The Hurricanes announced a number of changes to their hockey operations department Friday, with Eric Tulsky and Darren Yorke both promoted to assistant general managers and Aaron Schwartz brought in as the new Director of Hockey Operations.
The team also announced its official helmet ad sponsor for the season, and it’s not exactly a surprise:
Let’s take a deeper look at the Hurricanes’ new hires and what their positions entail:
As director of hockey operations, Schwartz will work on player contract negotiations (a role previously held by Paul Krepelka, who took an assistant GM job with the Panthers this offseason), CBA and salary cap management and more.
“Obviously [Schwartz] played some in the minor hockey league, was an agent more recently,” said Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell. “I think it’s important, as you mentioned with Paul, it’s a whole different side of the table when you’re on the team side vs. the agent side. There’s a lot more rules and regulations you have to follow. We want to make sure we do that. I think it’s a nice benefit for Aaron for sure. When we interviewed Aaron and we all talked to him, I think we all came across thinking that there will be learning experiences but he’s got some of the background of what has to happen in negotiating players’ contracts.”
Schwartz won’t exactly ease into his new role, as the Hurricanes have two pivotal contract negotiations looming with Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton.
Tulsky, coming into his seventh year with the Hurricanes after previously serving as the vice president of hockey management and strategy, will take on an increased role in pro scouting as well as running the hockey information department.
“We talk a lot about having a collaborative front office,” Tulsky said. “It’s not easy to do that and get a lot of people’s input without having things well organized and well structured. So a lot of what Darren and I are aiming to do is help make sure all of these different groups are well integrated with each other and have all the information they need.”
Tulsky began publishing hockey statistical analysis in 2011, and has continued his work in analytics throughout that time. Waddell said there’s nothing the Hurricanes do that involves analytics, particularly in their decision-making on players.
For Tulsky, the most important part of his department is making sure everyone in the organization has all the different information they need to make decisions, analytics or otherwise.
“Ultimately, everything is information, whether it’s information about what somebody saw when they were watching a game, or what data we have recorded by the people sitting in the box for the NHL and recording stats,” Tulsky said. “It’s all just different kinds of information. And our group’s job is to help organize information and make it available to people, and also do some research into what you can do with it and how it can be used. That research is the part of the group that I would call analytics.”
For Tulsky, though huge strides have been made in the types of statistics and information available in recent years, he knows there’s still more to come in the future.
“I think we’ve stepped off the sidewalk, but there’s a lot of road in front of us,” Tulsky said. “Hockey’s a complicated game. The data that we had up until now is all basically just individual events. As we get into a world where we’re tracking where every player is at all times, there’s a lot more you can learn about what people are doing individually and how it impacts results, so there’s only going to be more that we can say as that information becomes more available and we have a longer history with it.”
This is Yorke’s 12th season with Carolina, and he previously served as the director of player personnel. He’ll be involved with all player personnel decisions, as well as take charge of amateur scouting, player development and the draft.
Yorke will have his work cut out for him this season with many prospects in a key stage of their development. With the whole hockey world turned upside down by COVID-19, the arena of player development is no different. There’s uncertainty about the CHL season, and the Hurricanes will have some prospects playing around the globe, with their new AHL affiliate in Chicago and on the team’s NHL taxi squad.
Communication will be key in making the right decisions for development.
“When there’s uncertainty, knowing who and when you need to communicate something is imperative,” Yorke said. “So I think dealing with the year that we’re all dealing with, it’s going to make us better. So the biggest thing is having the structure in place, and some of these conversations have happened last March in terms of what we need to do and how we need to do it based off the assumptions we knew then. That allows us to make the plan moving forward.”
One new wrinkle for the Hurricanes’ farm system this year will be sharing their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, with the Nasheville Predators’ organization, following Nasheville’s affiliate in Milwaukee opting out of the AHL season.
Waddell said the team did not have enough players who qualified to play in the AHL to fill out a full roster under contract, so finding the right partner both to fill the team and share expenses made sense.
For Yorke, there’s another side of it from a player development standpoint.
“For anyone that has kids, you always talk about that student to teacher ratio,” Yorke said. “It’s a unique situation we’re in. This gives us a lot higher ratio of players to cope with. So it allows our staff to spend some more one-on-one time teaching the players and working on the little details that they need to make it to the NHL.”