The Carolina Hurricanes sent a bit of a shock wave through the Caniac Nation this morning when they announced that effective immediately, Eric Staal would serve as new team captain. The team's "franchise player" moved back to his natural center position in practice today and assumed his new duties as official leader of the Hurricanes.
Some fans might not be thrilled with the decision, but Staal was being groomed for the role and it was just a matter of time before he got the "C". When all is said and done, the All Star forward will probably hold more franchise scoring records than any other player, including Hall of Famer, Ron Francis. He has repeatedly come through in pressure situations for the club, including scoring huge goals in the playoffs.
Although the timing of the change was a bit unusual, as barring a trade, very few captains have been relieved of their duties in mid-season.
But Rod Brind`Amour was classy about it, as always. When questioned by the media after practice, he said the following:
It's really an honor for me to hand it over to him. Whether it was now or later, it needed to be done. I'm just happy it's him. It will be more than just a letter to him.
Brind'Amour felt that since his playing time had decreased and his role was lessened on the team, it made it more difficult to be the leader, at least in the way that he wanted to be.
Jim Rutherford said that he gave the option to the ex-captain, and Brind'Amour could have vetoed the decision. But let's face it, who would say no to their general manager when confronted with that question?
Certainly not Rod Brind'Amour.
Rutherford also explained that he wanted Staal to experience this new role while the team was going through this down period. When asked about Brind'Amour's future, he said that the ex-captain will not finish his playing career anywhere besides Carolina and he will eventually retire here. (But there was no word of when that might be.)
Reading between the lines, there undoubtedly will be some player movement in the near future and the new captain might has well get his feet wet now.
During his interview, Eric Staal was equally classy with his remarks:
I've learned a lot from two pretty good captains, and hopefully I can continue. It will be nice because he (Brind'Amour) will still be here to help me out.
Staal will join good company and will be the fifth captain since the franchise moved to Carolina. Kevin Dineen, Keith Primeau, Ron Francis, and of course Brind`Amour all preceeded him.
That's not bad company to keep at all. Will Staal ever hold the Stanley Cup over his head as a Carolina Captain? Stay tuned.