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Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon content with hands-on approach

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Tom Dundon was quite clear when he bought the Carolina Hurricanes.

“I’m not patient. It’s not going to work for me to be patient,” Dundon told reporters upon the announcement that he has acquired the team.

And while he also said he wasn’t just going to come in and expect to know more than then-general manager Ron Francis, his lack of patience got the better of him on Wednesday when he removed Francis from his post. 

Dundon ‘promoted’ Francis to the president of hockey operations, while saying that whatever new GM was hired would report directly to Dundon himself, bypassing Francis in his new role.

Dundon has his hands in all of the cookie jars at the moment, something he seems to be quite happy with.

“I think it’s appropriate right now that I challenge and question everything we do, so we can get a process that everyone buys into and we’re comfortable with,” Dundon told NHL.com’s Tom Gulliti on Thursday. “Once we do, I would be less likely to be involved with things that I think are working properly.”

On Thursday, Dundon entertained several calls from the media, including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Friedman said that during his conversation with Dundon, it became apparent that while Dundon and Francis both agreed the team needed to improve, the route in which that improvement was to go was a matter of differing opinions.

“I want to use Ron’s experience and knowledge with a different style and structure,” Dundon told Friedman on Thursday. “He is a valuable resource. But our styles couldn’t be any different. It is no more complicated than that.”

Despite his very hands-on approach thus far for the Hurricanes, Dundon told Friedman that he wants doesn’t want to make the decisions from a GM standpoint.

“I think what I’m looking for, is we have to be comfortable with each other,” Dundon said. “That’s the most important thing. I actually like to disagree and argue. I don’t want someone to come in and just do what I say, and I don’t want to make decisions. Someone to create a structure of how something is a good idea, and now we are going to get it done.”

Friedman had a thought on one line in particular in that quote:

One thing stands out from that answer: “I don’t want to make decisions.” In the aftermath of Francis’s redistribution, the sense was 100 percent opposite, that Dundon did want final say.

Who Carolina’s new GM will be is up in the air, but Dundon told Gulitti that it likely won’t be an analytics-first guy.

“Because I don’t think that works,” Dundon said. “I think you need a hockey guy that can work with the analytics people to challenge their thoughts. ‘Hey, I think this. Can you show me something that proves or disproves or makes me or less comfortable with what I’ve done?’”

And what of head coach Bill Peters?

https://twitter.com/TomGulittiNHL/status/971877187824640000


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Ron Francis out as GM of the Carolina Hurricanes

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In the thick of the playoff race, the Carolina Hurricanes have removed general manager Ron Francis from his post.

Francis, according to The News & Observer, will become the team’s president of hockey operations.

The Hurricanes were four points adrift of the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference as of Wednesday.

“Since I took control of the team, I’ve had a good chance to be around and assess the operations,” Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon said in a release on Wednesday. “There are a lot of good people working in the organization, but I feel that a change in direction is needed when it comes to hockey personnel decisions.

“Ron is a smart and talented hockey man. I am glad that he will continue to be a part of the team, serving in this new role.”

The Hurricanes said whatever new GM they hire will report directly to Dundon, bypassing the team’s new president of hockey ops — Francis.

Francis, 55, was handed the role as GM, replacing Jim Rutherford. Rutherford has gone on to win back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

France played 1,731 NHL games over his 25-year career, including 1,186 games with the Hartford Whalers/Hurricanes organization.

It’s been an up and down season for the Hurricanes, but they’re still in the running for a playoff berth. The Hurricanes own the distinction of having the longest playoff drought among the 31 NHL teams. Carolina hasn’t played a playoff game since 2009.

Francis’ trade history is, well, very light.

Francis went out and signed former Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling in the offseason, giving him a four-year deal worth north of $16 million. It was a risky move at the time, given the question marks surrounding Darling’s ability to take on the role of a starting goalie.

And it hasn’t worked out.

Darling owns the worst save percentage in the NHL among starters with a .889.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Under new owner, Hurricanes embrace Hartford Whaler history

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The new owner of the Carolina Hurricanes has a soft spot for his team’s old identity – the Hartford Whalers.

In the month since Tom Dundon assumed control of the Hurricanes, they’ve brought back the old ”Brass Bonanza” fight song, stocked the shelves in the team store with that beloved whale-tail logo and have discussed bringing back the Whalers, too – if only for a future turn-back-the-clock night.

