Koutroumpis: First stage of Carolina Hurricanes rebuild near completion

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes’ Red-White scrimmage at its Prospect Development Camp and Summerfest Celebration on Saturday will signal that the team’s foundational reshaping is nearing completion.

The Hurricanes’ eight picks in the 2017 NHL Draft have showed their mettle so far amongst prospect brethren from recent years.

The main difference that this year’s class will experience is the fact that none of them will be pushed onto an NHL ice surface anytime soon.

Many are still young in terms of physical and tactical development, and deserve and need to be developed the ‘right way’.

In 2017, the organization can afford for that to happen since it possesses exponentially more prospects in its system than ever in recent history.

That was the initial goal of executive vice president and general manager Ron Francis when he assumed his role in 2014.

Carolina is at a different place than it was when now-departed 2012 first-round pick Ryan Murphy was the team’s second attempt at nudging its newest fledgling into pro service in Raleigh.

The assumption was that he could follow former Kitchener teammate Jeff Skinner’s strides following the forward’s 2011 Calder Trophy-winning season in the NHL.

The opportunity and transition to turning pro didn’t happen as successfully as it did for Skinner, now the team’s leading scorer.

Murphy had chances early to show himself as the ‘special player’ that scouts, coaches and management dubbed him as.

He was continually afforded spots to take, but unfortunately he was unable to fit in as the ‘pieces’ as Francis refers to his team’s players as, were changing, and he eventually was replaced.

Kind of like remodeling a house – the Carolina Hurricanes, coming up on 20 years old, have needed and are completing the first phase of rebuilding.

Francis has accumulated numerous swatches of prospects, with similar looks in sizes and styles of play, along with some subtle variation mixed in.

With head coach Bill Peters as the onsite construction manager, Carolina has hammered away at creating a more modern, impressive-looking façade with a resilient and reinforced foundation.

It is a different team than it was five years ago.

Albeit, one that has been on the open market for sale during that time as well.

With no sale imminent soon, the Hurricanes must continue to improve not only their looks, but their functional value as a sports team by winning enough games to earn a spot in the postseason.

That hasn’t happened for eight seasons now.

The statute of limitation of placing youth into the lineup has peaked in this organization – more experience and a higher NHL-quality of player is needed.

The neutral colors and simple flair of prospects coming into the organization has helped to reshape it into modern NHL standards, but true character and color will pop with the addition of seasoned and productive veterans.

Heading into NHL Free Agency on Saturday, Francis now has the opportunity to truly show what style the Carolina Hurricanes will play with and need to look like in order to become a playoff-contending team again.

No more shopping for new materials that need to be fit, sized, replaced, and refitted – that is all set.

Now it’s time to spend the budget on the focal points that will make this team’s look and performance ‘pop’.

Francis is tasked to make the hard, knuckle-pounding flea market deals that will add much-needed character to this team.

Seasoned accomplished NHL veterans are what will be needed to build the next phase of this team to one that contends in the playoffs for a Stanley Cup.

The rebuild now transitions to a remodel and eventual renaissance of a winning team and organization – hopefully.