For the first time since March, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour got to see most of his team back on the ice together as the team opened its Phase 3 Training camp at PNC Arena Monday.
Following the day’s energetic practice, Brind’Amour spoke to the media via Zoom to discuss how things went and his expectations going into the rest of Phase 3 and Phase 4.
On if the day met his expectations: It was good. It was a good day. Just being back to somewhat normal for us felt good. And I expected for this to be our best day, to be honest with you. I think everybody was super excited and the players were all dialed in. I think the key is going to be keeping that going for two and a half weeks here and then getting us to the next phase hopefully all intact.
On Dougie Hamilton: That’s a big wild card for us. I think he looked good out there today, but it was a fairly light practice. But if we can project him to be back to even 90% or 80% of what he was, that’s going to be a big boost for us. I’m hoping he’s 100% ready to go once this gets going.
On if this feels like starting something new or a continuation: It was a bit of both. I view it more as a continuation, so this isn’t really a training camp. We picked up with the guys we had at the end of the year, four months ago and just kind of rolled right in as if we were going to practice that next day. Though now, it’s a little longer with more video review, a little bit. So that’s kind of more the training camp type things. But we’re really just trying to pick up where we left off and add a couple of these pieces, the players like [Dougie Hamilton] and [Sami Vatanen] who really weren’t part of that, get them up to speed.
On Sami Vatanen and film work helping trade deadline acquisitions: I think it helps those guys. They’ve had four months to look at it too, but having us around to actually walk it through, get the verbage and get exactly what we mean by it helps. But really it’s the reps. It’s the practice, practicing the systems. That’s really where it comes to fruition and kind of sinks in with these guys. Sami’s the one guy to me that hasn’t had any of it, because he didn’t practice with us. He wasn’t a part of anything when he was here. So it’s a big step, I think, these next two weeks for him.
On using the depth of the roster: First of all, we’re as deep as we’ve ever been. Right now, we’ve got eight healthy, quality defenseman. That’s a great problem to have. But we’ve got to figure that and the line combinations out. That’s what these two weeks are all about. It’s really going to come down to who’s ready to play. With the shortened season, we really won’t have time to figure stuff out. We’ve got to go with who looks the best right from the get-go here. That’s our job now is to figure out those combinations. We have enough time to do it, though, so we feel really good about it.
On if he’s set on a No. 1 goalie: I’m not set on anybody being anything yet. I’ll be shocked if we get through all this and there’s not a curveball thrown at us or something. I think the theme of the day is just going to be adapting, improvising and then overcoming whatever comes our way. We’re certainly not going to anoint anyone anything, and we’ll see where we are August 1. That’s when you’ll know what’s going on.
On being responsible and safe: That’s probably the No. 1 thing we’re talking about. We can do everything we can to prepare on the ice, we can do everything top notch, but if we don’t do it out in public and someone comes down with this, it pretty much takes you right out of it. And then who knows how it goes through the team and this and that. Everyone understands the severity of what getting sick could mean; it could just derail everything. Having said that, guys understand it and we’re doing our best. That’s all we ask of them, really.
Tighten the circle? Yes. Are we wearing masks? Of course. Those are, I would say, the most obvious things, but aside from that, we’re doing what we can and it’s certainly being talked about every day.
On the intensity of the first practice: I should probably rephrase it because it wasn’t that light. We just didn’t have a lot of, when I say light, meaning the contact and physical part of hockey. We’re going to ramp up to that, but we definitely went hard. We went a little longer than I thought it was going to be. It was hard and I actually appreciate how hard they went. And I expected that. This is like Christmas for a lot of guys to get back at it, they’re just so excited to have an opportunity to do what they do.
We owe it to a lot of people, to even have this opportunity. There’s a lot of people that have done so much just to even have a chance to play again. We want to make sure we take advantage of that.
On the relationship with Bill Burniston and Doug Bennett: When I talked about being grateful to have this opportunity, I wasn’t just mentioning the medical staff and professions across the world but in Raleigh, but those two guys in particular, for our staff. All that they’ve done, they haven’t had a day off, really, this whole time. They’ve been in here working with their injured players and then to organize all this, people don’t understand how incredibly difficult it all is. It’s unbelievable.
Going from Phase 2 now to this, we’re fortunate to have two of the best guys figuring all this out. It’s amazing what’s going on here with our whole staff, the PR guys are here. Everything seems to be running seamlessly right now and hopefully it continues that way.
On Ryan Suzuki: You want to get the guys understanding what it’s like to be a professional, but also what we expect and what we’re about. You can’t really do that if you’re not here. Getting him going, we know he’s young; we know he’s a ways away. But it’s certainly not going to hurt him to be around and just get a taste of what we’re all about.
On making decisions on the roster: It’s a tough decision, but then there were some other factors too. Just calling guys, talking to them about where they were at in their four-month break. What kind of availability they had for working out and where they were. So that came into play on some guys. And then, at the end of the day, I feel pretty good about the guys we have here. Hopefully we don’t have to get down to that point, but the depth here in our group is pretty good. I’m pretty happy with it.
On players possibly opting out: It’s pretty easy. If somebody’s going to approach me on that, they’ve obviously thought it through and there’s going to be a good reason for it. I think we all understand that. That’s the thing about this. We all get it. It affects everybody one way or another. Some people have more concern, obviously. I know there’s health issues and underlying factors that make your decisions different. I’m lucky that we didn’t have that one. We didn’t have anybody come and say “Hey, I’m worried about me or someone in my family”, whatever. It just didn’t happen. If it does, we would be open arms to any reason or concern anyone has. That’s just how we are.