It had been a decade since the Carolina Hurricanes made the post-season in 2009. The leading scorer on the team that season was Ray Whitney. Eric Staal was the leading goal scorer, and it was the last full season as captain of the team for Rod Brind’Amour.
The team was three years removed from their one Stanley Cup in franchise history and were looking to go deep. He retired one season later and was hired as the Director of Forward Development the season after that. At the start of the 2011-12 season, he was introduced as an assistant coach and would keep that role for seven seasons. Through three head coaching changes, the team hadn’t made the postseason since 2009. The most recent head coach, Bill Peters, was fired after his fourth season as head coach and made way for the hiring of Brind’Amour for the head coaching position. The hiring of Rod was one of many key moves the team took over the summer, but he was the essential key to the team’s recent success.
Carolina Hurricanes Success Under Rod Brind’Amour
Other Offseason Moves
Rod’s wasn’t the only change the team had made that summer. The same day he was hired, the team named Don Waddell as the general manager. Going forward from that day, the team would receive a major facelift. Waddell would acquire Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland in a trade with the Calgary Flames. He would pick up goaltender Petr Mrazek, defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, forwards Lucas Wallmark and Jordan Martinook, and others for the season. The team drafted Russian-born sniper Andrei Svechnikov with their first-round draft pick and was shaping up for an explosive comeback season. The pieces were coming together for the first-year head coach. All that needed to happen was for the team to buy into his systems.
The Bigger Picture
Brind’Amour was seen as the next guy up for a long time in Raleigh. He was seen as one of the brighter faces in an organization desperately needing to return to its old form. When it came time to assume the head coaching job, the atmosphere around the team instantly shifted. The team was going to be wearing its old Hartford Whalers jerseys. They had taken on new ownership and ticket practices to fill the lower bowl. The new set of players and a younger group would certainly be bringing in some more eyes than a normal season. Furthermore, with a familiar face behind the bench, the team was screaming “2006 Stanley Cup” by its shiny new look.
Before Rod Brind’Amour, the team was just another name in a stacked Metropolitan Division. Upon his hiring, however, the buzz around the team became a loud chatter. They went 5-0-1 in the pre-season and were all set to show what their young core could do. Under Rod’s guidance, it was a very basic offensive approach. Get the puck past the centre line, put pressure on both sides of the back, and jam the front of the net. This left a lot of room for their skilled forward group to make creative adjustments on the fly. It also gave Rod a better look at his young wingers Svechnikov, Warren Foegele, Brock McGinn, and how well they could move the puck from under the net and into a scoring position. This insight formed the line combinations the team ran with the majority of the season.
The Attitude of a Winner
Through the season’s first five games, Rod led them to a 4-0-1 record. It was an abnormally hot start, and they instantly cooled off. The next 10 games they went 2-8-0 and would continue to win a game every other game, or so. By the time the team had played half its season, they were on the outside of the playoffs looking in. With a record of 20-17-5, playoff hockey was still a big question mark. This didn’t seem to phase the team, especially Rod. In press conference after press conference, he was always optimistic about the team’s progression. He had faith in his systems, his team, and the efforts of the rest of his coaching staff. It showed in the locker room as well. Guys were confident in their own ability, the team’s, and the outlook for the team’s future.
The whole organization was thriving with Rod Brind’Amour at the helm. He brought a level of excitement to hockey culture in Raleigh that hadn’t existed since their Stanley Cup run in 2006. The fans were into the game, the Storm Surge was becoming a household celebration, and the Hurricanes were a topic of relevancy again. Rod might not have been the direct cause of the last one, but it certainly helped give his coaching more energy. And where there is energy at the top, there’s energy everywhere else. The team pushed for the Eastern Conference wildcard and beyond, making it to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2009. Rod was nominated as a Jack Adams finalist for coach of the year in the NHL. The team had its first sold-out game in a long time. Things were good in Raleigh, and it carried into Rod’s second year.
The Present and Beyond for Rod Brind’Amour
This season saw another similar season for the ‘Bunch of Jerks’. Before the pause, they were 6th in the Eastern Conference and 4th in the Metropolitan. Aho and Svechnikov showed that they’re elite snipers, with Aho showing a flash of 40-goal potential. Slavin and Hamilton both proved they’re Norris-calibre defencemen. The team had conformed fully to Rod’s jacked-up, gum-chewing process. Despite the early exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Boston Bruins, things are still looking up for the organization. With an outdoor game being hosted by them for the first time in franchise history, they’re making their name known. Who knows, maybe next season they’ll be Storm Surging with the Stanley Cup.
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