by Kate Shefte
‘Canes GM Jim Rutherford took a calculated risk on the cheap (he was still receiving handouts from Toronto) and tested Paul Maurice midway through the 2008-2009 season when Carolina was floundering. Mo plucked the team out of a landfill and under his tutelage, the ‘Canes went 33-19-5 and made that unexpected trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Though his team ran out of gas and was swept handily by eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh, Maurice went above and beyond expectations and was rewarded with a three-year contract of an undisclosed amount.
This contract, though it was hardly unexpected and justly rewarded, is a little longer than I expected. Maurice didn’t even coach for a full season, and it seems you’d rather test drive your new car before throwing down a wad of cash, especially in these hard times everyone keeps talking about. Will Maurice be able to light the same fire under his aging team, which Laviolette was never able to do after 2006? Will his players lose faith in him and his coaching methods become obsolete? Well, the ‘Canes put together a solid coaching staff to back him up in case he needs it. A five-person staff is a little high for an NHL team, but it seems to be working.
“Keeping the coaching staff intact and better defining each coach’s role was an important offseason task,” said Rutherford. “The team showed tremendous improvement in the second half of last season under the guidance of Paul and Ron. Their delegation of responsibilities to the other coaches created good chemistry in the coaches’ office and helped lead to success on the ice.”
Ron Francis added a few more words to his business card, as he is now not only an associate head coach, but the director of player personnel. He will continue to keep tabs on the kids down on the farm.
Tom Barrasso, otherwise known as Cam Ward’s BFF, tacked on an extra phrase as well. Former NHL goaltender Barrasso was Ward’s advisor but apparently moonlighted as a period break motivational speaker. He has been upgraded from goaltending coach to assistant coach, though he will continue to focus on the goalies.
Kevin McCarthy and Tom Rowe, both of whom were already under contract, will stay on, McCarthy in his fifth-level perch at the top of the arena and Rowe shooting the opposing team evil glares from behind the bench.
We have many more smooth explanations and wisecracking postgame remarks, not to mention impeccably put-together ensembles, from Paul Maurice to look forward to. The draft, held in Montreal, is quickly approaching. After that, time to sign some UFAs and RFAs.