Midway through the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2018 offseason, the team made one more surprise change to its coaching staff. Steve Smith, who had run the defensemen and penalty kill for four seasons under Bill Peters, resigned and signed on with the Buffalo Sabres. The Canes tabbed former NHL defenseman Dean Chynoweth to fill that role.
Chynoweth, who spent last season as the associate coach for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, jumped at the chance to join the coaching staff of a young, up-and-coming team.
“It wasn’t just one thing,” Chynoweth said. “This is a young group with a lot to prove. Obviously as a staff it’s a big challenge. As the players it’s a big challenge. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”
When he had a vacancy to fill on his coaching staff, Rod Brind’Amour was able to quickly find a good fit in Chynoweth.
“What’s making him a good fit is number one he’s just a good guy to work with,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s easy. It’s kind of hard to explain but when you’re just back there talking hockey, all of us feel really good back there. We get along great. We understand that we’re going to have differences, and you need to have those differences. That’s what makes you better. That’s what makes you look at things differently. And his knowledge, he’s done it before.”
Chynoweth brings a wealth of experience with him to Carolina. He has served as both a head coach and general manager in the WHL, a head coach in the AHL, an NHL assistant coach with the Islanders and has experience with Hockey Canada’s junior programs.
All of that experience has allowed him to learn a host of different things about coaching, and evolve as a coach as the game has evolved over the years.
“You take stuff from everywhere you’ve been,” Chynoweth said. “Not only from the players you’ve worked with but the other coaches you’ve worked with. Having been in junior to the American League, World Juniors, you see obviously different skill sets and different things that work at one level may not work at the other level.
“You’re constantly evolving. You have to adapt. If you don’t adapt then you’re probably not going to last very long. I’m always eager to learn, take things in and apply things when they’re needed.”
It’s that experience in juniors and the AHL that could prove particularly valuable to Chynoweth with a young Canes team that is likely to ice at least three rookies this season.
“The game’s evolved over the years where we’re developing on the go now,” Chynoweth said. “It used to be if you weren’t ready you were in the minors. The game’s gotten faster and younger and you have to be able to teach on the go.”
In addition to all of that coaching experience, Chynoweth also played in the NHL, logging 241 games as a defenseman for the Bruins and Islanders.
That playing experience allows him to relate to his players and know how to get the best out of each one of them.
“I think there’s a respect thing that I have to earn from them,” Chynoweth said. “When you’re building relationships it’s obviously not just on the bench, on the ice in practice. It’s getting to know the individual, family stuff, everything else. You want to know what makes each player tick. You don’t coach 20 players; you coach 20 individuals. You have to find that way with one guy may be different than the other guy.”
In addition to getting back on an NHL coaching staff and getting to work with a young group, there was one more selling point for Chynoweth with the Canes: the fact that he’ll be getting to work with one of the best defensive groups in the league.
Coaching a D corps that features Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, Calvin de Haan, Haydn Fleury and Justin Faulk is pretty darn close to a dream scenario for a defensive coach.
“Very exciting,” Chynoweth said. “That was the one thing when the job came up. Obviously all you have to do is look down the lineup. I’m familiar with a few of the guys. That’s going to be a big part of our team and hopefully a part of our team’s success.”