Tracking the Storm

Rutherford Round-up

Tuesday, 05.17.2011 / 1:22 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Rutherford Round-up
Paul Branecky
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On Tuesday, Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford addressed the media for the first time since the team’s season ended on April 9. He covered a wide range of topics, which have been broken down and summarized below.

STAFF ADJUSTMENTS

Rutherford stated his belief that head coach Paul Maurice did a “very good job” with a young team last season, indicating that he will return behind the bench. He added that he’s been pleased with Maurice in two of his three seasons since returning to the organization in the fall of 2008, with the exception being the doomed-from-the-start 2009-10 campaign.

However, there will be changes that affect the rest of the coaching staff and front office. Rutherford said that, in a move that’s been planned for several seasons, Ron Francis, who spent the previous two seasons as associate head coach, will now focus solely on his role of assisting Rutherford with player personnel decisions and player development.

That leaves an opening on Maurice’s staff, with no replacement named as of yet. Rutherford said that Jeff Daniels, an NHL assistant with the Hurricanes from 2003-08, would remain in his capacity as head coach of the American Hockey League Charlotte Checkers, where he’s been instrumental in the development of the organization’s young players. Rutherford did say that Daniels’ “time will come” as an NHL head coach.

Rutherford indicated that there will likely be an increased role for Rod Brind’Amour, who served as director of forwards development last season, his first since retiring as a player.

“He’s got a bright future as a head coach or general manager,” said Rutherford of Brind’Amour. “He makes his point in very short order and makes points others don't make. He has a very special way about him"

PENDING FREE AGENTS

Of the seven unrestricted free agents who ended the season on the Hurricanes’ roster, Rutherford expressed doubt about both Joni Pitkanen and Jussi Jokinen. The general manager said that he expects both players to test the open market on July 1, but that the door would be open for them to return at the right price.

Should Pitkanen join another team, the Hurricanes would then use his $4.5 million salary, which trailed only Eric Staal and Cam Ward on the team’s payroll last season, to sign a free-agent defenseman. Should Jokinen leave, Rutherford said he would then try to bring back 37-year-old left wing Cory Stillman, who he believes has at least another year left in the tank and could be a contributor at a salary less than the $3.5 million he earned last season. Rutherford added that Stillman could have a future in the front office once he retires.

Rutherford seemed optimistic about the rest of the group, mentioning the re-signing of Erik Cole, who he believes had a “special year” as a top priority. Rutherford noted that, although Cole would be sure to attract interest from other teams on July 1, he plays his best hockey in Carolina. The GM went so far as to say that Cole signing elsewhere would be "a mistake on his part."

After saying that Chad LaRose experienced an “off year” in 2010-11, Rutherford expressed interest in bringing him back into the fold, saying, “He is the guy that drives this team.”

Although he did not address them specifically, Rutherford alluded to Patrick Dwyer and Jay Harrison at various points when discussing the team’s makeup for next season. The same was true for restricted free agents Derek Joslin, Jiri Tlusty and Brandon Sutter, the latter of whom Rutheford hopes to bring back on a long-term deal rivaling the length, if not the dollar figures, of deals signed by Eric Staal and Cam Ward. Rutherford identified Staal, Ward, Sutter and Jeff Skinner, who the GM believes will continue to “climb the ladder” in his sophomore season, as the team’s current core.

AREAS TO IMPROVE

In terms of looking for outside help, Rutherford first mentioned the addition of an experienced goaltender to back up Ward. The Canes’ general manager stated his preference to have Justin Peters play more regularly at the AHL level next season alongside current Checkers’ starter Mike Murphy. With Rutherford saying he was “not satisfied” with Justin Pogge’s recent season, it seems likely that Pogge may depart as a restricted free agent.

Rutherford said that Assistant Coach Tom Barrasso has already been watching video of goaltenders set to be free agents in July and will submit a short list for management to work with. The belief is that an experienced backup will help take pressure off Ward while allowing the development of Peters.

“If we don’t give Cam Ward more relief, he’s going to have to retire when he’s 28,” said Rutherford of Ward, who will hit that mark next season.

Next on Rutherford’s list is a fourth-line center that can win faceoffs and kill penalties – taking pressure off the likes of Eric Staal - and ideally offer something in terms of physical play. Rutherford said that he preferred Dwyer, who filled that role towards the end of last season, on the wing.

Finally, Rutherford expressed an interest in acquiring an established power-play contributor via trade or free agency. He said that he would consider trading prospects for an in-his-prime player who fits the bill, while free agent efforts would likely depend on the fates of Pitkanen and Jokinen.

PROSPECTS

Rutherford named Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman and Zac Dalpe as the team’s best forward prospects, with an estimated two spots open for next season. While more could join that group in training camp, Rutherford said that Dalpe, the team’s second-round pick in 2008, has the best chance of making the jump. The GM went so far as to say that he could see Dalpe playing in a prominent offensive role alongside Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner next season.

Defensively, Rutherford said that Justin Faulk, who began his pro career with Charlotte last month after a highly successful freshman year in college, would likely need at least half a season at the AHL level but could still see NHL games next season. More defensive help could be on the way, with Rutherford stating that the team could go in that direction with the No. 12 pick in next month’s draft, bucking a recent trend.


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72