Saturday, September 4, 2021

Hurricanes Preview: Rod Brind'Amour Autographed Card

(team and product links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: I liked doing last year's format, so I'll be doing it the same way this season as well, partly because of that but also because as a father of a toddler and a baby, I just do not have enough time to write two separate posts per day on each blog. I'll copy these on each one instead. Like last year, the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written.

Caveats: At this point, despite training camp being set to start at the end of the month, several players haven't found a team yet, many RFAs haven't signed with their respective teams, and a few clubs are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

Key exits: Dougie Hamilton (D), Alex Nedeljkovic (G), James Reimer (G), Petr Mrazek (C), Warren Foegele (W), Cédric Paquette (F), Brock McGinn (LW), Morgan Geekie (C), Jake Bean (D), Jani Hakanpaa (D)

Key Arrivals: Tony DeAngelo (D), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (C), Ian Cole (D), Frederik Andersen (G), Derek Stepan (C), Ethan Bear (D), Antti Raanta (G), Josh Leivo (LW), Brendan Smith (D), Jalen Chatfield (D)

Top prospects: Seth Jarvis (RW), Dominik Bok (W), Ryan Suzuki (C), Anttoni Honka (D), Noel Gunler (RW), Scott Morrow (D), Vasiliy Ponomarev (C), Jack Drury (C), Pyotr Kochetkov (G), Aleksi Heimosalmi (D), Joey Keane (D)

For a team with a low budget that moved on from captain Eric Staal only to hand the title to his little brother Jordan, that couldn't afford to give its best goalie (Nedeljkovic) $3M per season and who let its star defenseman (Hamilton) leave as a free agent to sign to a $9M cap hit with the New Jersey Devils, the Carolina Hurricanes sure turned heads when they gave Kotkaniemi an offer sheet that the Montréal Canadiens were smart not to match, but the 21-year-old forward is a nice project for the coaching staff to develop while the rest of the well-constructed team (a legitimate top line of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov, a second line that can put up points with Vincent Trocheck and Martin Necas, and the aforementioned Staal II manning the third line, with Nino Niederreiter and Jesper Fast able to spend time on one of the top two lines as well, and a defense that still includes Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei, Brett Pesce, Jake Gardiner and new acquisitions DeAngelo, Stanley Cup winner Cole and Smith. There is a wealth of talent on that team.

What makes their odds look good:
The roster is as stacked as a team not based in Tampa Bay or Vegas can be.

Question marks: If Andersen's an upgrade over Mrazek, can he get back to his 2017 form and adequately replace Nedeljkovic instead? Will DeAngelo become a DeIstraction? Will Kotkaniemi sign a more reasonable extension in January, or has he messed up the Canes' salary structure forever?

This team is built to withstand roster turnovers whenever a player's production has him reach a paygrade deemed too rich for owner Tom Dundon... except for maybe Aho - a 24-year-old centre who can do it all and produce at a point per game pace - and Slavin, who remains the most underrated defenseman in the game. If they had decent goaltending, they would be (and would have been) serious contenders for years.

First in the Metropolitan Division.

Head coach Rod Brind'Amour seems to be the perfect person to lead this troupe and instill team spirit, which is one benefit of having a former captain behind the bench. Not only can he coach this team to success despite never having a true #1 goalie between the pipes, but he's walked the walk as well, waiting until each of his assistants and trainers got extended before signing his own three-year deal. Oh, and he won the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year the same day.

Although the award was well-deserved, I think most people know Brind'Amour isn't the best coach in the league, but he's the ideal bench boss for this team, just like he was a great fit as a player, and a perfect member of the Philadelphia Flyers, with whom he played 633 regular-season games and posted 235 goals and 366 assists for 601 points to go with 563 penalty minutes in the heart of the Dead Puck Era, and another 51 points (24 goals and 27 assists) and 31 penalty minutes in 56 post-season games.

On a team where the top line of Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg was viewed as dominant (and the best line in the NHL), it was Brind'Amour's 13 goals that led the league in the 1997 playoffs, and his two-goal game on March 25th that eliminated the New York Rangers and sent the Flyers to the Cup Final for the first time in a decade. Here he is wearing the team's white (then-home) uniform, on card #121 from Upper Deck's 1997-98 Series 1 collection:
He signed it in black sharpie 10-15 years ago, when he was still playing for the Canes.

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