With the departure of Bill Peters last Friday and not much for news on the general manager front, attention has recently turned to the Carolina Hurricanes head coaching vacancy. In addition to the myriad of possibilities outside of the organization, two names internally have also been bandied around. Mike Vellucci who is coaching the Charlotte Checkers in the playoffs right now is one name. And franchise hero Rod Brind’Amour is the other. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers the pros and cons to Rod Brind’Amour as a potential bench boss.
The time is not now
First, to be clear, I am not suggesting that the time is now to hire a coach. Best continues to be to hire a new general manager and have that new general manager play a leading role in hiring the next coach. Hiring a coach first would send a strong message as to where the new general manager sits with regard to authority and leadership and could further complicate the search process. If the current general manager by committee situation becomes longer-term, then obviously the team will need to hire a coach with the current brain trust making the decision.
Where I ultimately land
Before I try to balance pros and cons, let me say upfront that despite believing it could work and seeing a decent number of positives, I would prefer a coach with head coaching experience. I am somewhat more open to hiring an up-and-comer who has succeeded at lower levels but not the NHL level, but the idea of hiring someone who has never been a head coach at any level and giving him his first shot at the NHL level seems like a dice roll of epic proportions. When the team was very clearly rebuilding a couple years ago, one might be more inclined to give an unproven coach a chance to learn on the job, but this team is very much past the point where it can risk chucking another season into the sun without making the playoffs. As such, Brind’Amour does not fit the bill for what I would be seeking in a new head coach.
Pros of hiring Rod Brind’Amour as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes
After starting by saying the Brind’Amour would not be my choice, one might assume that my opinion of this possible outcome is overwhelmingly negative. That actually is not the case. Probably in the minority, I lean something like 60/40 against and am not in the camp that things another internal hire with no head coaching experience is a 100/0 ‘no’.
Brind’Amour arguably knows the leadership/character as well as anyone possible
Most agree that one of the significant issues that must be addressed are the intangibles. Call it leadership, character, heart, maturity or whatever else you want, the 2017-18 were a fragile bunch at times and were not able to rise to the occasion on the few instances where they seemed to start to put it together. From being a strong leader and a captain on both goods and maybe equally importantly bad teams, Brind’Amour knows leadership and locker rooms as well as anyone. Maybe more significantly, he should have as good of a read on the current internal situation as anyone. As a bench coach, he was in the locker room and with the players as much as anyone. As such, Brind’Amour would hit the ground running in terms of diagnosing and remedying the attitude/mentality issues with the current team.
Brind’Amour arguably has the right type of mindset to lead but with help
One of the raps on Brind’Amour would be that he was a former elite player but has no head coaching experience. While I do count this as a weakness and potential problem, Brind’Amour’s track record as a player decreases the issues here. As a captain, he was a leader and a motivator and completely unselfish. Could his unselfishness and sincere ‘team first’ foundation make it possible for him to lead the team but also take on significant help? Does your opinion of Brind’Amour as a head coach change if he is focused first and foremost on people management and motivation and his staff includes coaches who are more tactically focused?
Brind’Amour represents the greatest opportunity to build on what is established versus tearing it all down to start over
One of the drawbacks of hiring a new coach can be the reset that requires time to adjust and burns a full season in the process. For every story of a new coach sparking an immediate surge, there is at least one that sees the team need time to take a step back, build a new foundation systems-wise and then rise up only after an initial setback. As a coach who has been part of the process for the past years, Brind’Amour could keep the core of the system intact and try to tweak it to find additional gains or better play to the roster’s strengths.
Is Brind’Amour exactly what this team needs right now?
I think that is an interesting question. One could argue that the issue the Hurricanes right now has absolutely nothing to do with systems and tactics. The team has been winning the possession metrics that should theoretically yield wins for years now. Massive improvements in this area are not the primary need. The primary need is righting the ship in terms of mental make up and attitude. If I had to pick an area of coaching where I thought Brind’Amour could excel despite lack of head coaching experience, this would be it. The team desperately needs a change in mindset and attitude. I think Peters’ struggles in this are pretty clearly show that it is not as simple as some might think to change.
Cons of hiring Rod Brind’Amour as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes
Brind’Amour has now amassed four years of coaching experience at the NHL level but has never been a head coach at any level. That is significant and not something to take lightly. As such, he would represent a massive dice roll that does not fit well with a growing urgency to win now.
Lack of proven tactical aptitude
In terms of managing the tactical angle and Xs and Os, Brind’Amour’s resume is a again limited and not overly impressive. He has been tasked with running the power play for a few years now. The group has perennially been below average. One could make the case that lack of offensive talent played a huge role in the first couple years, but the group possessed more skill in 2017-18 and still did no better.
The treacherous path of putting another iconic franchise figure in a ‘fire-able’ role
Canes fans have already witnessed the demise of Ron Francis in the general manager’s role. Does the team really want to risk making Brind’Amour the next legend to take a disappointing plunge? In addition to the simple disappointment and bad feelings that come with such an outcome, the other issue is that firing such a person is also much more complicated which is not a great fit for what would basically be a trial role.
The optics on a couple fronts
Though only in an assistant’s role, Brind’Amour was very much a part of the 2017-18 failure. As noted above, the fact that Brind’Amour knows the inside of the locker comes with the flip side that he was part of the locker room too. If Brind’Amour is capable of boosting the leadership and character, why couldn’t he do so from his assistant coaching level? Was he maybe just held back as a lieutenant behind Peters? Or was he just not able to translate his leadership abilities as a player to a coaching role. Regardless, the optics of promoting a coach who was part of the failure does not look good.
In addition, if the team is forced to or decides to move on a head coach before a new general manager is in place, hiring an inexperienced assistant from within will fuel the perception and writings outside that suggest disarray inside the offices at 1400 Edwards Mill Road.
Is there a plausible scenario where Rod Brind’Amour is given the head coaching role and it works?
I think there is, and it goes like this…
He fixes what is most broken. Again, I do not think the Hurricanes biggest problem has anything to do with a specific statistic, skill set or similar. The team needs a restart in terms of mindset and mentality. If Brind’Amour can do that both at a roster and individual player level, could this by itself generate a massive surge?
He maintains what isn’t broken. The Hurricanes have been productive on a possession stat basis. That suggests that maybe completely starting over in terms of system is not necessary. Maybe the mindset shift is enough in itself with the old system still intact, and/or maybe Brind’Amour makes a few tweaks to improve what is already in place.
In an unselfish team-first manner, he gets help where needed. As noted above, Brind’Amour has a strong track record as an unselfish leader who truly puts the team ahead of himself. As such, would he be type to add experienced coaching help for tactical help. On the one hand, recruiting top-tier talent into an assistant role in an uncertain situation could be challenging. On the other hand, if Brind’Amour was signed to only a one year deal, might that be an appealing situation for a coach aspiring for a top job? Either it works out in which case, the assistant role is a decent situation, or it does not work out in which case, the experienced assistant could be first in line for Brind’Amour’s job.
In the end, the people part trumps that tactical stuff anyway (Reference Laviolette, Peter). I really think that the next step up for the Hurricanes comes with an attitude change fueling better numerical results and not the other way around. As I said above, if there was a specific area of coaching where I might be willing to roll the dice with Brind’Amour, this would probably be it.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you think even considering Rod Brind’Amour for a head coaching role is a ‘no go’ because of lack of experience, the desire to go outside or something else?
2) Where do you put the odds for success for a Brind’Amour hire, and what would be the key factors to that decide if he meets or exceeds expectations?
3) If you could name only two traits, skill sets or whatever that are top priorities for the new head coach, what would they be?