Dallas Stars v Carolina Hurricanes

Hurricanes owner continues to look for new investors, says team ‘broke even’ in 2010-11

It’s pretty tough to believe that two teams blew opportunities to clinch playoff berths in their final contests of the 2010-11 season. The Dallas Stars could have robbed the Chicago Blackhawks of a spot after the ‘Hawks dropped a game to the Detroit Red Wings on NBC, but the Stars whiffed in a game against the Wild in Minnesota. A similar scenario played out the night before, as the New York Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils, forcing the Carolina Hurricanes to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning to make the playoffs.

Of course, the Lightning decided that they wouldn’t allow their division neighbors to make the postseason without a fight. Tampa Bay throttled Carolina 6-2, crushing the Canes’ playoff dreams with a resounding thud.

Even with that tough-to-stomach conclusion in mind, the 2010-11 season brought some positives to the Hurricanes franchise and fans. For one thing, 2011 NHL All-Star Game seemed like a celebration of the market’s interest in the sport. As it turns out, the Hurricanes also avoided losing money. The Charlotte Observer passes along owner Peter Karamanos Jr.’s claims that the team “broke even” last season, even without making the playoffs.

Despite the Hurricanes missing the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, the team broke even financially, Karmanos said. The Canes were one victory away from reaching the playoffs but lost their last regular-season game at home 6-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.

“That was not one of my brightest moments,” Karmanos said the final-game disappointment. “But we played a lot of meaningful games at the end of the season and at least we got to the last game with a chance. If we had gotten in the playoffs, I really think we’d have fared as well as Tampa.”

Karamanos has been hoping to sell at least a portion of his stake in the team for quite a few years now. Karamanos revealed that 9-10 people might buy a 15-20 percent stake in the Hurricanes.

Karmanos said all of the investors were based locally, although he did not name any of the individuals. In February, he said he hoped to have as many as 20 or 30 new partners, each investing $1 million to $3 million.

“We won’t have quite that many, but the ones we will have will invest closer to the higher number ($3 million) than the lower,” Karmanos said in an interview. “Things are going pretty well. We have had a lot of local people who have shown interest. It doesn’t hurt that Forbes calls Raleigh one of the best places to do business and live.

“We’re still in the process of going through all the legal documents. It’s moving along well. These are people who want to see the Hurricanes thrive and understand their involvement will give the Hurricanes even more exposure in the community.”

Karamanos seemed to argue against the Hurricanes being a “budget team,” but right now they appear to be one because they’re close to the salary cap floor with little indication that they’ll spend much more soon. GM Jeremy Rutherford was probably wise not to match the Montreal Canadiens’ hefty offer toward Erik Cole, but it’s doubtful that the team improved a whole lot this off-season. That could make a playoff run difficult next season considering the strength of the Southeast Division’s two powers (Tampa Bay and Washington), the possibility of improvement by Florida and the mystery in the making that is the Winnipeg Jets.

That being said, it’s heartening to hear that the Hurricanes didn’t need to make the playoffs to be a reasonable success at the box office last season. Perhaps that will help Karamanos find some investors who can allow the team to spend the money to make them a bigger threat on the ice in the future.

(H/T to Canes Country, which discusses the Hurricanes’ potential to turn a profit a bit more.)

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado