We continue our interview with Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour today. In part two, the Canes’ bench boss gives his thoughts on each of the new additions the team made during its busy 2021 offseason.
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!
I wanted to ask you about the new guys and what each of them brings. You mentioned one already in the trade that you guys made in bringing in Ethan Bear. What do you see him bringing to the team?
Well, again, it’s a young player who we’re hoping is just tapping into what he’s going to be. I think anytime you can get an opportunity to bring in a young player that can be in a top-four role in a defensive group, that’s the attraction, for sure. That’s where we see him. He can skate. I think there’s a whole bunch more to his game still to come. Obviously that’s our job to pull it out of him, but I think it’s a pretty good gamble, so to speak, on trading for him, because there’s a lot of upside there.
One of the next players you guys added that day was Ian Cole, someone who has some Stanley Cup experience. I’m sure that was something you liked to see?
You can never have enough of those guys around, guys that have been through it. It’s one thing to talk about it, but when you’ve been there, that experience is really hard to replicate unless you’ve been there. That’s a big, big plus. Plus the way he plays, it’s hard-nosed, gritty and doing the dirty things that obviously you need to have those kinds of players if you want to win.
You added a little bit of depth with Brendan Smith as well?
Same kind of player, maybe a little bit more gritty, sandpaper kind of player, great teammate, I think looking to try to get his second half of his career going. I think he’s got a lot of motivation, and again, being a great teammate is what was always checked off when we talked about him and did our homework on him. You can’t have enough of those guys around.
Tony DeAngelo is the addition to the blue line that’s gotten the most attention this offseason. What do you think he brings on the ice? And he’s obviously a player who’s had some controversy in his past, and I know Don Waddell said that you spoke with him before you guys made the decision to bring him in. What was it about your conversations with him that made you believe that he has grown as a person and learned from those things that happened in his past?
Obviously, we’ve had quite a few conversations with him when we were able to. Before that, we were doing the homework, talking to people that know him, that have played with him and getting that background. I feel like obviously watching him play, let’s be honest, you’re not having these conversations if you don’t think he can play. That’s the first thing. And then, once we do that, you obviously know that what he’s gone through and the whole nine yards, that’s a concern, for sure. But when you talk to him and do your homework on him, you realize that, ‘OK, that’s not really an issue.’ And so it was unfortunate the way it all played out. I did not anticipate that [reaction], to be quite honest with you. And the reason I didn’t is because I’ve done the homework and talked with him, and talked to people that played with him, and all that stuff. I get it where there’s that reaction, because the people that are having that reaction aren’t privy to those conversations and aren’t privy to getting the background. So it’s the type of situation where you’ve just got to let him do his thing and let his actions speak for himself. We’re giving a place to show that he’s grown up. I think we’ve got a good environment here that will allow him to do that.
Continuing with the additions that you guys made, you made a pretty major change in that you’ve got two new goaltenders in Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta. What do you see them bringing, and how much of a challenge is bringing in two new goalies?
The whole thing is a challenge. You keep going on and on here, there’s a lot of new pieces. I can’t imagine looking around at teams that have won and saying they’ve made this many changes. So we’re going to have to kind of break the mold here on that, but I feel that we’re bringing in two guys who have proven in the past that they can do it. I think that’s good. It’s not like we’re hoping they can play. We know they can, it’s just a matter of can they stay healthy and regain what we know they have in them? I think they’re both motivated to do that, and if they can, I think we’re going to be in great shape.
Looking up front, you guys made a couple additions to your bottom six in Derek Stepan and Josh Leivo. What do they bring?
With Stepan, that center position is so crucial. He’s obviously a guy that’s played way higher up in the lineup in his career. He had kind of a rough year last year with injuries and what not, but I think it’s a great guy to have, a veteran guy that knows how to play, and can, I think, provide a lot of depth in a lot of areas. So that’s a big, big signing for us.
Leivo’s kind of one of those guys that we’ll have to wait and see on. I think he probably hasn’t had the opportunity to really show what he can do. We definitely see something in him that there’s a chance that this guy can really help us. We’ll give him that opportunity and see where it goes.
The most recent acquisition is probably the one that I think a lot of people find the most interesting in Jesperi Kotkaniemi. It’s not every day that you see a chance to add a 21-year-old former third-overall pick to your roster. Looking at the process you guys went through in evaluating him and deciding to get him, what have you seen him so far in what he brings, and what’s your approach to trying to get the most out of him here after things didn’t go the way he hoped in Montreal?
I think the whole key on it is the youth of it. You’re hoping that what everybody thought about this player three years ago, where his game would end up being, we’re just getting to it and we’re hitting that stride of now he can take that next level. Obviously that’s the reason you go and make this move. It’s certainly not based on what he’s done, it’s where you think he can get to. That’s essentially it. I don’t know the player. He’s not even here yet. So it’s going to be a clean slate with him. He’s going to have a great opportunity to play with some great players, for sure, and hopefully they can drag that potential out of him and we’ll see where they’re at.
What was last week like for you? That whole offer sheet process isn’t something we see very often, were you thinking ‘Am I going to get him, am I not going to get him,’ just what was that like?
To me, it’s easy. There’s no stress for me. It’s obviously on the player and the organization. They’re the ones that we went out and made this move. I think at the end of the day, you have to give [Tom Dundon] and [Don Waddell] credit for saying, to me, it was more of ‘We have this space now,’ meaning cap relief, and you can’t take it with you. What’s the best move that you can do to use it and identify a player that you think might be a future great player? That’s what they went and did. It was not stressful for me. The stress comes now with trying to put all the pieces together.