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Tweetmail No. 14: Coaching and Fresh Starts

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Michael Smith

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Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully, the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.

Let’s get to it.

Who are the major candidates for the head coaching job? – Brendan (@gwarfan37)

Not surprisingly, this – or some variant – was the question of the week. I’m not going to be able to answer it definitively, though, because I simply don’t know who Ron Francis is considering. In fact, Francis said in Monday’s media availability that he didn’t have any one person in mind but would start with a short list and move forward from there.

As for what Francis is looking for in his new bench boss, he had this to say: “The biggest thing I’m looking for is a guy that’s a teacher,” he said. “You have to be accountable as a player, and having someone in that position that holds them accountable wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Here’s a quick list of some notable and available names with previous NHL head coaching experience: Barry Trotz, John Tortorella, Kevin Dineen, Peter Laviolette, Ron Wilson, John Stevens and Terry Murray. Then there are names like Ulf Samuelsson, Phil Housley, Rod Brind’Amour and Jeff Daniels who have coaching experience as an assistant in the NHL or as the head boss in the AHL.

Where it goes from here is anyone’s best guess, but the search is indeed open.

Say Francis doesn’t hire a coach by the Draft. At what point in the summer does he absolutely need a coach in place? – Liz O. (@emohrberg)

Before we get to the hypothetical answer, let’s first note that Francis, in his Monday media availability, said he would like to have a new head coach in place by the 2014 NHL Draft, which takes place June 27-28 in Philadelphia. It’s not that the head coach has input in who the team drafts – he doesn’t, really – but getting that person in place as soon as possible is ideal.

With that said, in the unlikely scenario that a coach is not in place by the Draft, hiring someone by the Canes’ annual prospects development camp in mid-July would be a top priority.

In reality, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new head coach introduced before the end of May.

What is your favorite memory from the Muller era? – Mason L. (@MasonLyttle)

Nearly three months after I started this job with the Canes as their web producer, the team underwent a coaching change. It’s something for which, even if it had been trending in that direction, you can’t prepare yourself. Behind the scenes, there are a lot of moving pieces and, at times, a lot of uncertainty.

Ultimately, Muller was tapped as the head coach and was introduced at a press conference later that evening. That, combined with the fresh-faced exuberance he expressed to one of the larger media contingents in Raleigh after the morning skate the next day is something I still remember.

Aside from his first days with the club, it was always fun to casually chat with him after the camera lights turned off and the recording lights stopped blinking. He had a wide-ranging career and collected an amalgam of nuggets along the way. Sometimes it seemed like he had shared the ice with every veteran player in the league at one point or another.

Perhaps buried in the hubbub of Monday’s coaching change was the fact that three good people lost their jobs. Unfortunately, that’s the business, but I’m glad I got the pleasure to speak with Muller, Dave Lewis and John MacLean on a fairly regular basis, and I wish them all the best in the future.

Do you see the “fresh start” Francis mentioned as a total rebuild or a minor retooling of the roster? – David S. (@dshort_0610)

I don’t see it as either, really, and here’s why.

In my eyes, the Canes iced one of their best teams in recent history, sheer talent-wise, in 2013-14. For this reason or that, something that has been extensively scrutinized, the team missed the playoffs by 10 points.

Since then, Jim Rutherford stepped aside as general manager, a position he held for 20 years and a decision he said was inevitable despite the season’s outcome, and Francis was tapped as the team’s new GM. A week later, he relieved Muller, MacLean and Lewis of their coaching duties in his first major move. Now, the roster is going to be examined.

“Just because we change coaches doesn’t mean that everything is status quo in the locker room,” Francis said in Monday’s media availability. “We do need to evaluate that.”

I don’t think this team is in need of a total rebuild, and I don’t believe Francis does either.

“I think there are good pieces in the locker room,” he said. “Talent-wise, I think we’re capable of competing.”

That said, I think everything is under consideration – from the organization’s philosophy on drafting players, to how the organization develops players, to what kind of team the Canes put together, to the very make-up of that team – for the first time in some time. This could certainly lead to more than a minor retool.

And that’s the nexus of this fresh start: examining every facet of the organization with a careful and critical eye with the goal of building a team that is successful in the long term.


Join me next week for more questions and more answers!

If you have a question you’d like answered, please do reach out to me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes.

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