Carolina had some gaps to fill this offseason with Bill Peters heading to Calgary and Ron Francis being fired before the end of the regular season. New owner Tom Dundon filled those vacancies with former team captain and Stanley Cup champion Rod Brind’Amour as the head coach and Don Waddell as the general manager
Brind’Amour had been an assistant coach with the franchise dating back several years while Waddell was the GM for the Atlanta Thrashers for over a decade and most recently was the interim GM for Carolina after Francis was let go.
The over-arching question here for Waddell is just how much autonomy he will have. Dundon made it clear when he bought the team that, by his own admission, “in the short term, it’s probably accurate” that he will be involved in a lot of the decision-making processes across the franchise. The team has a couple notable RFAs to sign like Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. Beyond that, there is a load of cap space to work with. There have been murmurs that they could move a defenceman to help with scoring up front. They also have the number-2 pick in the draft this year where they’re guaranteed a top-tier scoring talent. One thing Carolina does have is a lot of flexibility; they could make a splash in free agency, they have the pieces to make significant trades, or they could stay the current course. It’s only flexibility if Dundon doesn’t unilaterally make the decisions he sees fit, though.
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, this is an off-season that will have major ramifications for this franchise for years to come. They’re some scoring depth and a good goaltending season away from making noise in the East. What Waddell chooses to do, or is kindly asked to do, will impact the team and fantasy owners alike for the next half-decade.
Predicting the impact of a coach with no head coaching experience is precarious. Does he simply continue with what Bill Peters implemented or does he make his own mark?
One thing is certain: this team’s fitness levels will improve. Whether they need it or not is another question but Brind’Amour is famous for being among the hardest workers off the ice and there’s no reason to think he won’t expect the same of his players.
Outside of bringing in help through trades, Brind’A