Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, announced today that he would be stepping down as GM of the club after the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. The Hurricanes (31-31-9) are expected to miss the post season for the fifth consecutive year since the Eastern Conference Finals run ended against the Penguins in 2009. While mathematically still possible, the Canes are 11 points out of a playoff spot with only 11 games remaining.
In a statement made to the NC media, Rutherford said that he would be stepping aside as general manager of the team and that hockey decisions would have to come from other sources. It is unclear at this time whether he will stay on as President of the club, or if he will relinquish power all together.
It is expected, although not yet confirmed, that the Hurricanes will promote VP of hockey operations Ron Francis at the end of the season. Francis has been with the team in a front office role, as well as behind the bench as an assistant coach for many years, and it appears as though he’s been groomed for the GM spot for whenever Rutherford’s time was up.
Rutherford helped bring hockey to North Carolina and led the team to the ultimate prize: a Stanley Cup in 2006. Unfortunately, hockey is a “what have you done for me lately” career, and Rutherford’s reputation has been diminished over time as the Hurricanes continue to miss out on the post season.
The repercussions of this move will be unclear until hockey gets started next season. If Francis is indeed the GM of the team next year, how much of a change will there really be? He’s been with Rutherford for years and some fans believe that the new GM should be someone who comes from outside the organization so that new ideas can be brought to light. Another spot that might be affected by the move is that of head coach Kirk Muller’s. Muller has one year left on his coaching contract, but will he be permitted to see that to the end if a new GM is in play?
Several team sources have also indicated a major shift in player personnel could be coming in the off season. Many reports say that almost everyone on the Canes’ roster could be available for the right price during this year’s NHL entry draft, including Cam Ward, Eric Staal, and Jeff Skinner. Any of these moves would be substantial ones in the eyes of fans, and these reports signify that a major change could be coming soon.
The reports of Rutherford stepping down came hours after the team announced that they had extended 22 year old defenseman Justin Faulk to a six year deal with an average annual value of $4.8 million per year. Faulk has been an integral part of the defense for a few years, and will still continue to grow and develop how he gets older.
The season looks lost for the Hurricanes, but with the GM position suddenly open and players being put on the block, it looks like there could be major changes coming in the near future.