Thursday, April 30, 2015

Reactions: Jeff Daniels out as Charlotte Checkers head coach

The only coach the Charlotte Checkers have known since the team joined the American Hockey League will not be back next season.

Hurricanes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis announced on Thursday that the organization would not be renewing Jeff Daniels’ contract for the 2015-16 season.

Francis said that the decision to part ways with Daniels – who has led the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate for the last seven seasons – wasn’t one that he took lightly, but that the organization as a whole was looking to build a new foundation.

With a young core of players already in place in Charlotte (Brock McGinn, Trevor Carrick, Phil Di Giuseppe) to go along with 10 draft picks in this year’s draft and nine the following year, Francis said that the organization felt it needed a “new voice and a new direction.”

The Checkers, who will move their home games from Time Warner Cable Arena to the Bojangles’ Coliseum next season, failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2014-15, going 31-38-6-1 to finish 13th in the Western Conference.

Daniels, who plans to stay involved in the game, said that he is going to take few days to wrap his head around things before seeing what his next step will be.

"Every coach has his own style. I don’t know if one is right or not right. It reflects their personality. (Daniels) has been calm, cool, collected and that’s how he coached as well. (Bill) Peters is a bit more fiery. We're looking for ... someone like the coach we have here. Someone to go in there, teach our young kids, make them better, and hold them accountable."  
– Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis.

"It's part of the business and it's never fun. I enjoyed my time in Charlotte. Working for the Checkers organization and Michael Kahn was a great experience. ... I want to stay involved in the game. We'll see what's out there and I'll do what's best for me and my family." -- Former Checkers coach Jeff Daniels. 

Worth mentioning
Daniels has acted as head coach and general manager of the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate since he took control of the Albany River Rats in 2008. Over that time he registered a 268-225-51 record. … Daniels said that he harbors no hard feelings and that Francis told him “It was just time for a change, a fresh face, fresh message and fresh start.” Francis, in turn, expressed respect for all that Daniels has done for the organization. … According to Francis, the Hurricanes have taken steps towards streamlining not just the same system, but terminology across all levels of their organization and that he expected that to continue going forward.   

What's next?
Francis, citing the current number of big market National Hockey League clubs currently searching for coaches, said that the Hurricanes will likely “let the dust settle” before they make a decision on the Checkers next head coach. While there was initially speculation Hurricanes assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour could be in the running, Francis said this NHL staff would be remaining the same. Director of defensive development, Glen Wesley, is an interesting possibility, as well as current Iowa (AHL) assistant coach Steve Poapst, who has previously coached under Bill Peters. Francis did add that the Hurricanes are happy with the work of Checkers’ current assistant coach Geordie Kinnear and that he will be sitting down with Kinnear sometime next week to discuss where he sees his future in the organization. 

Information from Chip Alexander and Cory Lavalette (twitter) helped with the writing of this story.  


Anonymous said...

I think Francis has a long way to go in his growth as a G.M. While change is a given and a new voice can always help, the problems were not with Daniels. He definitely taught kids, made them better, and held accountable. Remember he had Rask on the 4th line last year when he wasn't producing, then moved him up late in the year when he was. Could that have contributed to his performance for the Canes this year? He's scratched Boychuk and helps a guy no one ever expected to make the NHL, Chris Terry, stick.

The real problem is that for years the Canes have under-invested in scouting, resulting in marginal talent for the AHL team with "edge" NHL talent held to high expectations (e.g. Zac Dalpe). No one who has left the Canes after playing for the Checkers has done significantly better. This year, as Paul Branecky mentioned, the Checkers fielded a team of hard-working 3rd and 4th liners--on pretty much every line.

Furthermore, as Drew McIntyre brought up, the Checkers/Canes org has been content to invest limited resources in more seasoned AHL players, that could increase talent level, serve as role models for the younger players, and create a more competitive team.

So, while the value of a new voice in the room always has to be considered, and perhaps the time was right, this should not be about Daniels and his performance (the comments about what they are looking for in a coach implies that it is). Francis needs to look a little closer to home and improve scouting and drafting. Then work with Michael Kahn to buy into a more balanced roster of prospects and experienced players.

If they don't, I would not be expecting much change in both the Checkers record and the results of players moving to the NHL. I think Daniels teams largely exceeded expectations give the talent, injuries (often at bad times), and support (or lack their of) of the Canes organization.

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