Although not much has changed in terms of player personnel for the Carolina Hurricanes, the front office looks a lot different than it did a year ago.
Long-time team President and General Manager Jim Rutherford stepped down and handed the reins over to Ronnie Francis, giving Francis control of all hockey operations. Rutherford, who was expected to remain on as President, then took the vacant General Manager position with Pittsburg, putting to rest the notions that he would be using Francis as a puppet for future team decisions.
The Hurricanes then hired Mike Vellucci as the assistant General Manager and the Director of Hockey Operations. Vellucci was the former coach of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers and was voted coach of the year during the 2006-07 season.
Francis didn’t waste any time putting his stamp on the organization. Within days of his promotion, he fired head coach Kirk Muller and much of the coaching staff in a move to clean house and get a new staff in place. His first task at hand was to replace Muller, and he did just that with the hiring of Bill Peters.
Peters served as an assistant coach in Detroit for the last three seasons, where he specialized in defense and penalty killing. He brings a tenacious attitude behind the bench that has been lacking since Peter Laviolette was fired in 2008. In his introductory press conference, Peters showed his no-nonsense personality when he declared that he had the “ultimate hammer” when it came to player performance, and that hammer was ice time. His plan is to hold players accountable, something that is much needed on a team in which several big names consistently underperform.
Nothing drastic has happened to the roster just yet. While many speculated that goaltender Cam Ward could be traded at the 2014 NHL Draft, Francis stated that the plan was to move forward with both Ward and Anton Khudobin as their one-two punch between the pipes. The Hurricanes used the 7th selection in the draft to select Haydn Fleury, a big defenseman that strengthens the blue-line depth in the system. The Hurricanes also selected Josh Wesley in the 4th round. Wesley is the son of defenseman
Glen Wesley who raised the Stanley Cup with the Canes in 2006. Josh becomes the first home-grown North Carolina player to be drafted to the NHL.
The Hurricanes were quiet on the opening day of free agency, signing only depth center Brad Malone, a move made most likely to replace center Manny Malhotra, who signed in Montreal as a free agent.
There are still moves to be made via free agency, but with hands bound by current salary, it will be difficult for the Hurricanes to make any dramatic roster-changing moves heading into the 2014-15 season. With Peters behind the bench and Francis steering the ship, the Hurricanes hope to break the streak of five consecutive seasons with no playoffs and make the postseason.