RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes changed owners this season. They’ll soon have a new general manager. Perhaps a new coach, too.
What didn’t change was how early another yet offseason started.
Missing the playoffs for the ninth straight season, the Hurricanes finished up with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
“It’s disappointing — obviously, we wanted to be in the playoffs and we were expecting big things out of our hockey club this year and fell short,” veteran goalie Cam Ward said.
Carolina’s playoff drought is the longest in team history, the longest active drought in the NHL and only the fourth of nine or more seasons in the history of the league.
The Colorado-New Jersey franchise also missed out from 1979-87, while the Florida Panthers (2001-11) and Edmonton Oilers (2007-17) went a league-record 10 seasons between playoff appearances.
So, either way, the Hurricanes will make history in 2018-19.
“I know we have a good group of guys and we just need to put it all together,” forward Justin Williams said. “When you don’t win, you don’t stay together. So there’s probably some things that will be different, but you’ve got to keep pushing forward.”
Some things to know about the Hurricanes’ disappointing 2017-18 season, and a look to ’18-19:
TIPPING POINT: The official, mathematical elimination came a week before the season finale, in the 79th game of the season for the third straight year, but things went awry in the months before that. The Hurricanes lost 3-1 to San Jose in February, missing a chance to move into playoff position, and after that game, coach Bill Peters repeatedly called his team out. He repeatedly used the word “disappointing” and promised lineup changes, saying “you can’t put that group out again after that.” In their next game, the Hurricanes put pretty much the same group out again.
BIGGEST MOVE: The most significant acquisition was not of a player — but of a new owner. Dallas businessman Tom Dundon bought a majority interest in the team from longtime owner Peter Karmanos Jr. in January. Now as he enters his first offseason as a pro sports owner, the question becomes, what sorts of moves are coming?
NEW GM: Before the Hurricanes can get too involved in retooling their roster, they have to settle on who’s in charge of that project after Dundon’s midseason removal of Ron Francis as general manager. The Hall of Fame player stockpiled draft picks during his three-plus seasons but was criticized for a lack of moves to help the current club. Without question, the top priority for Dundon this offseason is picking his replacement.
COACH SITUATION: Peters, who was hired by Francis in 2014, is entering the fourth and final year of his contract. Now that Francis has been reassigned to another position within the organization, it’s fair to wonder if the new GM will want his own guy behind the bench.
LASTING IMAGE OF 2017-18: The day after that fateful loss to the Sharks, Peters wrapped up a morning skate by posing a question to his team on a dry-erase board mounted on the glass. The message read: “Who are we? 29 games to find out.” Two months later, the question was answered: Not a playoff team. Again.
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