Under his leadership, the Hurricanes have done a 180-degree turn in the way they view, market and appreciate their past.

”It’s ours, right? I mean, it’s who we were. It’s part of the history,” Dundon said in an interview with The Associated Press. ”To me, it makes a lot of sense. … This was too easy. ‘How could I not?’ was probably the better question.”

In the month since Dundon bought a majority share of the team from longtime owner Peter Karmanos Jr., the 46-year-old Dallas businessman has made several changes – most visibly, the embracing of who the Hurricanes were before they became the Hurricanes.

That’s a drastic shift from their approach under Karmanos. He purchased the Whalers in 1994 and moved the franchise to North Carolina three years later, never looking back after seven consecutive losing seasons in Connecticut and complaints about attendance at what was then known as the Hartford Civic Center.

That’s not the case anymore.

The Hurricanes are selling Whalers T-shirts and jerseys – with that distinctive ”H” formed in the empty space between a ”W” and a whale tail – in their team store. They occasionally play ”Brass Bonanza” during stops in play. And Dundon says he’s working with the league on a plan to ”wear the uniform and sort of make it part of what we do” as part of a nostalgia night.

”I think it’s really good-looking stuff, so for me it was like, this is great gear, and this is where we’ve come from, and you know, I think it’s fun,” Dundon said. ”And so for me, this is supposed to be fun, it’s entertainment, and we’re supposed to care about the team, and you see something like that that looks good and creates something to talk about and something to enjoy.”

Not surprisingly, the Whalers’ identity has long had a strong sentimental attraction throughout the hockey world – especially in their former home.

The state of Connecticut is selling Whalers license plates for $60 to help fund new facilities at a children’s hospital. And just last week, Gov. Dan Malloy issued an open letter to Dundon to invite the Hurricanes back to the Hartford area for an outdoor game at Rentschler Field, the UConn football team’s home field, or to play a regular-season game at their former home rink.

Wrote Malloy: ”In short, the Whalers’ spirit is alive and well in Hartford.”

In North Carolina, though, Dundon’s arrival and subsequent appreciation for the team’s green-and-blue past has brought some buzz back to a team that is making a push for just its second playoff appearance since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. He also has quashed those pesky, persistent relocation rumors that have plagued the franchise for years.

Dundon says his fans-first ownership style was influenced by a pair of Dallas-based team owners – Mark Cuban of the NBA’s Mavericks, and Jerry Jones of the NFL’s Cowboys. He ”had a front-row seat to everything they did” as the Mavericks transformed from cellar-dweller to NBA champion.

”I saw what they did with that brand over 10 years, and I don’t think anyone would have believed that the Mavericks could ever be what they became,” Dundon said. ”And with the Cowboys … Jerry has a constant focus on engaging fans and bringing attention to that brand. He thinks, probably, way bigger than I do and takes bigger risks. He’s just a genius at how he operates that team. So I’ve watched these things. I don’t think I’m going to do anything exactly like anyone else, but I’d like to think I can learn from seeing it.”

”We want to make sure that the team’s interesting, and we’re interesting, and right now the story is, the team’s going to make the playoffs and there’s an ownership change,” Dundon said. ”Hopefully in the future, it’s about all the winning we’re doing.”

Carolina Hurricanes owner taking new approach to attendance woes

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New Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon is offering up some sweet seats for Tuesday’s game — potentially even his own — to help rekindled that home-ice advantage and to help his team mount run at a playoff spot.  

Dundon extended an invitation to fans sitting in the upper bowl at PNC Arena when the Canes take on the Ottawa Senators, offering them a spot in the lower bowl. If those are taken up, then the suites will open up. And if those are filled to the brim, Dundon will welcome fans into his owner’s box.

“I want the lower bowl to be energetic and packed,” Dundon told the News & Observer’s Chip Alexander on Tuesday. “It’s obvious it’s sort of a playoff push now. We’re going to let the people who want to come down and get a better experience. I think we’re going to run out of tickets so we’re going to have to open up suites … to make sure we take care of as many people as we can.”

Alexander pointed out that the Hurricanes are 30th in the NHL in home attendance at 12,936 for the first 21 games, which is just 69.3 percent of capacity.

A new owner trying to get fans engaged in his team and the on-ice product can’t be a bad thing.

