A word of advice to fans of the Carolina Hurricanes. Just be patient. That is likely not what many want to hear, especially the diehard fans, the “Caniacs,” the season ticket holders. But, in light of all of the upheaval that has taken place within the franchise, it’s a realistic way to approach the upcoming season.
Patient with the ‘Francis Foundation’
By now, we all know that Hurricanes former general manager and executive vice-president Ron Francis was planning his work and working his plan. He had a vision in mind of a team full of talented young players that would grow together and meld into a playoff-caliber squad. The Francis foundation was coming along, albeit too slowly for some, but it was, for all intents and purposes, coming along.
He was stymied by former owner Peter Karmanos, who was constantly rumored to be too tight to let Francis acquire a player from another team that had the proven skills the Hurricanes needed to make that elusive playoff run. Back in 2014 when he was just getting his general manager’s feet wet, it appeared that Francis had gotten hold of Karmanos’ checkbook. He signed Ron Hainsey to a three-year deal, Nathan Gerbe to a two-year deal and even Chris Terry got a one-year deal.
Over the next four years, Francis made some good draft picks, acquiring ten to use in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Arguably his best pick was in the second round where he got Sebastian Aho, the current player that new owner Tom Dundon said is the only player on the roster that is not up for grabs. Francis did well in using the draft to build the depth of the franchise, but he was either unable due to financial constraints or unwilling to pull the trigger on any type of deal that would bring proven talent to the team.
Patient with a Flaccid Offense
The team has needed and still needs a difference-maker on offense, without which the Hurricanes will never advance to the playoffs. They need a proven veteran talent like New York Islanders forward John Tavares to come in and bring life to what has been a flaccid offense for years. Yes, the team has Aho, and Jeff Skinner is capable of going off for 40 goals at any time. The Hurricanes definitely should not trade Skinner this season, but give him a chance to regain his scoring prowess under new head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
The fans have been patient with the team as the offense has underperformed and will likely have to be patient again if moves are not made in the coming weeks to bolster the Hurricanes’ offense. Dundon has said that he is not likely to back up a truck filled with cash for a player, but he might need to rethink that if he wants to see his team playing in May or June.
The team answered questions from fans on its website recently and addressed trades and free agents. Michael Smith wrote for the team, “Free agency is going to be more of a gamble, considering there could be 31 teams vying for the services of a single player. The Hurricanes will be able to make a compelling pitch – helping a team take that next step with a new head coach in a desirable market to live in – but will they be competitive in dollar amount and term to seal the deal and potentially land a more marquee name? That’s the biggest unknown.”
Tavares is one of a few players that are likely to hit the free agent market in a few weeks. Sportsnet recently listed 20 of the top free agents that are likely to be available at month’s end. Tavares heads the list which is filled with quite a few players that could help the Hurricanes right away. While the hiring of Lou Lamoriello by the Islanders may give them an edge in keeping Tavares in an Islanders sweater. Also, there will be a bunch of teams that court Tavares, so it would not pay for Hurricanes fans to hold their collective breath on him coming to Raleigh.
One of the names on the Top 20 list is Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward James van Riemsdyk, whose brother Trevor is a defenseman with the Hurricanes. Here is a player that the ‘Canes might legitimately have a shot of signing. Franklin Steele of the Bleacher Report wrote that van Riemsdyk will also have plenty of suitors:
Van Riemsdyk is another player who can find the back of the net with regularity, and teams with cap space and a desire for more offense could look the way of the 29-year-old forward.
The Hurricanes have a lot of cap space and maybe playing alongside his brother will be enough to win JVR over to the ‘Canes. While Steele opined that he thinks the Colorado Avalanche would be a great fit for van Riemsdyk, the Hurricanes would be, also.
Congratulations to James van Riemsdyk as he has the most career NHL goals (201) and points (393) of UNH Wildcats that have played in the NHL! He played his ninth NHL season this year and led the Maple Leafs with 36 goals! #GoUNH pic.twitter.com/zrJ7KgumZ0
— UNH Men's Hockey (@UNHMHOCKEY) June 2, 2018
Please Caniacs, Be Patient
The likelihood of the Hurricanes signing a difference-making free agent is not very great. Perhaps there will be some trading taking place that will bolster the team’s offense. Of course, there is still the goalie situation that needs to be resolved. But, the most likely scenario is that the Hurricanes’ fans will need to be patient with their new head coach as Brind’Amour gets his first-year experience as such.
The “Caniacs” will need to be patient as likely first-round draft pick Andrei Svechnikov learns the system. He may be all that he is being hyped to be, but Haydn Fleury was hyped, too. It took him several years to break onto NHL ice. They will need to be patient if there are major changes to the roster, and guys like co-captain Justin Faulk are gone after so many years. Some fans will welcome that scenario, but patience will be required nevertheless.
The consistent missing of the playoffs for nearly a decade now is wearing on the fan base. With a new owner, new general manager and new head coach, all the team can do is ask the fans to be patient, and hold out hope that the team is on the right track. Again.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.