Carolina Hurricanes: Rod Brind’Amour, Jack Adams candidate?

The Carolina Hurricanes are making a concerted push for a first playoff spot in ten years, and they’re doing so under rookie Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour. Could he be on the brink of a Jack Adams nomination?

When the Carolina Hurricanes began the season with four wins from their first five games, Canes fans wondered whether the team had struck gold by appointing franchise hero Rod Brind’Amour to the Head Coach position earlier in 2018. The next couple of months saw the team struggle, to the point that some Canes fans were calling for Brind’Amour to be fired before Christmas. Remember those dark times?

Fast forward three months, and that same Rod Brind’Amour has our Carolina Hurricanes in the first wildcard spot, with a nice two-point cushion on 9th-place Montreal and with a game in hand. The team went under the radar for some time until Don Cherry’s comments about the Storm Surge brought nationwide attention to the team’s winning run; that run hasn’t slowed that much, and the Canes are more likely than not to secure a playoff berth this season.

Earlier in the season – at around the same time as some fans were calling for Brind’Amour’s departure – we thought that Brind’Amour was beginning to show signs of improvement. Since then, his team has been one of the best teams in the league, and quite possibly the best team full stop. It’s a remarkable turnaround, and one that feels all the more special for Carolina Hurricanes fans due to the long and storied relationship we have with RBA.

The main bumps in the road have been Brind’Amour’s shootout choices, and his refusal to cowtow to fan demand and simply place Andrei Svechnikov into a top six role. No-one has mentioned shootout choices since that incident against the Washington Capitals – because that was the last time the Carolina Hurricanes played in a shootout game. That’s 37 games without a shootout game, and the team is 24-11-2 in that time. Just after that Caps game, Canes Twitter was rife with comments such as this:

With Andrei Svechnikov, fans have to remember that he is STILL just 18 years old. He may play like a freight train at times, and fans may love his talent and flashy offensive skills, but Rod Brind’Amour has been slowly building Svech up over the course of the season, giving him an excellent grounding in the basics of how to be a success in the NHL. Thanks to Michael Ferland‘s injury, Rod is giving Svech the chance fans were craving, and he’s risen to the test:

“He’s been really good the last few games,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s a competitor, too. He’s getting better and better.”

Last night’s excellent 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche showcased Svech’s ability and saw the young Russian score two goals to reach 17 for the season. He needs just two points to surpass Victor Rask for the third-best rookie season on the Carolina Hurricanes since the team last made the playoffs, and for the fifth-best rookie campaign since the Canes moved from Hartford.

It’s very difficult not to give Rod Brind’Amour huge credit for the way the Carolina Hurricanes are playing. They’re playing well in the second game of their back-to-backs, they’re bouncing back well from big defeats, and they’ve sorted out their scoring issues from earlier in the season. The team isn’t perfect – Rod still needs to fix the team’s power play, for example – but so many issues that have faced the team in recent seasons have been rectified, and he deserves recognition for his efforts. Rod Brind’Amour lives and breathes this organization:

It’s clear that the players have bought into Brind’Amour’s methods; they hate to lose, play with chips on their shoulders, and have a fire in them that has been lacking for many years. Who wouldn’t want to play for a guy who says things like this after games:

“There’s a level, a standard the room expects every night, and that’s to win,” head coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “In order to win, you have to play a certain way and compete a certain way. That’s what we’re getting night in and night out, for the most part.”

Rod Brind’Amour took over a Carolina Hurricanes team that finished 6th in the Metropolitan Division last season with 83 points, and has now matched that total in just 69 games. Last season’s team missed the playoffs by a massive 14 points, while this season’s Carolina Hurricanes hold the tiebreaker over the Pittsburgh Penguins for 3rd in the Metro – today, anyway – and are currently four points clear of the Montreal Canadiens, who sit 9th in the Eastern Conference standings.

Rod has made this team a potential playoff team, and one that not many teams would relish facing. It’s one hell of an achievement, and one that deserves recognition.

There’s still plenty of hockey left to play this season, but Rod Brind’Amour will surely have impressed far and wide with his rookie coaching season in charge of the Carolina Hurricanes. Jon Cooper will be the favorite for the Jack Adams, but Brind’Amour has a good chance of a nomination thanks to the impact his methods have had on the Canes’ performances.