The Carolina Hurricanes wake up on Thursday morning in the Southeast Division basement, four points ahead of the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference, who have four games in hand. Their team defense has become farcical: The Hurricanes are one Columbus catastrophe away from being the worst defensive team in the NHL, with a GAA of 3.44.
Their 4-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens was their sixth in seven games, with a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night their only respite. They're flailing, fumbling and frustrated.
It's time for Paul Maurice to go.
It's time for him to go because GM Jim Rutherford set the parameters for his dismissal earlier this month, and Maurice has met them. From Canes Now on Nov. 7, Rutherford was asked about the coaching staff:
"They've done a good job," Rutherford said. "The easiest thing when you've lost a couple of games as bad as we lost them is to start pointing at the coach or the coaches. It takes everybody when it comes time to win, and it takes everybody when it comes time to lose. We need to get back to work and get back to playing to our team playing the style of game it did when we were winning games.
"Now, if we're talking again in a six- or-seven game losing streak, I'll probably be in a different frame of mind and answer those (coaching) questions differently. Let's get back on track. If not, I'll look at all the situations differently."
How's his frame of mind after this putrid stretch?
The Canes have lost seven of their last nine, being outscored 39-19 in that stretch. Last night's loss to the Habs was symbolic of everything that's gone wrong here:
Defensive coverage that gave Montreal open lanes for cross-ice passes, multiple chances on rebounds, PK Subban with a red carpet to shoot from the slot. Eric Staal with another completely ineffective and snake-bit night: 14 scoring chances, none of them converted, and a minus-1 to bring him to a minus-18 on the season. Cam Ward getting no support and then, at an inopportune time, giving up a softy.
It was also another game in which Maurice overworked his top forwards to little results. Staal played 21 minutes; Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Skinner averaged 54-seconds per shift — that's more than any defenseman on the Hurricanes against Montreal. Meanwhile, Zac Dalpe saw the ice for 8:23 and Zach Boychuk for 9:14.
It's a reoccurring problem, according to Canes Country, which wrote this after the Canes' loss to Philadelphia on Monday:
With the exception of two Tlusty shorthanded shifts in the third period, neither he nor Boychuk saw the ice in the final 23 minutes of the game. Dalpe, meanwhile, had a worse fate befall him; his final shift came with nine minutes remaining in the second period, meaning he did not see the ice for the final twenty-nine minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, Eric Staal played over 25 minutes, three players (Staal, Sutter and Skinner) played over 20 minutes apiece, with Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose both playing 19+ minutes apiece.
Put another way: the Hurricanes took a total of 390 man-shifts last night. Eighteen of those shifts were taken by the fourth line.
There's been a discussion about the chicken-or-egg paradox seemingly apparent in the ice time of the Canes' fourth line. The answer seems obvious: for whatever reason, Dalpe and Boychuk are being severely underutilized.
It's even more confounding when you consider how ineffective the big guns have been for Carolina.
Don't mistake this as a "Zac Dalpe will save them!" plea. It's just indicative of a coach pressing as his team presses. It all leads back to the fact that the Hurricanes have systemic problems that aren't being corrected, and usually that's what's written in a coaching obituary.
Changing coaches is always a quick fix, and especially in the NHL. Coach Paul Maurice, who is in the final year of his contract, has been fired by the Canes before.
If general manager Jim Rutherford wanted to make a quick change behind the bench, assistant coach Dave Lewis is a former NHL head coach. Ron Francis has served as associate head coach. Jeff Daniels has done a good job as head coach of the Charlotte Checkers. Rutherford has options.
Another would be sticking with Maurice.
And another, as Alexander points out, is to make a trade to shake things up, but the Hurricanes might be beyond that kick-start. Not sure flipping Tuomo Ruutu for someone's third-liner and/or a defenseman is really going to fix the debacle we see in Montreal last night.
Fire Paul Maurice. The time is right, with seven of the next nine games at home. If you don't think a different voice behind the bench and a stretch of home games can't turn your season around, then you haven't been watching the St. Louis Blues, apparently.