Rooting for a bad team is exhausting. That’s my current feelings on the Carolina Hurricanes. I jumped on the bandwagon during the 2008-09 playoff run and they haven’t been to the playoffs since. I started blogging about them in 2011 and that was when their “dark years” started, finishing in the bottom-ten of the league in almost every season since. Another year without the playoffs is hard to swallow but it wasn’t terribly unexpected. It’s still a young team and their ceiling was probably a wild card spot. That said, this year has been a real chore to sit through.
I’ve spent the previous two seasons working as an analyst for an NHL team, but I never stopped being a fan of the Hurricanes. I watched every game and kept tabs on what was going on with them on a daily basis. I couldn’t say or tweet anything about them, but I always stayed on top of what the team was doing. They weren’t particularly good then either. Their season was over by Thanksgiving in 2014 and they spent most of 2015 trying to reach a playoff spot before falling short & selling everything at the deadline. It looked like they were making progress towards eventually becoming a good team, though and I was expecting more progress this year.
Most of the optimism was due to their coaching staff and Bill Peters. This roster was always short on forward talent but Peters ran a system that kept them in most of their games. The Canes were usually the team controlling the pace of play & while they didn’t have the goal-scoring talent, they had the puck more often than their opponents & were in more games than they should have been. The thought was with a better roster & some experience, this team had a bright future. Well, the future is here and the results are still lousy.
As tiring as it is to be a fan of an awful team, coaching one is probably a million times more draining, so Peters’ rant on goaltender Eddie Lack might not come as a surprise to those who have been following the team. They’ve either had the worst team 5v5 save percentage in the NHL every year since he’s been the coach or in that ballpark. Most would argue that it cost them a playoff spot last year & that significantly hurt their chances this year, as well. When you have only four wins in your last 17, there are a lot more problems than your goaltender, but it certainly isn’t helping matters and it has been a problem for a long time. It’s easy to see why Peters would be frustrating with the goaltending. The way he went about this, however, was wrong.
If you are going to call out the goaltending, going after the guy who has started in only eight games all season and only four since the calendar turned 2017 isn’t a great look. The Hurricanes aren’t out of a playoff position because Lack gave up four goals on 16 shots in a game that was played well after the Hurricanes were effectively eliminated from playoff contention. It’s especially not a good look when the other goaltender, Cam Ward, has played in 50 games, ranks 38th in the league in save percentage among goaltenders who have appeared in 20 games this year and has posted a save percentage below .900 in his last 20 games. If you are going to call out of the goaltending, be fair and point the finger at both guys instead of going after the one who has been injured for basically the entire season.
Doing this whole thing in front of the media is an even worse look. Who does it help? Berating one of your players and telling him to “make a fucking save” isn’t going to make him play better. It’s also not going to make Peters look better as a coach, even if the rant was totally out of character for him. Maybe they’ve had this conversation privately before? Even then, it’s pretty unfair to scapegoat the goaltender who has barely played this year. Not that Lack has been good, but what is there to gain by kicking a player while he’s down? I’m sure Lack knows his performance hasn’t been up to par. If embarrassing him publicly is Peters’ motivation tactic then I’m curious about how good of a coach he is. It’s even worse if he plans not to play him the rest of the year because slamming one of your players on his way out is classless.
When it comes to strategy & systems, I have no doubt that Peters knows what he is doing. He knows how to adapt to the players he’s given & has done a pretty good job of placing guys in positions to succeed. There’s more to coaching than just strategy, though. Motivating your team and getting them ready to play is an underrated part of coaching and it’s something that’s hard to judge from the outside. There’s only so much a coach can do in this instance because the problem might be the players instead of the message being delivered. So it’s hard to get a read on how Peters does in this area. How he handled himself the other day doesn’t exactly paint a positive picture, though. It’s also worth nothing that Hurricanes have come out looking flat in important games this year & their once strong territorial play has torpedoed since January. Their self-inflicted goaltending nightmare could play into this because It’s easy for a team to break away from their system when every mistake they make leads to a goal against. That’s why it’s hard for me to get a read on how good this team really is right now because everything is a mess.
I’m a hockey analyst but as a fan of the Hurricanes, I’m tired of watching this. It’s hard for me to be positive or rational because the results haven’t changed in almost a decade. Watching the team now just annoys me and talking about them kills my enthusiasm about hockey. I know most people tend to go the objective route once they start covering hockey on a wider scale, but I like being a fan of a team & taking the analyst cap off during games. This season, however, has really tested my limits. Between the lousy results & constant off-ice drama, being a fan hasn’t been fun at all.