Canes fire Laviolette, Maurice returns as coach
Posted December 3, 2008
Updated December 4, 2008
The Carolina Hurricanes, looking to jump-start a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs for two seasons after winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, fired coach Peter Laviolette on Wednesday and replaced him with former coach Paul Maurice.
The dramatic move also included naming former star Ron Francis as associate coach. Francis had been in the front office as assistant general manager.
General Manager Jim Rutherford said he made the changes, after discussions with owner Peter Karmanos, because he felt the team was underperforming.
“We have a team right now that, in my opinion, is not playing with the kind of confidence it needs,” Rutherford said. “We probably have a handful of players who are playing to our expectations. That leaves a lot of players who have more to give.”
The Hurricanes entered Wednesday with a record of 12-11-2 and trailing Southeast Division-leading Washington by three points. Carolina plays the Pittsburgh Penguins at home Thursday at 7 p.m.
Rutherford said that he had contemplated a change several times and that the move wasn't based on recent games.
"It's really not about the last four or five games," Rutherford said. "It's about changing to get the chemistry back on our team, to get the confidence back on our team and make what I would say (are) minor adjustments in a system that really worked in the Stanley Cup year. But teams have adjusted to it, and our team hasn't adjusted over the last couple of years."
Maurice said the game had changed in recent years. Before the lockout, teams could play a gritty style like Carolina did in 2002, but that the game became more free-wheeling after the lockout ended. Now, he said, the style of play is more of a "hybrid."
Maurice said he loved his time in North Carolina and seemed thrilled to be back with the franchise. He said he wanted to meet with his players and then start gradually making changes next week.
Rutherford did not commit to this leadership team beyond this season.
“What we’ve done here is we’ve put the structure in place ... this year,” Rutherford said. “We didn’t do any long-term contracts. This is to see what can happen under this structure.”
For example, Francis has not coached before. Francis said Rutherford asked him to make the move to the bench, and he agreed to do that to help the franchise and to see if coaching is of interest to him long-term.
“Jim asked me if this is something I would consider doing,” Francis said. “I’m nervous. I’m excited. There are a lot of emotions. It gives me a chance to explore this avenue, and we’ll see how the season goes.
“As for now, I was asked to do this and thought about it and wanted to give it a try.”
Maurice, 41, was the coach of the Hurricanes when the franchise arrived from Hartford, and he led them to the Stanley Cup finals in 2002, when they lost to Detroit. The Canes couldn’t sustain their success with the gritty, clutch-and-grab style that had served them well in that season, however, and Maurice was fired in December 2003.
Laviolette replaced him and brought a more wide-open style – and a dramatic Stanley Cup title in 2006.