minutes. Forslund says the newly acquired defenseman’s “mean streak” will be a welcomed addition.
For his part, Tracy sees Dougie Hamilton as a candidate to step up more in front of his own net. “There’s a lot more to give on the defensive side of things for Dougie Hamilton,” he says. Tracy says Hamilton looks more comfortable so far this year and cites his offensive game as a strength that the Hurricanes can rely on.
The Hurricanes added Erik Haula and Ryan Dzingel over the offseason as a way to balance out their top-9 and fill the hole left behind by the departure of Justin Williams. All eyes will be on Martin Necas as he makes his full-time NHL debut. But what Forslund and Tracy have their eyes on is the next step for Andrei Svechnikov.
The rookie put together a solid rookie season, with 37 points in the regular season and five points in nine games in the playoffs. “As an 18-year old first year player, they did an excellent job insulating him, making sure he was playing on a line where he wasn’t going to be overly taxed with big-time defensive matchups,” said Forlsund.
“I get the sense, no matter what type of success, financial gain, notoriety, celebrity status that Andrei Svechnikov either already has or will continue to enjoy, that his insatiable appetite and competitive nature and lack of complacency will always be a part of who he is,” said Tracy. Tracy said he spoke to Svechnikov about his summer plans and the sophomore year forward spent his summer in a “non-glamorous” part of Russia training. He says the young star looks faster and his shot even more dangerous than it was in his rookie year.
An offensive improvement from Svechnikov would go a long way to replacing the offensive contribution provided last year by the now-departed Justin Williams. The leadership in the locker room is another thing, and both Forslund and Tracy said that having a single captain was a step that the Hurricanes needed to take this season. Forslund even went a step further and, even though our conversation was five days before the team made their announcement, said outright that Jordan Staal was the favorite to get the job.
“There has to be that one driving force that can do what Williams did last year,” said Forslund. “I’ve said this in a couple of other interviews: In my opinion, in a singular season, Justin Williams had one of the best efforts of a captain I’ve ever seen.” Forslund says the leadership and effort that Williams had last year will be a “tough act to follow.” With the influx of new players since the end of the 2018-19 season, Forslund believes leadership will be vital.
In regards to TSN’s recent player poll on the vitality of the captaincy, Tracy offered a different point of view. “I absolutely think a captain is required and a necessity,” said Tracy. The veteran broadcaster recalled the 2006 Stanley Cup championship and how it was a collective group of leaders led by Rod Brind’Amour. “He had an uncanny ability to keep guys accountable and if bad habits or trends were occurring, he would point them out and nip that right in the butt without carving a guy or without being overly critical,” Tracy said on Brind’Amour’s leadership.
Tracy said the narrative changed when Brind’Amour took over as coach and Williams was named captain. In the past, Tracy says the response from players in the media tended to be excuses such as a hot goaltender, bad luck or having analytics on their side but not the scoreboard. This time around, accountability was at the forefront and excuses were on the backburner.
And this season, the Hurricanes have even more to prove. Not simply content to be relevant anymore, they know that building on last season’s success will be paramount, and Forslund and Tracy will be there to chronicle it all.
The two will be back in the booth on Thursday for their 21st season opener when the Hurricanes take on the Montreal Canadiens at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Carolinas.