Jim “Not the Goalie” Howard recaps the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2018-19 season — in three parts!
Last year, Tom Dundon became the new majority owner of the Carolina Hurricanes. Shortly after he stepped in, the hockey world sat up and took notice of the irreverent moves that he made. Let’s take a look at what happened since then and how it has impacted the Hurricanes’ organization this season.
When we last left Dundon, we were asking if he was the most interesting man in hockey for some of the controversial moves that he had made since acquiring the Hurricanes from the previous majority owner — and person mostly likely to annoy his teenage sons as well as his grown-ass sons because he doesn’t have a job — Peter Karmanos.Quickly to recap, Dundon bought the majority stake of the team and tried to show them a good time playing Top Golf while they floundered somewhere between winning and losing. Being just as frustrated as the fanbase by the team’s inaction at the deadline (aside from acquiring Greg McKegg, a player whose name would be the greatest beer leaguer ever), Tom systematically removed GM and Good-Canadian-Boy Ronald J. Francis.
Requiring a fresh ham in the GM’s chair after some semi-publicly failed interviews, he taps the guy who was put in charge of showing him around the organization and face of the man who drove Atlanta’s SECOND NHL team to relocate, Don Waddell. Before he left Atlanta, Waddell packed his lucky turtleneck sweater that landed a 10-team jump in the draft giving the Hurricanes their second-ever second-overall pick (they’ve never had a first-overall pick because Penguins Conspiracy Narrative blah, blah, blah); this became the Andrei Svechnikov, one of the most handsome prospects in the organization.
Next, the head coach and most Albertan Man Ever, Bill Peters left the coaches chair for the option of holding court with the Calgary Flames, (that Atlanta team that DIDN’T have anything to do with Don Waddell) and presumably more money. That’s fine. This is fine. Everything’s fine. He’d lost the locker room and the trust of the fan base anyway. Very few interviews were considered before long time assistant coach Rod “The Bod” Brind’amour volunteered for the job with probably no pay increase.
So, from a guy who’s claimed to have more money that patience, the organization was seeing a lot of recycled personnel from a losing culture trying to right-the-ship by the end of June; causing the fan base to worry and the national media to scoff even louder at a non-traditional market who hadn’t even made the playoffs since Atlanta had a team and was known more for their pre-game festivities than the team itself because no more than 12,000 people were watching and they were all inside the building.
Are we caught up? I think we’re caught up.
So maybe Tom Dundon doesn’t spend money as wildly as reported (although he did want to buy a new Jumbo-tron. That was shot down. Then it was approved. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), but what he was really good at was approving the removal of band-aids quickly and with as little care as possible.
After drafting Svechnikov — the easiest choice Waddell has made since drafting Ilya Kovalchuk first-overall for the Thrashers in 2001 — the next day he sent two former first-round picks in Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanafin to the Calgary Flames for unsigned defensive prospect Adam Fox, gritty forward Micheal Ferland, and defensive museum enthusiast Dougie Hamilton — a man likely to test genetically as 85% chin. This was one of the biggest draft weekend trades ever and not actually involved the draft.
“You have to trade good players to get good players,” as Donny said. The next band-aid ripped off was beloved long-time wine maker and occasional puck stopper Cam Ward; long story short he was not re-signed and eventually came to the loving embraces of the team cheered by our editor in chief, Sal J. Barry. The onus of the net was put onto the back of notably nice guy Scott Darling who couldn’t afford to fail again. The backup plan to Darling came in one of the strangest acquisitions of Petr Mrazek: the ex-Red Wings/Flyers twine-minder called Waddell himself — BEHIND HIS AGENT’S BACK!!! — and asked for a one-year show-me contract of $1.5 million. Don probably thought, “Sure, why the hell not?” and signed the Mrazek. Mrazek’s agent called and was livid, and Waddell told him to go pound sand. So the net was shored up for the 2018-19 season. You would think. But you’d be wrong. I’ll get back to that.
Then came the exodus of Jeffery J. Skinner, beloved Tiger-Beat poster boy of the franchise and Hockey-Beiber. Erik Cole came back to the fold as an ambassador to the team and blasted Skinner all over the radio in an interview, lamenting that he was pampered, never enforced the notion of playing a 200-foot game, always cheating to his offensive game and generally being a one-trick pony. OOOOOOOUCH!
Even freshly-minted head coach Brind’amour openly asked for suggestions on how in the world to coach Skinny, to get him to play a more responsible game. With one year left on his contract, it was clear that the face of the franchise was going to have to be traded. While some were sadden by the thought that the 1000-points-of-light smile was leaving Carolina, the pragmatists were salivating at the idea of what riches awaited in the potential trade!
And we got Pu. Cliff Pu, and a few not-first-round picks from the closest thing the Canes had to a rival, the Buffalo Sabres. This hurt the fanbase a lot and almost any political capital for the Dundon’s decisions was quickly eroding in Raleigh. And this was just the on-ice moves. Up in the broadcasting booth, HOF legend Chuck Kaiton walked after 39 years when he was lowballed for a contract renewal.
Summertime was coming to a close and the preseason was soon to begin for a Hurricane’s team that was finding itself in some of the most uncharted waters since moving to Raleigh. The team already had an injury to the shallow center pool when Victor Rask nearly cut off his entire hand because he loved sweet potatoes just a little too much. I’m not making this up!Brind’amour made the next easiest choice of the summer since drafting Svech: naming Justin Williams as the new captain of the team, finally putting to bed the ridiculous notion of co-captains from Bill Peters. Rod and J-Willy have a respect for one another that constitutes its own gravitational pull. With a new captain and a new, sexy third jersey, the Hurricanes pushed forth into as the puck dropped and the team had to perform as a team.
To be continued in Year of the Pig, Part II: The Regular Season. ■
Jim Howard is a Carolina Hurricanes fan and reformed baseball card collector who is trying to keep the hockey collection from becoming overwhelming. And while he wishes he could give Crosby the business with his mitt, he is in fact NOT the goalie for the Red Wings.