Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 01/20/10 at 08:19 PM ET
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to work out a post about Rod Brind’Amour’s declining ice time and declining purpose on the Hurricanes. I would have titled the post “The Old Man and the C”, but today’s developments made it all old news. On Wednesday afternoon, the Hurricanes announced that Eric Staal has become the newest captain of the Hurricanes, effective immediately. Rod Brind’Amour, who has worn the C since 2005, will wear an A for the rest of this season.
This is a move that everyone knew would come some day, and most of us assumed that it would be at some point this summer. The timing is a little strange, but Jim Rutherford has indicated that he’s been talking with Brind’Amour over the last few weeks and months about this. Before the official announcement, Rutherford gave Brindy veto power on the issue, and the 39-year old gracefully accepted the change.
Staal becomes the 13th captain in team history and the fifth since moving to Carolina (Kevin Dineen, Keith Primeau, Ron Francis, Brind’Amour). Although some will criticize the changing of the horse whilst midstream, I like it. Not only does it boldly state that this team will be moving in a different, younger direction, but it will give Staal on-the-job experience in a season that is already lost. Nobody doubts his ability to lead the team, and every NHL fan knew that this day would come sooner than later.
Brind’Amour is finally starting to show signs of slowing down. He’s never really been the same since a knee injury on February 14, 2008 against the Penguins, and I doubt that he’s ever going to fully recover. He’s in a deep slump this season, his ice time has dwindled to almost nothing, and he’s starting to play with and against players who weren’t even alive when he entered the NHL.
This may be a precursor to Brindy’s retirement this summer. He’s got one season left on his contract, but the writing is on the wall, in really really big letters. We love him to death, and they’ll create some position in the front office for him. They’ll retire his number even before he announces his retirement. But the fact of the matter is that this is a young man’s game, and he’s overstayed his booking in the fountain of youth.
My expectation is that Eric Staal will approach the captaincy from a different direction than Brind’Amour and Francis did. Instead of leading by quiet example, I think he’ll be more vocal and aggressive with the role. I’m sure that Tim Gleason will wear an A next fall, and perhaps Tuomo Ruutu the other. With or without Ray Whitney, the leadership of this team has to change.
Speaking of Whitney, he’s still producing great numbers, but old man time will soon catch up with him. I foresee the Hurricanes getting out their bud nippers and dealing Whitney away at the trading deadline in exchange for draft picks and/or young prospects. Even if they don’t, I can’t imagine renewing the contract of a 38 year old man while there’s so many young and inexpensive horses in the stable. The “Rat Pack” have played quite well when called upon this season and mostly have proven themselves to be NHL ready.
Erik Cole isn’t exactly an old man, but he continues to be an injury liability and he may be expendable. He has one season left at $3M, but some team might desire his playoff experience as the deadline approaches. Likewise Matt Cullen.
I like all of these guys, but it wouldn’t sadden me very much to see any of them go to a Cup contender at the deadline if the Canes can get something useful in return.
Indeed the captaincy change was an inevitability, and it looks like it’s just one of many major changes about to happen with my favorite team. It’s going to be an interesting two months leading to the deadline. Even more interesting will be the days before the entry draft, and yet even more interesting will be the free agency period this summer. Expect major changes in Raleigh.
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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.