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Jim Rutherford should feel the heat in Carolina, too

Nov 16, 2011, 10:31 PM EDT

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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.

  1. tbcrow - Nov 16, 2011 at 11:15 PM

    Man, I’m not even sure where to start with this one. This only proves that you guys are 2,000 miles away with a Canadian mentality. While this season has been an extreme misfire, you have absolutely no concept on what Jim Rutherford means to the organization. I understand it’s your job to speculate on teams and decisions, but it doesn’t make sense to speculate that the Canes should fire the one man that holds all of the investors together.

    If the Canes move JR out of the GM position, you will watch this team tail spin for 5 years before being moved, either back to Hartford or somewhere else. The only plausible replacement Canes have readily available would be Ron Francis, who you can tell frankly isn’t interested in it.

    On to the head coach issue, he’s been fired once. When he was ditched last time he went to Toronto, and the Canes ended up paying 50% of his contract while he was coaching another team. Plain and simple, I don’t think anyone is willing to buyout his contract to replace him or double up with 2 head coach payrolls.

    I’m not trying to say you’re completely wrong, well, I am, but you’re not thinking like a small South East team with a hard market anyway. You’re thinking like a big North East city, where money grows on trees, and most of the market loves hockey. Hockey is big in Raleigh, and it’s hit and miss once you leave city limits. Even so, there is a Mo Must Go bandwagon right now, and lots of people are on it. Unfortunately, once you get past the “this is a really good idea”, the practicality starts to kick you in the teeth.

    @TBCrow on Twitter

  2. govtminion - Nov 17, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    I’d have to agree with tbcrow, though I’m not from the area. Firing everyone sounds great, up until you start thinking about the ‘then what?’ end of things. Much the same reason that Columbus hasn’t gotten around to it yet- who do you bring in as a replacement? Are you okay with paying two people for the coaching position?

    Most importantly… will it do any good? Remember, for every Bruce Boudreau who comes in and turns things around instantly, there’s a hundred who don’t have the effect you’d like. It doesn’t mean they’re bad coaches- it means you just don’t have a team that competes at the level you want. Carolina may just be one of those teams that have an off year, do some housecleaning and drafting, and come back as strong as ever next year. But as for canning the coach and GM, I’d wait until later in the season and see if it’s just a bad start or not- and make sure I have a plan in place so that if I do need to make the move, I have people ready to step in and do the job.

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