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Luke DeCock: Hurricanes signing Tony DeAngelo shows they really do want to be a 'Bunch of Jerks'

Luke DeCock, The News & Observer on

Published in Hockey

Either way, it’s a serious grass-is-always-greener moment. After more than a decade when the Hurricanes wouldn’t pay any cost at all to be competitive, they now have an owner who’s willing to do just about anything to win. Even sign a polarizing player no one else would touch when he went through waivers twice last season.

Of all the changes — Hamilton is apparently gone, Nedeljkovic and Petr Mrazek out, Andersen and Raanta in, Warren Foegele dealt for defenseman Ethan Bear — the DeAngelo signing is by far the hardest to swallow.

The Nedeljkovic trade, while unpopular, was certainly defensible. Fans and front offices don’t always agree on what should be done, and most of the time they probably shouldn’t. The right move isn’t always the popular one. Whether cutting bait on Nedeljkovic was prescient or premature is open for debate, but whether fans liked it should not be one of the criteria.

The Hurricanes probably needed a shake-up in net, and now they’re going to get one. Andersen and Raanta are, at worst, competent NHL goalies with considerable upside. It was time for a change.

Same for the departure of the unquestionably talented and influential Hamilton, who will absolutely be missed: He didn’t cost himself any money with his playoff performance, but he cost himself a chance to play for a contender, whether that was here or somewhere else.

As for the rest of it? Foegele just didn’t produce enough, especially in the last two postseasons, and Bear is a useful piece on defense. So is reliable veteran Ian Cole on a one-year deal. Re-signing Jordan Martinook helps solidify the culture in the dressing room, and when healthy, he can be a wrecking ball. The Hurricanes swapped Brock McGinn for Josh Leivo -- more production, better analytics, although McGinn certainly created the chances to score more -- for $2 million less.

 

DeAngelo is different.

The Hurricanes are bringing in a player whose past actions are reprehensible, someone who even in the most neutral light doesn’t represent what Hurricanes fans believe (or believed) their team to be. The bond between fan and team is always emotional, but at its core there’s a belief — delusional though it may be — that everyone’s pulling on the same rope.

With their social-media presence and Storm Surge and willingness to make a self-referential joke out of just about anything, the Hurricanes have played into the belief among fans that they’re not merely a hockey team but the gravitational center of an entire community. Winning, while essential, is part of a larger, holistic environment.

The appalling cynicism of the DeAngelo signing puts the lie to all of that, casts a shadow over all of the great and commendable things the Hurricanes do for their fans and for the community.

To borrow from (the other) Hamilton, if you stand for nothing, what’ll you fall for?

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