Rod Brind’Amour wanted the opportunity to step behind the Hurricanes bench, believing the timing was right and that he could be the one to finally help Carolina take a long-awaited step forward. And now he’s going to get his chance.
On Tuesday, the Hurricanes officially announced that Brind’Amour has been hired as the team’s new coach, the 14th in franchise history and the fifth since their arrival in Carolina. He takes the post little more than two weeks after Bill Peters, who spent four seasons as the Canes’ bench boss, resigned from his position to take over the Calgary Flames’ vacant coaching gig. Brind’Amour’s move to the top job behind the bench comes after he himself spent seven seasons as an assistant in Carolina.
Brind’Amour’s interest in the position was no secret, of course. Just days after Peters’ resignation, Brind’Amour spoke with the News & Observer’s Chip Alexander and made it clear he saw himself as a fit for the job. “If you never try, you’ll never know,” Brind’Amour told Alexander. “The reason for saying ‘why not?’ is I’ve been doing it for eight years and I really believe I can help out one way or the other and see if I can put us over the hump…I don’t think as an assistant I’m going to get any better or learn any more. So now’s the time.”
The Hurricanes, who also officially announced Don Waddell as president and GM in the same release, said Brind’Amour landing the position came after a number of candidates had been interviewed. In a release, Waddell added that Carolina’s “conversations with staff and players consistently returned to the same person,” and that was Brind’Amour. “Rod's fresh ideas, ability to motivate and understanding of what it takes to bring a championship to Raleigh will help our young team take the next step toward competing to bring the Cup back to North Carolina,” Waddell said.
Brind’Amour does find himself facing a rather difficult task, however, as it’s been nine seasons since the Hurricanes have made the post-season, let alone realistically challenged for the Stanley Cup. And it’s not as if Brind’Amour is coming into the position with a wealth of experience. Yes, he has his seven prior seasons behind the Carolina bench as an assistant under Peters, Kirk Muller and, for a brief time, Paul Maurice, but Brind’Amour has no prior experience as a head coach at any level.
It is somewhat surprising, too, that the Hurricanes have decided to go down this path, particularly given Mike Vellucci, current coach of Carolina AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers, seemed a readymade option. Vellucci spent more than a dozen years as an OHL bench boss and guided the Checkers to a post-season berth with a 46-26-4 record this past season. There are also other experienced coaches looking for work, including Alain Vigneault and Dave Tippett, and a few AHL standouts who seemed primed to make the move to big league jobs.
That said, the experience Brind’Amour can offer comes from his time spent in the NHL. Across 21 seasons, he skated in nearly 1,500 regular seasons contests, during which he scored 452 goals and 1,184 points, all the while winning two Selke Trophies as the NHL’s top defensive forward. Included in Brind’Amour’s NHL tenure was a 694-game stay in Carolina, during which time he helped the Hurricanes to four post-season appearances, including the 2001-02 run to the Stanley Cup final and the 2005-06 Stanley Cup victory, for which he was captain.
Among Brind’Amour’s first tasks will be formulating some way — any way, really — to insulate a crease that has done the Hurricanes more harm than good over the past several seasons. Be it with a new, more strict defensive structure or otherwise, improving goaltending is going to be a must for Brind’Amour if he wants to see results. Consider that during Peters’ tenure, Carolina was often one of the best puck possession teams in the league, and though that’s generally been a recipe for success, the Hurricanes had no such success to speak of given their sub-.900 save percentage during that time. From Cam Ward to current starter Scott Darling, the Hurricanes goaltending carousel has been the organization’s Achilles heel for far too long.
Fortunately, Brind’Amour has a bright young defensive corps with which to work, with Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Noah Hanifin and Justin Faulk making for a solid foundation on the blueline. Brind’Amour will also have a nice complement of forwards, including Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask, a core which helps make up one of the youngest rosters in the NHL. The Hurricanes will have the opportunity to add a legitimate game-breaking prospect in the near future, as well, after landing the second-overall selection by way of the draft lottery. Current projections have Carolina taking Andrei Svechnikov with the pick, which would bring them a dynamic offensive talent. That choice, however, will primarily fall in the hands of Waddell and his staff.
Waddell and Co. will also be asked to tinker with and bolster a roster that might be in need of a minor facelift on the heels of another disappointing finish despite increased expectations. Ward is almost assuredly on the outs with his contract set to expire, while defenders Hanifin, Klas Dahlbeck and Trevor van Riemsdyk and forwards Lindholm, Joakim Nordstrom and Phillip Di Giuseppe are due new deals as restricted free agents. Unrestricted free agent Derek Ryan, who scored 15 goals and 38 points this past season, might also be brought back. Carolina will have a significant amount of money to work with, too. Per CapFriendly, the Hurricanes are currently projected to have $27.35 million in cap space, and that’s before a potential rise in the spending limit.
No matter where the dollars are spent or how Brind’Amour gets the job done, though, the goal will remain the same: take a team that has failed to reach its potential over the past few seasons and finally, at long last, put an end to the NHL’s longest playoff drought.
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