Carolina Hurricanes: A Complacent and Losing Culture

Jan 31, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner (53) celebrates his second period goal with forward Jay McClement (18) and forward Lee Stempniak (21) defensemen Justin Faulk (27) against the Philadelphia Flyers at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 31, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner (53) celebrates his second period goal with forward Jay McClement (18) and forward Lee Stempniak (21) defensemen Justin Faulk (27) against the Philadelphia Flyers at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Carolina Hurricanes are in dire straits. Can anything save the young franchise?

On Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes suffered a horrible loss. Any playoff hopes that were still alive died at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Once again, Carolina’s season ended before the trade deadline. With dwindling attendance and endless relocation rumors — something needs to change. The current combination of talent, coaching, and personnel is not working. Whether it’s a blockbuster trade, a coaching change, or putting someone (Cam Ward) on waivers; a shake-up is in order. PNC Arena has become a bastion of failure.

Gone are the days of epic tailgates. The “Loudest Building in the NHL” is now just a ringing cowbell and a couple of fans blowing vuvuzelas. What once was the hottest ticket in town can now be found on StubHub for under ten dollars. The team is on life support.

Many current NHL powerhouses found themselves in the same situation as the Hurricanes. The Chicago Blackhawks struggled with attendance in the early 2000’s but now are perennial Stanley Cup contenders. The 2003 Pittsburgh Penguins only won 23 games and averaged less than 12,000 fans per game. They have since won two championships. It’s possible for the Hurricanes to dig out of the hole they have put themselves in. Some sort of effort needs to be made to put complacency aside and restore the dignity of the franchise. The Carolina Hurricanes must renew their commitment to excellence by making some steps in the right direction

Ron Francis must bring in more talent

With every loss, the list of Carolina players that are “untouchable” gets shorter and shorter. Ron Francis cannot afford to sit on his hands any longer.  Stockpiling assets and draft picks only works if the team turns them into wins.  A quick look at the standings shows how well that transition is going.   Hurricanes fans have been told to be patient for way too long. The franchise cannot sustain through two more years of rebuilding and it is becoming increasingly clear that the current “core” is not the answer.

Numerous articles have been penned about hypothetical swaps of Carolina defenseman and [insert team looking for defense here]. The Hurricanes have a plethora of young top-end defensive talent are looking for help in the top-six. This season, trade rumors surrounded Noah Hanifin and

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Justin Faulk. With little over a week left until the trade deadline; those rumors appear to be only rumors and nothing more.  Ron Francis does not show the desire to make a blockbuster-type trade. The Carolina brass seems content on building through the draft and shaking down cap-strapped teams. While this may be the “way to go” to ensure long-term success – it does nothing in the interim.

The front office lacks a sense of urgency to win. The glaring holes on the team are evident, yet the issues still go unaddressed. Fans are taking notice. Attendance is slipping to levels not seen since the team played in Greensboro.

Holding people accountable

Just to be clear, the Hurricanes should not part ways with Bill Peters. For much of the season, Peters made a rag-tag bunch of AHLers and professional journeymen compete for a playoff spot. It is hard to imagine what he could do with a team chock-full of talent. However, for better or for worse, coaches are often pegged as scapegoats in today’s NHL. Will the blame fall squarely on Peters?  A very unlikely scenario given his reputation around the league. 

A more possible and logical move would be parting ways with Rod Brind’Amour. I wrote about that in depth here. No matter what he accomplished a decade ago, Brind’Amour’s body of work since stepping behind the bench is not impressive.  Sending him packing would convey a much-needed message to fans. A message that states Carolina is holding all personnel, regardless of legacy, accountable for the team’s performance. This is the formula for building a winning culture.

Cut ties with a Conn Smythe winner

Cam Ward. The mere mention of the name sends Caniacs into a frenzy. Some defend his performance until death; others bend over backward digging into stats to prove his play is agonizingly sub-par. The twelve-year veteran is the only player left from Carolina’s 2006 Stanley Cup win. Unfortunately, Ward has become more of a sign of failure than glory.

As stated, the Hurricanes need to ditch the losing culture and get back to their winning ways. There is no better way to do this than cut the player who has been present every minute of the eight-year playoff drought. The Canes should waive Cam Ward. There are many issues on this team, but none more obvious than the situation in net. Yes, Ward’s stats are abysmal; but this is bigger than save-percentages. It is about appearance. If nothing else, waiving Ward would be a facade that makes it seem Ron Francis is at least trying to improve the team. This move may be met with ire by some but would restore goodwill with most.

Lip service only goes so far

"“I need the fans to be even more patient than they have been” – Peter Karmanos (2014)"

Karmanos muttered this infamous quote as reported by Luke DeCock just as Hurricanes were about to conclude their fifth consecutive year without playoffs. Here we are, three years later, and still, no playoff hockey can be found in Raleigh. How many more years must Caniacs be patient? Carolina fans have endured so many lackluster seasons that even the most die-hards are starting to walk. In a non-traditional market like the Triangle, this is simply not a sustainable business model.

Next: Canes should Trade for Alex Galchenyuk

When winning, Raleigh has proven it is a hockey town. Nonetheless, the Carolina Hurricanes are just a shell of their former selves. The curtain seems to be closing but all is not lost. With a couple drastic moves and a renewed sense of urgency by Ron Francis, fans will start to trickle back into PNC Arena. Hopefully, it is not too late. This summer will tell Canes fans everything they need to know about the future of the franchise.