By Bruce Bullington
Senior Hockey Writer
There was surprising news out of Raleigh today. It wasn’t that Peter Laviolette was fired as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. He has been on the hot seat for weeks after several uneven efforts and a power play that is threatening the Greensboro-era ‘Canes as the worst in team history.
No, what was surprising was that Paul Maurice, Laviolette’s predecessor and coach of the Whalers / Hurricanes from 1996 through 2003, was announced as the new coach at a press conference this afternoon.
Under Laviolette, the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs in the two seasons following their Stanley Cup victory in 2006 and had gotten off to 12-11-2 start this season. Maurice was fired during the 2003-04 season in the midst of a season that saw the Hurricanes miss the playoffs for the 2nd season in a row following their run to the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals, which ended in a loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
I’ve been reading the various message boards to gauge fan reaction, and it’s been almost universally negative. It’s not so much that the fans feel that Laviolette shouldn’t have been fired, but that changing the voice in the locker room to Maurice was not the shakeup that this team needs.
Before the season, the Hurricanes promoted their longtime AHL coach Tom Rowe to one of the assistants positions with the NHL club. The thought was that, if the team began to slide as they had done the past two seasons, that Rowe could take over. He has the reputation as a strict disciplinarian and has already put the players through a bag skate already this season.
Now that general manager Jim Rutherford has seen fit to bring back Maurice, the general sentiment is that we will see the same listless, uninspired play that marked the end of both he and Laviolette’s tenures.
For better or worse, Maurice’s 2nd tour of duty with the club is tomorrow night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the RBC Center in Raleigh. Good tickets still remain and the game will be televised by Fox Sports Carolinas.