We continue our interview with Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour today. In part two of our conversation, the coach gives his thoughts on the state of the defense and goaltending, plus explores how roster management might be impacted by the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season schedule.
As before, questions and answers have been very slightly edited for flow and clarity, but they are listed in the order of the conversation. The first portion of the interview is available here. Enjoy!
Canes Country: On defense, it was pretty obvious how much you missed Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton late in the season and in the playoffs. Presumably both will be fine to start the new season. Haydn Fleury has a new contract. Jaccob Slavin will still be Jaccob Slavin. But you’re without Joel Edmundson and Trevor van Riemsdyk next year, so how does that change how you will approach the defense? Maybe it doesn’t quite have the depth that it did last year, but at the very top it’s still pretty loaded, maybe more so than most other teams.
Rod Brind’Amour: I hope so. I like the additions that we made. And we made them because of the injuries you talked about. Pesce and Hamilton go out, and we at the time thought it was for the year.
So we added Brady Skjei, and Sami Vatanen, and those were necessity moves, really. And Brady moves in really well, I think, in the top four. And you mentioned Haydn Fleury. At some point with these young draft picks, we have to see what they’re all about. We’ve seen spurts with Haydn, and I think now is his time. We’ll see. He needs to play like he did near the end of the year, and if that’s what we get from him, we’ll be in good shape with our six.
It’s six veteran guys in there now, and after that we’ll see what happens. Does Jake Bean get a crack? Again now, we’re starting to talk about our younger guys in depth roles. But our top six are a pretty veteran group of guys now, and obviously it’s got to be the strength of our team.
CC: In goal, the Hurricanes were looking at maybe getting in on the musical chairs that were going on around the league, and decided to stand pat. It sounds like, to start the year at least, it’s going to be Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, the same way it was to end last year. Two questions about that: one, I presume that there is a comfort level with those two guys that does make it a little easier as a coach to not have a learning curve with a new guy coming in, right? At the same time, if you’re looking around as a possibility to try to get better, is that [effort] going to continue? Or are you at the point now that you’re ready to roll with the guys that you’ve got, and you’ll just sink or swim with them?
RBA: I believe so. You’ve got to be careful with rumors and everything else that gets spewed around. We, certainly as a staff, love the goalies that we have. I think they work well in our group. They fit what we’re all about, they’re committed to our style, and yeah, there were some goalies out there — musical chairs, like you mentioned — but I think every team kicks the can on trying to to get better and looking at ways to improve your team.
How serious were we actually looking? Probably not very serious. We’re really happy with these guys. If you look in the playoffs, especially, they played phenomenally well, and so we’re hoping that that they can build off that and that will be a strength of our team.
CC: Let’s talk about the lineup in general, and how specifically it relates to what we still don’t know about the season. I think it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point that you’re not playing 82 games. When do you get on the ice, the games will come pretty fast and furious, because I imagine they’ll want to squeeze as many as they can in. The more games you play, the more money you make, and the happier everyone is. How does that affect your choices lineup-wise? Are you going to need to carry more guys than usual to make sure you’re not overworking certain players, maybe more so than usual?
RBA: That’s probably a better question when we actually see what’s going on. It’s a point you have to bring up more so with our last discussion about goalies. You’re going to need both guys, and you know it. You’re not going to be able to run a guy maybe like you did in years past. That’s where we feel pretty confident in that spot.
You’re going to have to rely on some other guys to step up and in some roles that they’re not in. You hope not to have injuries, but if there’s going to be a condensed schedule there’s probably going to be some nicks and bruises, and guys are going to miss games here and there. You’re going to have to have some depth. I try not to focus as much on what-ifs at this point, getting ready for training camp, but at some point you do have to get ready and adjust from there.
CC: How much time do you think, realistically, you need from an announcement to be able to get ready to go? As far as I know, the facility isn’t open yet, so there’s got to be at least a little bit of a ramp-up here, you have to think. And then the teams that didn’t make the playoffs [will need] a little more of a ramp-up because they haven’t played meaningful hockey in so long. So how much time do you think you need to get ready [to be set] to go whenever the season starts, whatever date that happens to be?
RBA: Quite honestly? When we came back [for] the pods, everyone had three months off, and then we had two weeks of training camp or something — I don’t remember exactly — [but] we could’ve done that in a week. Because the guys are all in shape. So for me, if you just brought back your team and not 50 guys, if you just did it like the pods — here’s your guys, go ahead and get it together — I think you could probably get it together in a week, to be quite honest with you, and start playing. But it will never happen that way.
But the guys are training right now, they’re all in shape, it’s just a matter of getting them all together quick, and getting out on the same page. If everyone had the same amount of time to prepare, then I think the games might be a little sloppy here and there, but they’d probably be pretty exciting because you’d have a lot of mistakes. And I think you could get going within a week, to be honest with you.
Because the guys are in shape, no one is sitting around doing nothing right now, everybody’s doing what they can. But it will probably be like a normal training camp timewise, I just don’t know if they’ll have games. And that’s the other question, do you really need to have preseason games? Probably not. If you just said “let’s just start,” you’d know some games are going to be sloppy, and I’d be OK with that. But anyway, that will never happen. So I’ll just wait and see.
On Friday, our series wraps up with the coach’s thoughts on the Canes’ new addition, one big subtraction, and a reflection on his first two seasons behind the bench.