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Hurricanes bracing for winds of change

Future of coach uncertain, players must be better, says owner

by Kurt Dusterberg / Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Changes are coming for the Carolina Hurricanes. That was the message owner Tom Dundon delivered Monday as he took an active role in the end-of-season exit interviews with the players.

More will be expected from the players next season, both mentally and competitively, said Dundon, who became the owner Jan. 11.

"Either the players have to be tougher or you have to bring in tougher players," he said. "I'm easy, I'll take either one.

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"We will have to see when they get back (for training camp) if their bodies are bigger, stronger, faster, and if their attitudes are consistent with what they told me they will be. I don't think any of them were good enough, so we had that conversation. And I don't think any of them thought they were."

Justin Williams, who returned to Carolina in 2017-18 after eight seasons with the Los Angles Kings and Washington Capitals, warned that the Hurricanes need to take responsibility for their identity.

"The will needs to get stronger," Williams said. "Mediocrity is a very, very slippery slope. You need to be going one way or the other. This team is kind of mired in mediocrity right now. That's not acceptable for anybody."

Changes may involve more than the players.

Coach Bill Peters has one season remaining on his contract, but Dundon said no decision about his return has been made.

"He does have an option to consider things," Dundon said, referencing a reported opt-out clause in Peters' contract. "I've got options to consider things. So today, he's the coach, and he's a hard-working guy and he does a great job. There are a lot of positive things about Bill, and there are things Bill needs to work on."

Peters was not present Monday.

The Hurricanes (36-35-11, 83 points), finished 14 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the final playoff spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Carolina has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of Peters' four seasons and for each of the past nine seasons.

"I don't have an understanding with anybody about what's going to happen tomorrow," Dundon said. "So, it's not about Bill. I don't want anyone to be comfortable. Everyone has to do it different if they want to be part of the way I want to do things. He's still the coach of the team. We want him to be better. Him and I are going to work to be better. Assuming we get where we need to get, we will be fine."

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Among the items on Dundon's short-term to-do list is finding a general manager to replace Ron Francis, who was re-assigned to the position of president of hockey operations on March 7. Several candidates were approached in March, and Dundon said Monday he continues to talk with people about the position.

Team president Don Waddell is the acting GM.

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