Sunday, 5 August 2018

Hurricane-Style Destruction

Don Waddell, pictured to the left, is a hockey executive with a seemingly solid background when it comes to the different schools of hockey learning. He was a player, he moved into a management role, he has been a pro scout, and he's currently the man in charge of everything to do with the Carolina Hurricanes as president and general manager of the NHL team. For everything that Don Waddell has done, though, it seems his legacy in NHL management will be the destruction of NHL teams that had bright futures. While I get that some of the dismantling of teams has come because of owners not wanting to spend dollars on talented players, the fact that Don Waddell continually gets hired by NHL clubs with his track record makes me wonder how this happens.

In his most recent move, sniper Jeff Skinner was dealt to the Buffalo Sabres for what appears to be a prospect, some magic beans, and a partridge in a pear tree. While the prospect, Cliff Pu, may turn out to be a solid acquisition, the fact that Skinner waived his no-trade clause to leave Carolina - a team that challenged for a playoff spot last season right to the very end - has to be a warning flare to fans of the Hurricanes. There have been moves to remove long-time personnel, trades that seemingly diluted the talent pool, and decisions that makes one wonder if the Hurricanes - currently mired in the NHL's longest non-playoff drought - will ever return to the postseason.

I have no idea who the Hurricanes plan on marketing as their star this season, but Jordan Staal and Justin Williams might be the only names recognizable to the casual hockey fan. Victor Rask, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Valentin Zykov, and Andrei Svechnikov aren't exactly household names around any NHL fan's household at this moment, but they do hold potential. It's realizing that potential that will tasked to Rod Brind'Amour behind the bench, and I hope he can find a way to extract it. Otherwise, this might be a trying year.

I guess it comes down to not understanding why Noah Hanifin was dealt away, why Elias Lindholm was dealt away, why Jeff Skinner was dealt away, why Justin Faulk is apparently available for the right price, why Ron Francis was axed, and why Chuck Kaiton was so blatantly disrespected. I don't understand why Don Waddell is gutting what appeared to be an on-the-rise organization unless owner Tom Dundon is pulling the strings. If that's the case, Waddell should be looking at the hockey side in order to continue to rise, not reset and start over.

I could understand if Hanifin was dealt straight-up for Dougie Hamilton as those two players are similar in their approaches to the game, but the deal to move Lindholm for Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox screams "future", not "present". Fox appears to be heading towards a solid NHL future, but he's not there yet. Lindholm, meanwhile, is coming into his own and could have been a breakout star for the Hurricanes this season. We'll never know, unfortunately, because the contract squabble that Lindholm and Waddell got into meant his time with the North Carolina franchise was short. As it turned out, he'll wear the colours of the Flames for the next few seasons after signing a deal there shortly after being traded there.

As much as I like the Calvin de Haan signing and the Trevor van Riemsdyk re-signing to bolster the defence, the goaltending situation has to be addressed at some point since Scott Darling saw the wheels come off last season. Petr Mrazek, signed on July 1, can be a capable backup, but if reports from Detroit that he's a problem in the locker room surface combined with numbers that were less than admirable in Detroit and Philadelphia last season come to fruition again, the Hurricanes will need more than just life preserver to keep them afloat in that storm. Goaltending is the backbone of NHL teams, and the lack of consistent, dependable netminding is the easiest way to the draft lottery. Waddell should be aware of this from his time in Atlanta, but I digress.

You can make whatever case you want for Jeff Skinner being moved, but 24 goals, including 20 at even-strength, isn't being replaced this season by Cliff Pu and the bag of marbles that Waddell got back. And maybe Waddell is confident that Andrei Svechnikov can replace Skinner this season when it comes to scoring, but there remains a cautionary tale in Waddell's judge of talent when drafting Russians from the Barrie Colts. Alexander Burmistrov was admittedly not as good as Svechnikov was in junior hockey, but his drop-off in production at the NHL level was entirely noticeable. Unless Svechnikov, who I am not that familiar with as a player, is built differently than Burmistrov is - Svechnikov is an inch taller and six pounds heavier, FYI - I'm hoping he has a few other tricks up his sleeve that allow him to prosper.

I'm not entirely certain what the end goal is for Don Waddell and the Carolina Hurricanes, but they are honestly worse than they were last season on paper when they looked to push for a playoff spot at the end of the season. For the life of me, I don't understand the direction this team has moved in since owner Tom Dundon started calling the shots and GM Ron Francis was summarily dismissed from his job in favour of Waddell. I want to like the Hurricanes as a darkhorse team for the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but I can only see darkness where hope once lived.

Unless a number of things go right, it seems the Hurricanes might be lost at sea this season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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