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DeCock: The Second Mo Dynasty falls

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At this point, the best thing that can be said about the Second Mo Dynasty is that it’s over. The Carolina Hurricanes hadn’t clicked under Paul Maurice for two full seasons and they were working on a third by the time he was finally fired Monday.

If the Hurricanes had held him responsible for last spring’s collapse and hired Kirk Muller this summer, when Muller interviewed for head-coaching jobs in Dallas, Minnesota and Ottawa, maybe they wouldn’t be in this fix now.

Maurice did an excellent job fine-tuning the team that Peter Laviolette left him in December 2008, and a surprisingly good job of making adjustments on the fly in the 2009 playoffs, but given the chance to retool the team on his terms, it was back to business as usual.

The Hurricanes missed the playoffs in 2010, they missed the playoffs in 2011 and they have very little chance to make the playoffs in 2012. Maurice hasn’t taken a team he has coached for a full season to the playoffs since 2002, and that wasn’t going to change this year. The Hurricanes went into Monday’s games last in the Eastern Conference, six points out of a playoff spot but with seven teams to jump.

Admittedly, the Hurricanes are desperately short of a top-six forward and their biggest free-agent signing, Tomas Kaberle, was a long overdue healthy scratch Sunday night. But this season highlighted all of the negatives Maurice has shown as a coach and few of the positives.

Whether intentionally or as an unfortunate consequence of his coaching style, Maurice over the course of his career has stifled his most creative players. The result is all too often a lowest-common-denominator approach that seems designed to create four fourth lines, three third defensive pairings, a goalie who plays 90 percent of the time (or more) and a toothless power play. Meanwhile, underperforming veterans are always given preference over unproven young players.

Over the course of his career, Maurice has been able to squeeze unexpected contributions out of players cast off elsewhere (from Paul Coffey to Jussi Jokinen). But he got very little from Kaberle, Anthony Stewart or Alexei Ponikarovsky while giving top-line minutes to useful role players like Chad LaRose and Jiri Tlusty who played hard but didn’t produce.

It hasn’t worked in Carolina since 2002, it didn’t work in Toronto and it didn’t work when given a second chance here -- a chance he never would have gotten anywhere else, and only got because of his friendship with owner Peter Karmanos and general manager Jim Rutherford.

How many millions has that friendship cost the franchise now?

History offers some solace. The last time Rutherford went outside the organization, he brought in Peter Laviolette, who had the 2003-04 season to assess the team. In his first full season, after the lockout hit the reset button on the league, the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. The combination of a new financial system and a new voice in an insular organization pushed the Hurricanes to a new level. (The arrival of Marshall Johnston that season as director of pro scouting shouldn’t be underestimated either.)

And hey, guess what, the NHL’s labor deal expires again after this season, which means the Hurricanes should start -- in Year 1 at least -- on roughly level terms with the rest of the league. (Karmanos’ self-imposed austerity measures have left them with the fourth-smallest payroll this season.) Muller should go into next season with a more competitive roster whether there’s time lost to a lockout or not.

For now, Muller faces a difficult task. Just to get to 92 points this season and give themselves a chance to make the playoffs, the Hurricanes will have to go roughly 32-17-8 the rest of the way. According to the website sportsclubstats.com, there’s a 2.1 percent chance of that.

Which raises the question: With this team struggling mightily for a month, what took so long to make this change? (Meanwhile, fan interest turned to apathy, tickets went unsold, season tickets went unused, and the foundation built in 2002, 2006 and 2009 was chipped away, little by little, with each dishearting loss.) Only Karmanos and Rutherford know the answer.

Let’s just hope, whenever Muller’s reign comes to an end, whether that’s sooner or later, they don’t give in to the compulsion to reboot Mo 3.0. They can’t afford it. Neither can this franchise.

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What a shocker...Sittler

What a shocker...Sittler coming to the defense of MO.  Sittler, when it comes to your full of baloney posts on here claiming to be drinking buddies with half of the NHL, no one ever reads that either because they are so hysterical and far fetched.  You give the rest of us hard working Canadians a bad name with your story telling.  Hopefully MO being shown the door will have you following him back to Canada as well. 

Everybody is entitled to

Everybody is entitled to express their opinions.  I look forward to reading sittler27's posts; and appreciate his insights. To me, he represents what I like most in hockey.  As far as representing Canada well,  at least for me sittler27 is a great ambassador both for hockey and for Canada.

Another classy article by

Another classy article by Luke, way to kick a man when he's down. Maurice was fired, let it go and show some decorum.

It's his job!

