The Hurricanes knew some personnel optics weren’t great last offseason.
If letting go of then-general manager Ron Francis and trading away Jeff Skinner were new owner Tom Dundon’s attempt to clean house, promoting franchise great Rod Brind’Amour from assistant to head coach might’ve seemed like cold feet.
Brind’Amour proved doubters wrong, initiating the culture facelift that sent the Hurricanes to the playoffs for the first time in a decade and all the way to the Eastern Conference Final.
It was a story of hard work, celebration and genuine camaraderie that intensified throughout the season. When it became clear that the team bought into his Grit and Grind plan, Brind’Amour would generally laugh along with the antics that came along with such a tight-knit group. One time he threw his hands up in the air and said that the room only got looser the more the team kept winning.
That’s exactly how I’d describe the coach’s first year at the helm, too.
He was a refreshing interview from the start, with an ability to tell it like it is without making you feel like an idiot. He’s more willing than most to sit there with you and patiently explain a concept or decision. He got funnier as the year progressed.
In no particular order, a journey into my iPhone voice memos before next season takes over:
“We were so bad, I almost dressed and got out there. I might have been as good as what we were throwing out there.” — on a Jan. 18 loss to the Senators, one of the few games the Hurricanes didn’t at least show effort in last season.
“I’m just bored on the road.” — on why he spent a half-hour skating after practice in San Jose.
“He’s a trooper, I don’t expect him to not play. But we’re talking about practice, right?” — when Jordan Martinook conveniently missed practice on the 17th anniversary of Allen Iverson’s “practice” rant.
“First of all, what does that even mean, that word you used? Does anybody really know? I’d like to know.” — when asked a question with the word ‘esoteric‘.
“No one knows what it is.” — on goaltender interference.
“You guys got down, I can’t say … you got kicked in the ding ding right after the start.” — channeling Eddie Murphy in the postgame speech after the Hurricanes’ Game 7 win in Washington.
“It’s FUN, people. 🙄”— on the Storm Surge.
“I always thought everybody grows playoff beards but then their record isn’t very good. Only one team wins. Something’s not right with that. Something’s not adding up. There are 15 teams it’s not working for. And I don’t have a very good beard, so …” — on never growing a playoff beard.
“He looks like Rocky.” — on Calvin de Haan’s black eye.
“Everyone wants to do that. Everyone wants that to be their game. When we’re having power-play struggles guys will come up to me like ‘You know, I could be on the power play. …’” — when asked if Jaccob Slavin’s desire to score more points is something new.
The Athletic: Have you picked a starter yet? Brind’Amour: Yep. The Athletic: “Are you gonna … tell us?” Brind’Amour: “I’m not gonna be that guy.”
“Again?!” — when a Bruins reporter asked him to “talk about” the Patrice Bergeron line during the Eastern Conference Final.
“The goal was never to make the playoffs. Who cares?” — on Carolina’s deep playoff run.
“Well, I don’t know what else they’d be doing. It’s a young group. What else do they have to do?”— when asked if he noticed how much fun the players were having at practice.
“I love the kid.” — on Andrei Svechnikov.
“It’s only important if you get it.” — on the first goal of the game.
“No one really watches us, they just look at the numbers.” — when an out-of-market reporter asked a question that indicated he clearly doesn’t really watch the Hurricanes.
“Not really, sorry. I’d love to.” — when asked if he could provide any injury updates.
“You’ve got Billy.”
“I don’t know that when I played, I had that much joy. I was always chasing something, or always thinking about the next one. Now I get to see these guys, and I’m enjoying it — how they’ve responded, how they’re enjoying the run.” — on stopping and smelling the roses sometimes.
“I thought the refs made the right call, but of course I’m gonna say that.” — on a questionable call that went the Hurricanes’ way in the playoffs.
“I don’t know if we played a good game that whole series.” — after sweeping the Islanders in the second round.
“I don’t read a lot into back-to-backs, first of all. To me, that’s a myth that people made up — that it’s tougher to play on a back-to-back, or this or that. I don’t know where that came from. Maybe you guys (media) get tired of traveling around and it affects your game.” — clearly sick of us asking this question every single week.
“Stay at the rink.” — his advice to new father Jaccob Slavin.
“Much respect to you. You can’t keep doing this.” — a stick tap toZdeno Chara in the Eastern Conference Final handshake line.
“I learned I could handle it. As a new guy coming in the league you’re never quite sure if the way you’re going to do it is going to be OK. You have nothing to look back on to see if it can work. I think I can handle it.”— on his first year as an NHL head coach
(Top photo of Rod Brind’Amour: James Guillory / USA Today)