When Dundon became the team’s majority owner earlier this month, he said he wants to win now.

“I value winning more than money,” Dundon said. “But it doesn’t mean I want to burn it.”

Getting fans closer to the action is one thing, but getting them to invest in lower-bowl seats is another.

But Alexander points out that attendance at PNC has been improving recently, noting that the for their Dec. 29 game against Pittsburgh, the turnout was 17,975.

The Dundon Effect seems to be working. Alexander notes that in the three home games since Dundon became owner, the Hurricanes have averaged 15,587 fans.

And this may only be the beginning of Dundon’s efforts.

“I would expect we would do it again because I like the idea,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes and how loud it gets. If it’s loud and I think it’s an advantage I think we’re going to try and do it more. We’ll find out.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Scott Darling on his on-ice struggles, leaving Chicago, new ownership (PHT Q&A)

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Scott Darling‘s first season in Carolina has been less than ideal. When the ‘Canes opened the vault to sign him to a contract last spring, they expected that they’d be getting a solid number one netminder. Instead, Darling and Cam Ward have taken turns being less than stellar.

Darling realizes that he needs to be better if the Hurricanes want to make the playoffs. It’s the first time in a while that he’s hit adversity on the ice and he’s hoping that his hard work in practice and off the ice will pay off between now and the end of the regular season.

During Carolina’s recent trip through Montreal, Darling took the time to speak to PHT about his game, leaving Chicago and the team’s new ownership situation.

Q. How do you evaluate your first half in Carolina? 

DARLING: “Oh, I mean, it’s definitely not good enough. I’ve had some good games and some bad games too and some bad luck, but it’s got to be better. There’s been some uncharacteristic nights for me. I’ve been working really hard the last couple of weeks in practice and off the ice working out and stuff like that trying to be as ready as I can the next time I get in the net.”

What are the type of things that have surprised you so far this year?

“I haven’t really faced on-ice adversity in six, seven years. This is uncomfortable (laughs). It’s something I don’t like and it’s something I’m working hard to fix.”

What’s the adjustment like when you go to a new team and a new city after being in Chicago for so long?

“Oh, it’s huge. I was lucky to know a lot of the guys on the team already playing with them before. But it’s a big change in your life. I put down roots in Chicago. I’m from Chicago. I had a house there, I had a life there. So it’s a big change to uproot. New team, new city, new coaches, new system, new everything, so it’s definitely a factor, but I don’t think that’s the deciding factor on what’s going on on the ice.”

How much more difficult is it when you go up on the pay scale? 

“At the end of the day, no matter what, in the NHL you’re making good money. Especially for someone like me who’s played for a lot less. Even making league minimum was huge for me. I don’t really think about the money, it’s just more the outside. The way they look at you, the expectations, but for me personally it doesn’t affect the way I play.”

How has your relationship with a veteran like Cam Ward helped you this season?

“Oh, it’s helped me a lot. He’s a world class guy and a world class goalie. He’s talked me off the ledge a few times. He’s been through the ups and downs, he’s been doing this a long time with this team. He’s seen the dark days, he’s seen the good days. He helps me keep an even keel and keeps motivating me to keep working hard. Everything’s going to turn around. I know I’m a good goalie. I have confidence in myself. Sometimes it rains, but the sun is going to come out eventually.”

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Is this the most adversity you’ve faced at the NHL level?

“Absolutely. At the NHL level for sure. Luckily it’s not the first time in my life I’ve had to face a little adversity. I’m just trying to stay positive because I know what I can do and I know it’s going to turn around.”

What previous experiences have you gone through that can help you get through this?

“I’ve played in the [ECHL], [SPHL], I’ve had dark days down there. At the end of the day, it’s still a great day, you’re in the NHL and you get to be here and play at the Bell Center (on Thursday). So just keeping everything in perspective and staying positive is all you can really do and that’s what I’m doing.”

Did new ownership breathe new life into this locker room? 

“I don’t if it brought new life into the locker room, but it’s changed things which is good. Just our little day-to-day stuff is getting better. The way it’s all ran for us, the resources we have, things we need, just little stuff is already changed. So it’s one less thing to worry about.”

What’s the biggest change so far?

“The big changes are on their way. Right now, just getting more food, healthier food,just little stuff like that. We’re not worried about ordering new equipment. (Thomas Dundon) is doing it right and we’re really excited to have him.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.