It's Luke's job to analyze and give his opinion on the Hurricanes.  That's what a columnist does.  If you don't like his opinion, that's fine.  Getting beat up in the papers is part of the gig for any professional athlete or coach.  

Not anymore it's not

Chip is the beat writer, not Luke. Chip writes like a sportswriter should. With some class and not reactive. Us fans here get to vent. I do not need to read from a guy like Luke who just puts together all the comments from the fans buying tickets who are frustrated on here. I said it before and will say it again, after the strike when Luke was the beat writer, he was so upset we did not sign Forsberg or Kariya, he picked us to miss the playoffs. That was 2006. Maurice is in the past. I could care less about any analysis on Maurice any more. The best article I have read in years on this team was on espn.com the other day. They were spot on.

Sigh...

Traditionally the beat writer covers the team and reports on what is happening.  They often keep their opinions to themselves first because it isn't their job to write opinion pieces and second to keep good relationships with the team and players.

The columnist is there to write opinion pieces which Luke does.  The fact that it hacks you off is one sign that he's doing his job.  He's not there to make you or anyone else like him.  He's basically there to stir the pot.

sigh as well..

thanks to this area of the N&O, we can all stir the pot. I respectfully disagree..as in, what has Luke said that us true fans have not already mentioned? He should be a movie critic then if everything he writes is negative. Sorry, I guess having grown up watching writers in several local papers contribute some good informative pieces, Luke seems like a college paper reporter. I enjoy reading comments from the fans here instead.

No Need

I'm there with you on Luke. He comes from the "controversy sells" school of journalism.  If his goal is to raise my blood pressure a tad then he is a total success. But do I ever finish one of articles and feel I've learned just one additonal thing about the sport or team, or recieved some insight I didn't already hear from a dozen others.... when it comes to hockey.... Never.

Exactly

That is exactly what I was trying to say. In this area with some having grown up with hockey as a kid in other markets and many here new to the sport, I prefer columns on not just the things that put folks on the defensive. There are things we can learn about from hockey writers. When John Davidson was a commentator for hockey games on TV, I learned. We can use some of that here in the form of writing. Rule explanations, good positive interviews with our players and coaches from time to time. There are no players in sports quite like hockey players as far as maturity and how well they carry themselves. Maybe we can see more stories on those things.

Thank You

I am glad someone else reads Luke how I have read him for years. Why bother looking back? Move forward and hopefully we can read some positive articles. Muller dealt with the Montreal media..as a player and assistant coach. There is no comparison to the media here.

Thanks Luke for the Accurate summary of the Mo Era!

Thanks Luke for the Accurate summary of the Mo Era!  Why there was ever a second Mo era I will never understand, friend or not why would you go down that road again???

HAD TO HAPPEN

The question is, as Luke points out, what took so long? It was painfully obvious by the end of October that Mo hockey had run its course. Yet, while the 6-7-0 Blues were firing their coach, the 5-5-3 Canes were standing pat. While the Blues were going 7-1-2 under new coach Ken Hitchcock, the Canes were going 3-8-1 under old coach Paul Maurice. While Mo was juggling lines, overslotting marginal players, ignoring younger players, masterminding a powerless power play and imposing "defense first" on a team that was no longer listening, the hole kept getting deeper and deeper. Had we pulled the trigger when the Blues did, maybe we'd be 5 games over .500, too.

I couldn't have said it better, Luke.

As of today's firing, my self-imposed boycott of this team has been lifted.  I had vowed not to attend any more games with Maurice behind the bench.  Hopefully, Muller will be able to micromanage this team and implement an effective system ASAP.  I actually knew very little about Muller, but after reading the reactions of numerous Montreal fans today, we just hired the man many coveted as their HC.  Too bad Maurice's firing did not occur about a month sooner; this team likely has too many hurdles to make a playoff run this season.  That said, the future looks bright, and it is a great day to be a Hurricanes fan.

It's official...

Admiral Kirk is our new coach:

 

Always the coach

Much easier to fire a coach than sit or try and trade a player with a no trade clause and a cap hit $8.25 Mil.

well said Luke

I hope that Chip and you will ask all these questions of JR, but especially of PK.  Why has he been so stingy with his budget, and greatly dimished all the goodwill built up for the Hurricanes in this community.  This market will not support NHL hockey over the longterm unless the team is competitive.  To be competitive you CANNOT have the 4th smallest payroll in the NHL.

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About the blogger

Luke has worked for The N&O since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He can be reached at (919) 829-8947, @LukeDeCock on Twitter or luke.decock@newsobserver.com.
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