As the Hurricanes take the ice tonight in Raleigh, Rod Brind’Amour will be behind the bench for his 100th game. Since Bill Peters’ departure 18 months ago, Brind’Amour has largely proven himself as a formidable NHL head coach, but his hiring was very divisive during a summer of change after a disappointing 2017-18 campaign. It’s very rare to see an NHL bench boss hired with no prior head coaching experience, and the franchise took its fair share of criticism after promoting Brind’Amour from his assistant coaching position.
The newly led Hurricanes came out of the gates hot last year, but predictably lagged through November and December as they appeared content to let another season end in early April. Something changed in late December — a 15-17-5 club through December 30th completely transformed into a 31-12-2 team between the New Year and the end of the season as Brind’Amour led the franchise back to the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
The run was nothing short of magical, as the Hurricanes rode a playoff wave into the Eastern Conference Final. A former player with no head coaching experience carved out a very successful regular season and postseason run in his first year as an NHL bench boss.
He made his mark on the franchise as a captain, and now he’s making his mark as a coach. Brind’Amour was the fastest coach in franchise history to reach 20, 30, 40, and 50 wins, and he comes into tonight’s game just two points shy of tying Peter Laviolette’s franchise record for most points amassed through 100 games as a head coach. He’s posted a 55-36-8 record in his first 99 games, and has been a centerpiece in a culture shift that the franchise has pushed for over the past year and change. His rookie season coaching record of 46-29-7 rivals that of Mike Babcock’s in 2002-03, when he led the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to a 40-27-9-6 record and a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
It’s difficult to isolate head coaching performance from roster construction and overtime format (the shootout era in the NHL has caused inflation in coaching records), but in terms of pure points percentage, Rod Brind’Amour has had an exceptional start. He sits at 8th among active coaches in points percentage with .596, closely behind Mike Sullivan’s .604%.
Through 100 games, Brind’Amour has positioned himself as one of the better coaches in the league and a bonafide players coach. His rookie year at the helm produced the most memorable season in a decade, and set a precedent for the Hurricanes’ future.