Hope you like buzzwords. And Rod Brind’Amour.
The Carolina Hurricanes held a press conference to elaborate on their decisions to make Brind’Amour their new head coach and give Don Waddell the title of GM. There were certainly some … interesting comments from the parties involved.
Interesting, but not necessarily all that informative. Just about every “here’s our shiny new head coach” press conference keeps things fairly non-specific. It’s not like you’ll want to lay out every detail of your scheme, and sports teams often guard their ideas as if they’re precious snowflakes and not fairly obvious blueprints.
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Still, with plenty of questions about (possibly meddling?) new owner Tom Dundon, it’s tough not to furrow your brow at certain comments, unless you’re a real sucker for talk of intangibles.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that strategy is pretty overrated,” Dundon said, via Canes Country. “I don’t believe the strategy differences are as important as getting the right culture and the right attitude. I think [Brind’Amour] gives us the best chance to get the most out of our players.”
This sort of old-school talk was pretty prevalent. Brind’Amour also vaguely spoke of “getting more out of players.”
That’s all well and good, and hey, you’re probably more likely to fear a coach who’s probably more ripped than just about everyone in the locker room. Perhaps the comparison is that Brind’Amour will be “tough” where Bill Peters was more … analytical? Maybe things are simply going to be more fluid for a guy who was a Selke-level two-way player but hasn’t ever been a head coach?
It’s difficult to shake the impression that the Hurricanes are going “traditional” after years of being possession-driving darlings who sputtered short of the postseason finish line. That’s how the messaging feels, at least.
That doesn’t mean that Dundon, Waddell, and Brind’Amour are guaranteed to pull a Florida Panthers-style takedown of the elements of the roster and team that inspired people to make Carolina a chic dark horse pick for years, though.
For all we know, this franchise might more progressive that it’s leading on. Dundon at least provides good lip service to progressive-leaning mindsets, as Elliotte Friedman noted in an edition of “31 Thoughts” when Dundon sought the sort of thinking that powered the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that boldly goes with analytics when it comes to approaching fourth downs and other decisions.
Wherever the Hurricanes organization falls on the spectrum of “old, stuffy, and obsessed with notions of grit” to “waves of small, skilled players who never dump the puck,” the bottom line is that goaltending will probably still determine Carolina’s fortunes.
There might be some downsides if Brind’Amour struggles tactically; it’s something we seemingly witnessed during this past season with Doug Weight and the porous New York Islanders.
On the other hand, perhaps a regime change might help Scott Darling view 2018-19 as a truly clean slate?
The Hurricanes are locked into the towering goalie for three more seasons at a $4.15 million cap hit, as it’s tough to imagine a trade happening that wouldn’t require Carolina giving up useful assets. The best course of action is to take a “nowhere to go but up” approach, and a new voice might help in that regard.
A rebound might have happened either way, as it’s tough to imagine Darling sporting a horrific .888 save percentage again. And, even if that risk is real, you’d have to hope that the Hurricanes – old school or not – will be smart enough to invest in a “1b” backup and finally move on from their “Cam Ward, shrug” days.
If the goaltending exceeds the “average” they’ve fallen short of for years and instead is downright great, then people will look like geniuses even if all of the buzzword-talk is largely hot air.
There’s also no denying the fact that Hurricanes fans really, really, love “Rod the Bod.” Granted, not everyone is optimistic.
Can Brind’Amour cut it as an NHL head coach? Will the Hurricanes start to get the bounces (more goals, more saves) after years of being on the wrong side of the PDO? Is Dundon going to be the wrong sort of meddling owner?
Today’s press conferences were never going to answer those questions. They provided interesting fodder as this franchise approaches what should be an intriguing summer nonetheless.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.