Jim Rutherford said he accepts the blame for the Carolina Hurricanes' stumbling start.
With the Hurricanes 2-8-3, 14th in the Eastern Conference and winless in their last nine games, the general manager said today that he still believes in his coaching staff and players. But he said some offseason decisions and the shortening of preseason training camp was a mistake, and said he would be more actively looking to make an early season trade than in most years.
"I'd like to get to the end of November and see where we're at, but it has been so disappointing in the last two home games in how we've played and how we've lost games," he said. "We have a responsibility to our fans to win games and try to win another Cup. We can't dig too deep a hole that we do not have a chance to get to the playoffs.
"I will be talking to other teams more than I usually do at this time of the season, but you need to find a partner to do a deal. It's disappointing for me to do this, but I have to be fair to our fans. It's very disappointing to watch a team that has the ability to win find ways to lose."
The Canes recently called up Brandon Sutter from Albany of the AHL and he has responded well, with goals in the last two games and some heady play. Rutherford had hoped to keep a number of other prospects -- including forwards Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman -- with the River Rats this season and then possibly move them to the big club next season, but that may change.
"We were in position to transition to a younger team in the future but maybe we need to accelerate that," he said.
Rutherford said that in retrospect, shortening training camp and playing four preseason exhibition games -- the Canes had six preseason games last year -- was not the right thing to do.
"I take full responsibility for what's happened," Rutherford said. "The players probably were not in game shape with too few preseason games. It worked in that our injuries were down, but we were not in game shape."
Canes coach Paul Maurice took over in early December last year when Peter Laviolette was fired and led the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, when the Canes won the Stanley Cup. Maurice was given a three-year contract after the season and the coaching staff retained intact.
Asked if he still had faith in Maurice and the staff, Rutheford said, "I do. We have the same system that got us going the second half of the season. We just need better performances from certain guys, from our top players."
One of the responsibilities of a coach is to motivate his team. Has Maurice been lacking in that area?
"I don't see it," Rutherford said. "I watched training camp. I've talked to the players. That is what the players wanted."
Rutherford said he believed re-signing such unrestricted free agents as Erik Cole and Chad LaRose and adding some veteran players to the mix would strengthen the team.
"I thought it would make the team better but it hasn't," he said.
He said not bringing back defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Anton Babchuk has hurt. Seidenberg, an unrestricted free agent, priced himself too high initially and Babchuk "took a strong position with the team," Rutherford said. Babchuk, a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights, turned down the Canes' qualifying offer and is playing in Russia.
"But it's hard to lose both in the same year and the points they brought to the table," he said.