Carolina Hurricanes: Rod Brind’Amour is finally finding his feet

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 9: Head Coach Rod Brind'Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes watches action on the ice from the bench during an NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks October 9, 2018 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 9: Head Coach Rod Brind'Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes watches action on the ice from the bench during an NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks October 9, 2018 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

There were several positive outcomes from Sunday night’s 3-0 win over the hapless Arizona Coyotes. A long-overdue goal from Warren Foegele and an even-longer overdue shutout by the Carolina Hurricanes were both very enjoyable, but perhaps the most important was that Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour seems to have found his feet.

No-one reading this needs to be reminded of Rod Brind’Amour’s achievements with the Carolina Hurricanes. After retiring from the NHL in 2010, he saw his #17 raised to the rafters of PNC Arena in February 2011, then joined the team’s coaching staff in June 2017. Serving as an assistant coach and development coach, Brind’Amour worked for nearly seven years on the coaching staff before being appointed as Head Coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in May 2018.

Canes fans were highly supportive of the move at the time, and appear to remain so generally; but as with any Carolina Hurricanes season, there have been a few bumps along the way.

Fast start to the season

Coach Rod’s Carolina Hurricanes came flying out of the traps this season, winning four of the first five games and securing nine of a possible ten points. A demolition of the New York Rangers showed how dangerous the team could be, and wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild indicated that perhaps, just perhaps, these Canes could be going places under their new coach.

The team then hit the brakes, hard, and Rod will have learnt a few valuable lessons while the team was struggling to win just two of the subsequent ten games. It was during this period that Brind’Amour continued to repeat the same phrases after each loss, an infuriating trait that does appear to be slowly improving.

While Rod served on the coaching staff for those seven years, he wasn’t personally responsible for results on the ice. Since becoming Head Coach, he has experienced first-hand the traditional yo-yo schedule of win-one, lose-one that Canes fans know so well. The team is currently stuck in a 3-5-2 record over its last ten games, but fans have a positive outlook as we head into Christmas.

THAT shootout loss

Last Friday, the Carolina Hurricanes were leading the Washington Capitals – the reigning Stanley Cup Champions – 4-1, and were looking likely to secure an exciting and valuable victory to help further boost their playoff hopes. It wasn’t to be, as an Alex Ovechkin masterclass saw him score a hat-trick, and the Caps rallied to take the game to overtime.

What happened then was simply inexplicable, and had many Canes fans on social media calling for Rod to be fired. Rather than utilise his scoring forwards – Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen or red-hot Andrei Svechnikov – Brind’Amour sent out Janne Kuokkanen, Jaccob Slavin, Phil Di Giuseppe, Dougie Hamilton, Justin Williams and Brock McGinn in the skills competition. Needless to say, the team lost, and Brind’Amour came under fire from every direction for his appalling lack of tactical nous.

He didn’t help himself with his post-game comments, either:

"“We do that drill in practice every day. Same guys kind of generally are our better guys. We keep putting them out there because they score in practice. That’s all it was. … To be honest, there’s not a lot of thought into it. Went with the flow on that one.”"

He showed incredible naivety with those post-game comments, and a complete lack of tactical awareness during the shootout – this put a large section of the fanbase on edge, and he needed a good result in the following game to help calm the storm around him.

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Luckily for him, and the team’s playoff chances, we got that good result. It was, in fact, an excellent result, albeit against a team that has even more trouble scoring than the Carolina Hurricanes. One Warren Foegele goal, so very overdue for our hard-working bottom six forward, and one well-kept shutout for Petr Mrazek later, and no-one was talking about Brind’Amour’s egregious errors in the previous game.

That the performance came after Brind’Amour cancelled Saturday’s planned practice was even more impressive – has the rookie coach already begun to learn some lessons? It’s entirely possible that he couldn’t bear to look Aho, Turbo or Svech in the eye after snubbing them in the shootout, but in reality, he suffered a brutal loss and reacted in the way he felt would get the best from the team.

And it did. And you can bet that Brind’Amour won’t make that mistake again.

Where to now?

Rod Brind’Amour has to keep this team scoring. If the team slips back into its gun-shy ways, rookie coach or veteran coach, he won’t last the season. He has to somehow work on the defense, particularly Dougie Hamilton, as we have become somewhat porous over recent weeks. If he can avoid any more shootout controversies, and notch a couple of wins, Canes fans will forget that momentary blip and once more fully support the franchise legend.

What else does Rod “The Bod” need to do? He needs to continue to react to poor performances by making subtle changes to his lines (such as his demotion of Dougie Hamilton to the third pairing), and to continue to build the team dynamic in the way he has. If he can do these seemingly straightforward things, then his rookie season as Head Coach has every chance of becoming a very positive one.

Next. Why making the playoffs should be a priority. dark

The next few games will be crucial, as the team heads into the Christmas period with three key home games against the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. If the Canes win two of those three, the team will be in an excellent position to make a run for the playoffs after Christmas.

We’re all behind you Rod – keep doing what you’re doing.