One of the challenges of running a daily hockey site in my free time is the seemingly uncanny ability for big events to happen when they do not fit with other obligations. For the paid media, they just shift whatever else they are doing around because it is part of their job. Hence the delay covering today’s big news.
I mostly covered the topic in my article addressing the pros and cons of Brind’Amour as an option on April 25.
But Rod Brind’Amour officially named as the head coach, let me add a bit to my thoughts from a couple weeks ago.
He is the right type of player to be a good head coach
The NHL like pretty much every other sport is littered with stories of great players who were not even remotely successful at coaching. Playing and coaching are two completely different skill sets despite being within the same profession. As such, it is a risky move to put a player with no head coaching experience or success at any level in a head coaching role at the NHL level. No doubt, there is a chance that this move fails.
But risk noted, I do think that because of the type of player that Rod Brind’Amour was that he is the right kind of player to succeed as a coach. His strength as a player was not raw skill. His strengths were his work ethic and effort and also his leadership. Those traits, especially the latter, translate well to coaching. The work ethic thing is tricky because even if Brind’Amour leads well, it just is not possible to get the same level of commitment from everyone he coaches. But if he can demand and receive a high level of commitment and push or inspire the players to reach a higher level commitment-wise both individually and as a group, there are gains to be had there.
But even more significantly, Brind’Amour was able to work with and lead people has the potential to be a game changer. For all of his strengths and weaknesses, Peters lacked the ability to get the most out of his players. When goalies went astray, they spiraled under Peters. When young players struggled to find their way, they also seemed to get stuck. And more concretely, the 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes underperformed relative to potential and because of how it went down with the freakish fragile streaks that seemed to pop up whenever the team seemed ready to turn the corner, I chalk it up to attitude and mentality, not skill level. If there is one area where Rod Brind’Amour is most likely to excel as an NHL coach, I think this is it. I think he has the emotional IQ to manage and coach players on an individual level and to help the organization receive closer to the best possible for more of the roster.
The next step up for this team has little to do with systems, tactics and Xs and Os
Building off of what I said in my original article, the next step up for the Hurricanes will not come from tactical changes. It will come when the team is able to exorcise some demons, lift some monkeys off backs and generate a new mentality. I think Brind’Amour gets this, and if he can jolt the system and effect a change in this regard, I think that alone could be the change needed and difference between another playoff miss and a return to postseason action.
Other angles on Tuesday’s Rod Brind’Amour announcement
Expediting the roster makeover
I think a side benefit of hiring from within is that Brind’Amour already knows what he has in the locker room. So with regard to fixing the complicated attitude issue, he starts immediately with a pretty good idea of who he ideally wants to stay and who goes. The process of making this happen is messy and could take awhile as the team tries to get fair trade value for good players, but especially with Rick Dudley on board and Don Waddell officially the general manager that the stage is set for the next makeover which is the roster.
With the aim of starting anew attitude-wise, my best guess is that two things happen. First is that the team leans toward new over old in terms of the depth players. The group in Charlotte continues to excel, and bringing in a couple new players makes for more of a reset. The bigger question is which, if any, of the young veteran core is changed out. It is difficult to speculate on specific players, but I will be surprised if the team just pushes forward into 2018-19 with the same group.
Does Tom Dundon now shift to the business side of the house?
The changeover on the hockey operations side of the house has obviously been significant. Gone are the top two in Ron Francis and Bill Peters. In are Don Waddell, Rick Dudley, Rod Brind’Amour and Paul Krepelka. The team at least for the foreseeable future is built on the hockey operations side. If Dundon is true to his word that he wants to hire good people and empower them, that time is here.
Meanwhile on the other side of the house…With Dundon focused on a massive makeover of the hockey operations team, things have at least externally been quiet on the business/marketing side of the house. Don Waddell vacated his post atop the group to move to the hockey side, but otherwise the rest of that group is seemingly mostly still intact. If Dundon’s reaction to lack of success on the ice is any indication, changes could be coming swiftly and aggressively on the business/marketing side of the house as he turns his attention there next. No doubt, the situation was challenging selling a run of playoff misses, but the product has grown stale over the years, and it shows in attendance and a dearth of energy in the building save for the occasions where opposing fans create their own spectacle.
The coaching staff
The last thing remaining on the hockey operations side is the assistant coaches. With a first-time head coach, how this shakes out is absolutely critical. I lobbied pretty hard for Francis to add a veteran head coach or two to the staff in “consultant” or similar roles to give Bill Peters someone with experience to lean on when the ups and downs of a long NHL season kicked in. To this day, I wonder if the 2017-18 season could have played out differently if there was someone else to help figure things out quickly when they were broken.
Brind’Amour’s promotion obviously opens up one slot with Steve Smith currently sitting in the other bench coaching slot. Being an assistant for a young, inexperienced head coach is not something that would appeal to everyone, but critical will be identifying and recruiting at least one good addition to the staff, ideally someone with head coaching experience.
Too much inward focus?
Rumors, rumblings and innuendos from the Canadian media largely suggest that the Carolina Hurricanes are in turmoil with a meddling owner and therefore that no one wants to sign up. With the general manager search that started up, had multiple candidates quickly withdraw from consideration, then get moth balled and finally ended with Don Waddell winning the job, the assertions are not completely without basis. Now with the addition of Don Waddell’s buddy and a coaching hire from within, the Hurricanes at least in terms of transactions are very much a closed off group. That may not bode well for adding talent from outside in the future, and it also does not seem to necessarily align with generating a shake and change in mentality. Only time will tell if the Canadian media is on to something or if we are witnessing an ‘I did it my way’ story of success that flies directly in the face of the establishment.
The opinions of the Caniac Nation
Because of my delay, a good number of well thought and varied reader opinions below represent great reading.
In addition, a quick, informal poll mid-day Tuesday on Twitter yielded interesting results.
Where do you land on @NHLCanes naming Rod Brind'Amour as head coach?
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) May 8, 2018
If you didn’t vote and therefore cannot see the results, they were 34% Yay, 17% Nay and 49% Not sure yet as of late Tuesday night.
Am curious to see even more viewpoints appear in the comments on Wednesday.