After supposedly learning the importance of prior head coaching experience from the Kirk Muller disaster, the Carolina Hurricanes now appear poised to again hire an untested former player as the team's next head coach.
Josh Rimer of Sportsnet reported via Twitter on Wednesday that Ulf Samuelsson is the leading candidate for the Carolina head coaching job:
Hearing that Carolina Hurricanes waiting for end of Stanley Cup playoffs because Ulf Samuelsson is leading Candidate for Head Coaching job.— Josh Rimer (@JoshRimerHockey) May 28, 2014
Samuelsson is currently an assistant coach for the New York Rangers and served as a Phoenix Coyotes assistant from 2006 to 2011. His only former head coaching tenure came with Swedish club Modo from 2011 to 2013.
Francis' ongoing coaching search has linked him to a number of former Hartford and Pittsburgh teammates, including Kevin Dineen, Ed Olczyk and Dean Evason.
It would be neither just nor considerable for him to cripple the 'Canes with such cronyism—but it seems that Francis may be determined to do so nonetheless.
Despite his 1,080 NHL appearances, Samuelsson's playing career was not particularly productive. He tallied just 57 goals and 275 assists—dwarfed by his 2,453 penalty minutes and equaled by his 57 career fights.
Perhaps most famous for ending Bruins star Cam Neely's career with a cheap-shot hit, Samuelsson, a defenseman, did not exactly demonstrate a strong capability for or deep understanding of offensive strategizing during his 17-season career.
The 50-year-old Swede's coaching career has been similarly unremarkable.
Coaching Modo in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 Elitserien campaigns, Samuelsson posted a mediocre 47-49-16 record and lost in the first round of the playoffs both years. Modo had the second-worst defense in the league his first year but improved to the middle of the pack by his second year.
Little seems to justify Samuelsson's contention, much less lead, in Carolina's coaching job race other than his aforementioned friendship with Francis.
That's where this story begins to feel like a close-minded betrayal of faith.
The 'Canes already tried hiring a coach with no NHL head coaching experience three years ago. The experiment cost the club three valuable years without any postseason berths, derailed Muller's previously ascending coaching career and arguably ended Jim Rutherford's career as a general manager.
Presumed when the Rutherford-Francis transition occurred was that the latter would bring a fresh, rejuvenating, no-strings-attached perspective to the leadership position. Initially, after dispatching Muller only one week later, those presumptions seemed verified.
But hiring Samuelsson as a replacement could shed an unexpected shadow on Francis' first 60 days, indicating the coaching clearinghouse was simply a prerequisite for the installation of a spoils system.
Would you support the hiring of Samuelsson as Hurricanes head coach?
No, it's not as if Francis is hiring his brother as head coach. He is hiring a legitimate coaching candidate.
Would Samuelsson toughen up Drayson Bowman? Yes, probably.
Yet would he be able to help Eric Staal's struggling confidence and production much? Doubtful.
It's tough to believe that Samuelsson could truly be the most qualified and deserving candidate available.