After a dispiriting 4-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, it’s natural to wonder if Paul Maurice is on the verge of unemployment. I’m not here to argue against that; the fact that the Carolina Hurricanes lost six of their seven last games in regulation is a sign that the team’s main cook isn’t finding the right mix.
(His comments certainly captured the spirit of a broken man, as Maurice told Chip Alexander things like: “We were so damn slow we couldn’t do anything.”)
Jim Rutheford deserves part of the blame
Yet if you’re going to fire the cook, what about the guy who’s shopping for the groceries? The Hurricanes are more or less a small market team and while they have had their glory runs, the top-heavy structure of the squad isn’t that far from the wobbly framework that defines the woeful Columbus Blue Jackets. (Eric Staal plays the role of Rick Nash; Cam Ward is a rich man’s version of Steve Mason.)
Much like Scott Howson did with James Wisniewski, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford overspent for his big free agent defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Some say Ville Leino is the worst addition of the summer, but the Hurricanes had one shot and they missed badly. I’d argue that makes the Kaberle move worse than the Leino one, and Rutherford didn’t do much better in adding filler like Alexei Ponikarovsky, either.
Beyond getting a great draft steal in Jeff Skinner, Rutherford’s recent moves have either been minimal or damaging. Once you get past Staal, Skinner and Ward, the Hurricanes are an Island of Misfit Hockey Toys. (Sometimes those misfits turn out OK like Jussi Jokinen, but that’s not a great way to build a team.)
Drop “GM” from Rutherford’s title
The thing is, Rutherford is deeply embedded in the franchise, as he’s now a partial owner. If that means that he cannot be fired, then perhaps he should be “promoted” out of the GM spot? The then-Atlanta Thrashers (Don Waddell) and Edmonton Oilers (Kevin Lowe) are among the rare teams who moved struggling general managers out of those positions instead of firing them, so it’s not an unprecedented decision – even if it’s far from an ideal one.
Either way, the point is that the Hurricanes’ problems run much deeper than just their embattled head coach.