RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes are eager to get a feel for their new management.
With training camp coming up later this month, the Hurricanes are ready to find out how their new bosses—general manager Ron Francis and coach Bill Peters—are going to run things.
Goalie Cam Ward said Thursday that he’s spoken to his new coach 3-4 times on the phone and “from the small amount of time I’ve talked to him, I view him as a straight shooter.”
Ward said he expects Peters to install a “strong foundation and a sound structure.”
But he noted that it will be up to the players to put that plan in motion and prevent the Hurricanes’ playoff drought from reaching a sixth year.
“The players put on the skates, and it’s important that the players execute the plan,” Ward said. “A coach can only do so much. He can set it up for you, but it’s important that the players execute, and if they aren’t executing, it’s up the players to hold each other accountable.”
Ward expects to spend this preseason fighting for his job with Anton Khudobin, who beat him out last year. Ward won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Hurricanes’ run to the 2006 Stanley Cup. But Carolina has made only one post-season appearance since then, in 2009.
But instead of tearing apart the roster, the Hurricanes’ only major moves this off-season came on the management side.
Francis moved up a spot to GM when Jim Rutherford stepped aside into an advisory role—and was subsequently hired as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ general manager. His first major moves were to fire coach Kirk Muller after three years and no playoff appearances, and to hire Peters from Detroit’s staff.
A few players came and went—defenceman Tim Gleason came back as a free agent, while backup goalie Justin Peters left for Washington and lower-line centre Manny Malhotra signed with Montreal.
But for the most part, the nucleus of the team was preserved—and that’s given the returning players a dose of confidence.
“I don’t think you can say we’ve got a bad team in that locker room,” defenceman Justin Faulk said. “We’ve got a lot of good players that have stepped up and done pretty good things in this league. It’s just putting it all together and coming together as a team and growing and becoming the team that we know we can be.”
The players acknowledged that they aren’t yet entirely familiar with their new coach or what he wants.
Faulk and Ward said they’ve only spoken to him so far by phone, and forward Jiri Tlusty said he has yet to meet Peters—largely because Tlusty spent the off-season overseas and just got back to Raleigh last week.
That’s not a concern because they figure they’ll spend plenty of time together—virtually every day beginning in training camp and ending in what they hope is a playoff run that lasts into next June.
“We’re going to have a lot of time to chat and we’re going to spend a lot of days together again,” Tlusty said. “All of us.”
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