The season finally starts for the Carolina Hurricanes tonight and expectations for the club are as high as they have been for years.
Many think those “great expectations” are well-founded.
The team’s young defense is very highly regarded and expected to get better. The offense should be more potent with the acquisitions of Lee Stempniak, Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, Viktor Stalberg, and Bryan Bickell. The goaltenders will hopefully perform like they did at the end of the season last year and not like they did at the beginning.
But at the August 30 press conference for Ron Francis when his contract was extended another two years, I asked him about his biggest challenge as a general manager. He surprisingly answered, “to manage expectations.”
One might think that “expectations” would not be a problem for a team that has not made the playoffs in seven years, but many fans and even some of the local press seem to think the playoffs are in the cards this year, or at least they should be.
It seems like the general manager though would like everyone, even the team’s owner, to take a deep breath. This is what he had to say:
“You try to manage the expectations of your fans and your own organization…and your owner at times. I have had these conversations with Mr. Karmanos. About a month or so ago he said, “you don’t seem to be as excited about this team as I am”, but I said, Pete, part of my job is to manage expectations, yours included.
I think we’ve done a lot of good things, but we’re still very young. There’s always that risk of how young players will respond. Some of our young guys we’re expecting to take another step in their development moving forward and we need them to do that to be successful. Other guys we brought in are very young and we’re hoping they blossom here in our system and our structure and with more opportunity.
There is always the challenge of managing expectations and hopefully helping everyone see things in the right light.”
Francis is correct in saying this is a young team. It is one of the youngest in the NHL. Will they respond favorably, immediately to the high pressure stakes of the NHL? Especially, on the road?
It will not be easy but it sure will be fun to watch as the Carolina skaters take their first step into another season of improvement and growth tonight.
The development process will begin in Winnipeg starting at 8. Paul Maurice is still behind the bench for the home team.
Something extra to watch-
Two rookie Finns will be making their NHL debuts, one a flashy, flamboyant star, (Laine) one a quiet, blue-collar type worker, (Aho). But perhaps a third Finn, (Teravainen) will be the one to shine the brightest in game one?
We’ll be watching.