Commentary

DeCock: Hurricanes’ real problems start at the top with Karmanos

ldecock@newsobserver.comApril 12, 2014 

Even as the Carolina Hurricanes wrap up a fifth straight season without a playoff appearance Sunday at the Philadelphia Flyers, fans will be happy to know the team is in great shape. Just ask owner Peter Karmanos, who wouldn’t mind your season-ticket deposit if you happen to have it handy.

“I think we have all the pieces in place,” Karmanos said in an increasingly infamous interview with FS Carolinas on Tuesday. “We might have to do some tweaking here and some tweaking there, change some attitudes here, some attitudes there, but all in all, I think we got a good thing going.”

That interview with team broadcaster John Forslund aired during the first intermission of a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers that eliminated the Hurricanes from playoff contention, was presumably an attempt to placate restless fans. Karmanos only managed to infuriate.

“I need the fans to be even more patient than they have been,” Karmanos said. “Our season-ticket renewals right now aren’t good, and I don’t blame anybody because we’ve missed the playoffs for five years, but when we do go back on the ice next year, we need that fan support.”

Why even more patience is so important is unclear, though, since Karmanos also said the front office and coaching staff are doing a great job – general manager Jim Rutherford’s expected departure was not mentioned – and he doesn’t think reconstruction is necessary: “We’re not in a situation where we have to tear everything down and build over again.”

Perhaps you might believe that the Hurricanes have been let down by average-at-best performances from some of their highest-paid players, like Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin, Cam Ward? Nope. The problem according to Karmanos was the four-week simultaneous loss of goalies Ward and Anton Khudobin, never mind Justin Peters actually went 4-6-1 while both were injured, earning better than a public scapegoating.

By the end of it, Karmanos had not only insulted the intelligence of every sentient fan but even tried to bully Forslund, who despite being as accommodating an interrogator as Karmanos might find was forced to treat his boss like a hostile witness on the stand in one memorable exchange.

“Is this is a situation where you’re compiling, getting as much information as possible, and that’s a healthy exchange so you can get all that out there and stand behind that belief?” Forslund asked.

“Yeah. I guess. All right?” Karmanos responded. “You know, it isn’t like I’ve lived in a vacuum for the whole season.”

He certainly has not been living in a vacuum this year, a difficult one for him. He fired his son Jason from the Hurricanes last fall, a very public airing of private grievances. Then Compuware, the company he founded, terminated a $600,000 consulting contract after Karmanos, who retired in March, publicly disparaged current management.

Meanwhile, his hockey team has now failed to make the playoffs in seven of eight seasons since winning the Stanley Cup. (Karmanos has said coach Peter Laviolette benefited from a “perfect storm” that season. It is increasingly apparent Laviolette was not the one who stumbled into success.)

Karmanos did not respond to a request, through a team spokesman, to clarify his comments, but if this rare television appearance Tuesday was supposed to assuage fans’ concerns, all Karmanos did was show how out of touch he is.

“I don’t know if people realize that we have a very, very good hockey team,” Karmanos said, although surely he’s aware the NHL annually keeps standings that continue to indicate otherwise.

It took only 4 minutes and 16 seconds, but people realize this now: This franchise’s issues start at the top and work their way all the way down to the ice.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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