Jim Rutherford: Hurricanes GM Must Forget the Past To Succeed in the Present

S BCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2009

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 19: Erik Cole #26 (C) of the Carolina Hurricanes scores at 19:57 of the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs to tie the score at 5-5 at the RBC Center on November 19, 2009 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hurricanes defeated the Maple Leafs 6-5 in the shoot out. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Carolina GM Jim Rutherford is watching his team struggle and doesn't seem to know how to fix things. So he's doing what he's always done—he's changing his mind and then changing it back.

You might even call it his signature move.

Monday he complained to the Raleigh News & Observer about the challenges of running the struggling Hurricanes, who have just five wins on the season:

"I do not see any quick solutions...With the cap system, it's hard to make quick changes."

That's a very different tune than Rutherford sang in July 2005, when the NHL ended the lockout that cost hockey the 2004-05 season. Back then, the Carolina GM sounded like a fan of the cap system:

"What we went through was necessary. We had to get some controls on our business and certainly I'm hoping that's what this new agreement does."

So basically, if you're Rutherford, you can be a fan of the cap right up until the moment you don't like it.

And that's the kind of flip-flopping that's increasingly become the defining characteristic of Rutherford's time in North Carolina.

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Last season, as the team struggled, he fired coach Peter Laviolette and replaced him with Paul Maurice, whom Laviolette had originally replaced.

So basically, Rutherford went back to the coach he had fired.

In 2008, the Hurricanes traded Erik Cole to the Edmonton Oilers, only to re-acquire him the following season.

Prior to that, in 2006 Rutherford let center Matt Cullen get signed by the Rangers, only to re-acquire Cullen the following season.

Defenseman Aaron Ward had a similar route back to Carolina, getting signed by the Rangers, traded to the Bruins, and then traded back to the Hurricanes.

It's almost like that 2005-06 Stanley Cup haunts Rutherford, instead of inspiring him.

He keeps returning to that team and to those players and to that frame of mind.

As that Cup gets further and further away, going to that team seems less and less of a good idea.

Now Rutherford is well within his rights to change his mind. He would be foolish to persevere in the face of what he now realizes is a bad idea. But one has to wonder why his mind is being changed so frequently.

How exactly does one go from supporting a salary cap to the extent that a season of hockey is canceled and then, a few years later, find himself complaining about that very same cap?

How does a GM expect to move his team forward if he keeps undoing his decisions?

The Hurricanes are struggling for quite a few reasons: Goaltending. Injuries. A slumping Eric Staal.

Rutherford doesn't have a ton of options, but he has cap space and intriguing trade pieces. He has opportunities to make the team better, either this season or in the near future. But his not doing anything while seemingly thinking about 2006 isn't going to help things.

Let's hope Rutherford isn't on the phone, trying to lure Glen Wesley out of retirement.

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