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Tracking the Storm

New Coaching Structure Brings Results

Friday, 01.9.2009 / 11:05 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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New Coaching Structure Brings Results
The Canes brought in a new head coach in early December, but the changes go deeper than that.

Paul Branecky
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Under Paul Maurice, the Canes have a larger-than-usual staff also consisting of Ron Francis, Kevin McCarthy, Tom Rowe and Tom Barrasso, each of whom is responsible for a few specific aspects of the team.

General Manager Jim Rutherford was the first to openly compare the setup to that of coordinators on a football team, an analogy that rings true in the locker room.

“That’s exactly what it is – everybody seems to be responsible for something else,” said Justin Williams. “The good thing is that if you need advice, you’ve got plenty of sources.”

Under the current structure, McCarthy assists with the logistical aspects of practice and is the team’s eye-in-the-sky during games, communicating with Francis on the bench via headset – a first in Carolina. Barrasso coaches the goaltenders, Francis directs the power play and Rowe is in charge of the defense.

As for Maurice?

“I’m more five-on-five, practice structure, running the bench and yelling at people,” he said.

While most teams divide the labor among the staff to a certain extent and a few have a coach in a booth upstairs that communicates with the bench, Maurice said that his assistants probably have more autonomy in their own given area than they would elsewhere.

“We’re all good at certain things,” he said. “It takes you a little while until you get a little bit of experience in the NHL before you can admit that there’s things you’re good at and things you need help with. What Jim has done is that he knows me very, very well and has structured people around so that we can all benefit from each other’s strengths.”

Francis, who was brought in occasionally as a consultant on the power play before joining the staff full-time, now has complete control over a unit that is converting at a 20 percent rate since he joined the staff, as opposed to just 13 percent beforehand.

“We’re in a unique situation in that we have somebody like Ron who’s a power play specialist, but that’s all secondary,” said Maurice. “If you can’t explain it and you can’t communicate an idea to a hockey team, then it doesn’t matter what you know. He has the gift and he’s a great communicator.”

Barrasso’s work can be seen in the improved play of goaltender Cam Ward, who recently won the NHL’s third star of the week award and is enjoying one of his most consistently strong stretches since winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP in 2006.

“There’s no question that he’s helped me out a lot,” said Ward of Barrasso. “He’s got a very good understanding of the position and he’s good at teaching it throughout practice. After every game we go over video and look at areas I can always improve upon, and he does a good job of putting together some good practice drills to really help me. 

“I think you’re starting to see it in the games where the hard work in practices is starting to pay off."

When asked about the improved play of defenseman Anton Babchuk over the last several weeks, Maurice was quick to credit Rowe for the player’s transition from healthy scratch to contributor at both ends of the ice.

“A perfect example of our division of labor,” Maurice said. “I think Tom Rowe has done a great job with the defensemen and built their confidence by teaching them positioning. Overall as a group, when your forwards play better defensively, guys like Anton look more effective and they build their own confidence, and that’s the way it goes. That’s why this whole thing comes together.”

With five full-time coaches – up from just three a few years ago – the staff isn’t lacking in quantity. With a combined total of 3,392 games played, four Stanley Cups and six All-Star appearances as players, it isn’t lacking in quality, either.

“It obviously helps,” said Williams. “They’re not going to bring in Tom from Cary to do it, they’re going to bring in the best available, and those guys definitely know their stuff and have the rings to show for it.”

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 74 46 20 8 195 162 100
2 NYR 72 46 19 7 219 167 99
3 TBL 74 46 21 7 242 191 99
4 NYI 74 44 25 5 226 205 93
5 PIT 73 40 22 11 202 181 91
6 DET 72 39 21 12 208 195 90
7 WSH 73 39 24 10 212 180 88
8 OTT 72 37 24 11 212 190 85
9 BOS 73 36 25 12 193 190 84
10 FLA 73 33 26 14 180 201 80
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 NJD 73 31 31 11 164 186 73
13 CBJ 73 34 35 4 198 228 72
14 CAR 72 26 36 10 165 199 62
15 TOR 74 27 41 6 193 237 60
16 BUF 73 20 46 7 138 245 47

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 72 14 31 -20 45
E. Staal 67 19 25 -14 44
E. Lindholm 71 16 19 -21 35
J. Skinner 67 18 12 -21 30
V. Rask 70 11 18 -13 29
R. Nash 66 8 16 -11 24
N. Gerbe 68 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 72 6 13 -4 19
A. Nestrasil 44 6 13 4 19
J. Staal 36 4 14 -9 18
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 18 21 5 .910 2.44
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62