With a lot of pessimism floating around I thought I'd try to introduce some optimism regarding GMJR being introduced to the Consol Dome faithful.
With the foundation in place for a Cup contending team I thought I'd go back and look at GMJR's track record rounding out a solid playoff team. Last time he had such a foundation in place was leading up to and during the 2005-06 cup winning season for the Hurricane. If you look at the construct of that team you'll see that JR clearly went out of his way to surround his draft picks with veteran talent and character.
Whether or not his 2002 finals team had all the elements is debatable but there's no shame in losing to the Red Wing teams in those days. Then when he had his chance in 2005-06 he clearly had a plan to leave no stone un-turned. And gems were found.
E. Staal, Cam Ward and Ladd were high picks. But key contributors and role players were not. Erik Cole was a 3rd round pick. Wallin and Vasicek were 4th round picks. Chad LaRose was signed as FA and was highly effective. So a substantial chunk of JR's squad was drafted and developed by the Canes. Then when you look at how his roster was filled out it's hard to argue that he got the worst in any of the trades. As a matter a fact you can argue all the moves were of the Real Deal variety.
His depth at center was acquired via trade and free agency:
Rod Brind'Amour: January 23, 2000: Traded to Carolina by Philadelphia with Jean-Marc Pelletier and Philadelphia's 2nd round choice (later traded to Colorado - Colorado selected Agris Saviels) in 2000 Entry Draft for Keith Primeau and Carolina's 5th round choice (later traded to NY Islanders - NY Islanders selected Kristofer Ottosson) in 2000 Entry Draft, January 23, 2000.
Matt Cullen: Was signed for peanuts. Kevyn Adams was acquired with Brett Hedican in a shrewd trade: January 16, 2002: Traded to Carolina by Florida with Bret Hedican and Tomas Malec for Sandis Ozolinsh and Byron Ritchie, January 16, 2002.
Ozolinsh went on to have a solid career but at the time JR traded an offensive dman with flaws for a steady Dman in Hedican and center depth in Adams without giving up any other significant assets. From there it was clear that he wanted talented and experienced wingers and executed rather well.
Justin Williams on January 20, 2004 was traded to Carolina by Philadelphia for Danny Markov. As far as I can tell Markov and Primeau were the best players JR traded for his cup runs but JW was an excellent pick up and am told is quite clutch. D. Markov moved back to mother Russia not long after philly traded JW for him. Primeau went on to have a solid career before concussions took their toll. Brind' Amour however went on to be invaluable.
Have a feeling JR slept just fine after trading Markov and Primeau.
His well rounded defense consisting of Kaberle, Aaron Ward, Hedican, Commodore, Tverdovsky, Wesley and Wallin were mostly built via trade and free agency but all were done so without breaking the bank or giving up significant assets.
Furthermore you can argue that JR signed players who outperformed their contracts and got the better end of all the trades associated with the construct of his Cup winning team.
Will he have to make as many moves here? I think not. Is it concerning to see Semin's contract? Yes. Did JR give Justin Faulk too much too soon? Yes. Did the Hurricane have their reasons for overpaying those two? Perhaps. Did shero max out on staal trade? Yes. But doesn't mean that trend will continue here. And based on precedent it seems like the approach when close to contending is different for JR than when he's rebuilding.
For those looking for signs of optimism, signs do exist. Those looking to be pessimistic will point to the Canes lack of post season appearances past 5 seasons. Valid criticism considering the East isn't the West but hardly a closing argument considering constraints in Carolina.
As far as I can tell it's encouraging to see JR's track record when he can smell a Cup run. His recognition of the lack of forward depth at press conference leads me to believe that depth will be high on his priority list. Options in the UFA and trade markets do exist.
All this sounds good in theory but much like a PP or controlled breakout, execution is key.
Winter is coming.
Only time will tell if JR can replicate the calm before the storm.