Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 02/15/09 at 04:14 PM ET
One year ago yesterday, Carolina lost captain Rod Brind’Amour for the remainder of the season with torn knee ligaments. He played just one shift in that game against the Penguins. The rest of the team, especially Eric Staal had to step up their game. Including that game, the Hurricanes went 15-6-2 in their last 23 games. Unfortunately, the Capitals went 16-5-2 in their last 23, including an amazing 11-1-0 in their last 12. That and a final game home loss by the Canes meant no playoffs for Carolina.
If Carolina could have played at that rate (without Brind’Amour) for the entire season, that would have meant 114 standings points and home ice advantage for the first round. Everyone was impressed by how everyone stepped up. Everyone was thrilled with Staal’s and Sergei Samsonov’s production Staal had 34 (11/23) points in those 23 games, while SerSam had 20 (9/11). At that time, nobody dreamed of suggesting that the Hurricanes are better off without Brindy. Now it’s a different story.
Brind’Amour has had a dreadful season. His much publicized +/- rating isn’t even what I’m talking about. Since November 16, he’s scored just one goal. While he’s managed to get 16 assists in that period, that’s still unacceptable. This is a span of 36 games with just one goal from the Captain? It was obvious that he was playing through an injury and he was given a few days away from the team to recuperate. Perhaps it was just an odd coincidence, but in the two games that he missed, the Hurricanes were great. They became only the fifth team all season to win in San Jose, and they absolutely decimated Phoenix on the road.
Brind’Amour has returned from his injury, but he frankly doesn’t look any better. He’s still skating around with a lot of timidity. He’s not going into open space, he’s not going after loose pucks. He’s certainly not going anywhere near the net. Instead, he’s looking like someone who’s never skated before, sticking to the dasher, always hanging around behind the play.
This isn’t a reactionary statement following two really ugly games. This has been brewing for a while. He just doesn’t look good anymore. And he might be dragging the team down. While that’s a matter of opinion, it’s a matter of fact that he isn’t helping. It might be time to do something drastic. It might be time to permanently demote Brindy to the fourth line. It might be time to bench him. It might be time to strip him of the C. He’s done a lot for us in the past, but right now the Canes need results, and Brind’Amour’s leadership isn’t yielding any.If nothing else, removing the C from Brind’Amour’s shoulder will send a message to the team. I have a feeling that Staal and company will rise to the occasion.
I’m already thinking about next season, and my vote is for Staal to wear the C while Ray Whitney and Tim Gleason wear the As. Gleason has already demonstrated a lot of passion and some leadership qualities that I’d love to see on this team. He takes it personally when the team plays badly and he doesn’t mince his words when telling the press about it. Instead of saying something passive like “we weren’t focused tonight” or “we need to work harder, as a team”, he says things like “we sucked tonight” and “our level of physicality is terrible” and “we’re taking too many stupid penalties”
Brind’Amour has two more seasons on his contract at $3M per. I’d like to see him finish that out and retire, but I really think it’s time for him to let go of the leadership role. I’d also like for him to consider early retirement rather than fading into an even more ridiculous shadow.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.