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Francis, Peters Digest 2015-16 Season

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
After spending an hour inside the Carolina Hurricanes’ locker room talking with members of the team as they cleaned out their stalls for the summer, it was time to move on to the media room to hear from Hurricanes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis and head coach Bill Peters, as they assess the 2015-16 season and look ahead to the offseason and beyond.

Above, you can see the near-30-minute press conference in its entirety, and below are some highlights.

On Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce jumping in and making significant contributions

Peters: “It doesn’t happen. It’s unbelievable.”

Francis: “I think our plan was to let these kids play in Charlotte … and then work them into our lineup as the season went along. Because of injuries and circumstances, we had to kind of throw them into the fire early. But to sit here and say we expected the kids to play as well as they did, I don’t think either of us can sit here and say they were honestly capable of doing that. I give a lot of credit to Bill and the staff. They didn’t hide these guys or bench them when they made a mistake. We played them in all situations. … They’re hungry, they wanted to be here, they wanted to listen and learn. They’re big, skate and move the puck, and they’re talented. That’s exciting for us.”

On the progression of the culture inside the locker room

Francis: “I think guys understand now that coming to work and working hard every day is not an option; it’s expected of you. I think we’ve taken good strides in that regard. It was mentioned to me a couple times this year on the road that there were groups of 15 or 16 guys going out to dinner, which is really unheard of. So I think there is a good nucleus and culture in the direction we’re going in, and that’s exciting for me.”

On assessing the season as a whole or on how it finished

Peters: “You look at different segments of the year. There are stretches I thought we played real well; I thought we were a real good team in January and February and did a good job post-deadline playing hard. … I think we have a real good read on all of our players. We’re very realistic on where they’re at, whether they can help us next year or longer. We’re very comfortable with our young, core group. I think there’s lots to build off of.”

On the importance of returning to the playoffs next season

Francis: “I think our goal each and every year is to make the playoffs, and when you don’t make it it’s obviously disappointing. I do feel there is more of a positive vibe about the direction we’re heading in. I think there are some exciting things, especially with the youth in our lineup and the direction we’re going in that regard. There’s always the risk with one guys that there could be growing pains … and there might be some bumps in the road, but certainly they look pretty special, especially on the back-end.”

On goal scorers, and whether the Canes can find that within or will have to search elsewhere

Francis: “Certainly the guy that stands out for me in our lineup as a goal scorer is Jeff Skinner. With any kind of luck this year, he probably could have had 40. They just have a knack for knowing where to go and where to stand and the puck seems to find them at the right time. … I think there are guys in our lineup we feel can contribute more, but we also think there are guys in the system who can hopefully step in and contribute. If we have to go out there to look at adding pieces to help in that regard, we’re certainly not shy of doing that.”

On assessing the goaltending situation and what options are there moving forward

Francis: “The big question is Cam and his situation. I know he takes some criticism at times about his numbers. … We’ll look at what Cam did and where he is with our organization. We’ll look at what our options are if we go down the free agency route. We’ll continue to make phone calls to see what’s out there in possible trades. And then we have to make the decision that’s best for our organization moving forward.”

On Cam Ward and his future

Francis: “I think it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, let’s turn the page and move forward.’ But if it doesn’t make us better? We have to do our due diligence and make sure that we’re making the decision that makes the organization better. That may be signing Cam or it may be going in a different direction. I know it’s tough for him with the situation he’s in as a player to sit there and not know what’s going on.”

On the captaincy heading into next season

Francis: “We’ll sit down as a staff and talk about it, but I’m comfortable heading into next season, if we don’t feel we have the right person for the long haul, leaving that position open and going with assistants, but that will be something we talk about over the course of the summer.”

On restricted free agents Victor Rask, Joakim Nordstrom and Ryan Murphy

Francis: “We’ve had some, and we’ll continue to heat those up as we move forward. I don’t expect any issues with any of those guys. I think they like being here and appreciate the opportunity they have. Hopefully we’ll be fair and get something done.”

On decisions to be made on unrestricted free agents

Francis: “We’ve had some preliminary discussions, but we’ll continue those over the next couple of weeks and formulate a final plan as we move forward.”

On strategy heading into free agency on July 1

Francis: “We’ll continue to do homework on guys who are available on July 1. I’ll say the same thing today that I say every year and I’ve said since I took the position: it really comes down to if the contract makes sense in term and dollars. … We think there certainly will be guys available on July 1 who are interesting. If we can get the right guy at the right term and money, we’re all about doing that.”

On what hockey analyst Eric Tulsky brings to the table and how that affects decision-making

Francis: “I think he is an extremely bright mind, and he thinks a little bit outside the box. My interpretation of analytics is that it’s a balance and check. What I may be seeing or what I think I’m seeing with my eyes, it gives me a chance to back up what I’m seeing or question what I’m seeing. He does a lot of neat things.”

Peters: “I think it’s been an unbelievably valuable asset to our organization. I enjoy the conversations with Eric and the information he puts out to us as coaches. It’s very thought-provoking and helpful. He makes you better. It makes you think and think through different scenarios and situations. It’s all about finding ways to be more successful. I embrace it.”

Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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