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An offseason conversation with Rod Brind’Amour: Part three

In the third and final portion of our interview, Brind’Amour talks about the Andrei Svechnikov extension, his thoughts on the NHL returning to the Olympics, the Hurricanes’ vaccination rate, the upcoming season and much more.

Carolina Hurricanes v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

We conclude our interview with Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour today by talking about the Andrei Svechnikov extension, his thoughts on the NHL returning to the Olympics, the team’s upcoming season, the Hurricanes’ vaccination rate and much more.

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 can be found here, and part two is here. Enjoy!

Speaking of some of those young pieces you hope continue to take the next step, the team recently reached a long-term deal with Andrei Svechnikov. How happy were you to see that commitment from both sides and what are you expecting to see from him this year?

Number one, it’s great to have him locked down. Once we identify these guys that we want around here that just totally push everything we’re doing, and he’s a Hurricane through and through, we want to make sure we keep these guys around. That’s what we’ve done here, so that’s a huge move, and hopefully we can do that with our other assets like that we have coming up. It’s a great move for us.

Where do we hope his game goes? We just hope he keeps getting better and better. I think he had a really good year. He had some lulls in there like every player has, especially young guys, but you never fault him for his work ethic and his preparation, his willingness to get better. To me, that’s why you can bank on guys like that.

Martin Necas is another one of those young guys who I think took a step forward and had a great year last year. What’s the approach like for a guy like that who’s coming off a breakout year and probably has another gear to get even better?

I view him the same as [Svechnikov] as far as he’s a kid that we want around here for a long time. Hopefully we can do that too and figure that out at some point. But he’s just got to keep taking the next steps. Really, these aren’t huge steps, it’s just the same message with all the guys. We’ve just got to get a little bit better in everything we’re doing, just a little bit better. Those inches are the difference makers. He’s got room to grow in his game, both with and without the puck. I think he realizes that, and as long as he continues to want to get better at these areas, I think he will.

The other new face that you have is not on the ice with the players, but on your staff with Dean Chynoweth making the move to Toronto and Tim Gleason becoming an assistant coach. Tim’s a guy who’s been in the organization for a long time and someone you played with, what does he bring and what made him a good fit for your coaching staff?

To answer your last question first, it’s easy for a fit. That couldn’t be an easier fit, just knowing the person, I had a relationship with him back as a teammate. He doesn’t change. He’s extremely hard-working and committed to trying to get better. I just know that if you surround yourself with great people and you bring great people into your organization, good things will happen. That’s what I expect with Tim in here. He obviously hasn’t done it before but he’s done it before because he’s played the game at a high level, and to me, that will translate really well, and his willingness to learn is off the charts. He’s just going to be a great addition for us.

Do you think he’ll need to make any tweaks to the defensive system with all the changes on that part of the roster this offseason, and was the timing ideal for a change at that spot on the staff with all the changes on the blue line?

First of all, he’s not changing the defensive system. We all do that. So he doesn’t have to come in and go ‘I’m in charge of doing this.’ No, we as a group figure out how we want to play defensively. With his expertise and his experience, he can add different ideas and different ways to teach it. That’s what’s exciting about bringing in someone like that. So I don’t know if there’s ever a good time or not to bring in a good person, I think it’s always the right time. So we’re lucky that he was around and has been around us to know some guys that we have in the organization and has worked with them. And he’ll catch up to speed with the new guys we brought in. So there’s a little bit of a learning curve for him, but he’s going to pick it up quickly.

This is the first time in two years that you’ve had a normal training camp, exhibition games and run up to the season. How much are you looking forward to that, and do you maybe appreciate it more after not having it?

The honest answer is actually the opposite. Not having it in a traditional sense that we didn’t have last year, clearly showed we don’t need as much as everyone thinks you do if that makes sense. I don’t even think we had a preseason game last year. I think we just dropped the puck and started playing. So I really don’t know how much you need.

This year, I’m glad we have it just because of all the new players. Last year, I don’t think we had a new player. We just kept moving right along. Now, for me, I need the time because we’re starting over in a lot of ways with eight or nine new players on your team. So for that reason, you need the time. So I’m grateful for it.

The other thing that’s still different about this schedule is that there’s an Olympic break with the news coming out last week that NHL players are going back to the Olympics. What are your thoughts on that? Is it something you’re in favor of? You could have a lot of your roster end up going to the games.

Here’s my take on this whole Olympics thing. I think it’s great. As a player, I played in it. It’s a great experience. I think the timing is terrible. I think there’s no reason, in my opinion, that they don’t do it like the NBA does it in the summer Olympics. We play the same season as the NBA, exactly. We overlap, but yet they do theirs, smartly, in a different time that doesn’t disrupt their season. I think that’s what the NHL should do.

I’ve heard the reason you don’t is that some of these venues that they do in the summer Olympics don’t have arenas. My answer to that is just make the hockey part of the Olympics always in a place that has arenas. So you could have the summer Olympics in, I don’t care where they were, but they don’t have rinks, it’s always in Toronto, or it’s always in New York or somewhere where there’s rinks. And that’s where the hockey part of the Olympics is played, and then you don’t have to run into this problem during the season of having to shut down the year and then guys play in more games right in the middle of the year where if you had it in the summer, it’d almost be like a training camp for those guys.

So I just think the timing of it isn’t great, but I think it’s great for the players. At the end of the day, it’s a great experience, and I’m all for that, just not the timing.

The other big piece of news for the NHL is the new COVID protocols for the upcoming season, with some significant differences in the protocols for unvaccinated players and staff vs. vaccinated players and staff. I know Don Waddell said in a recent interview that he did that you guys will be 100% vaccinated going into training camp. How much was that something that was really important to you?

Editor’s note: This interview was conducted before Tuesday’s announcement that the team is officially 100% vaccinated.

I’m 100% behind it. I’m proud that our group’s dialed in and is like ‘Yeah, we’ve got to do what we have to do here.’ That’s what this is all about. The protocols and this and that, they are there because people don’t want to get vaccinated, in my opinion. So I’m all for it. Golly, we sat for a year praying for a cure for this or a way out and we get it, and people don’t want to put their arm out to take the shot, it doesn’t make sense to me. I’m proud of our group that once everyone gets here, we’ll have everyone in the training staff and the players 100% on board with this, and I guess we’re doing our part.

Did you have to have any conversations with anybody that was hesitant about it, and if so, what were those conversations like?

Not really, no. I think you educate the players on everything. There were, I think, a couple guys, that they just didn’t understand. And I think once you explain it to them or get our doctors or our medical staff to just explain what’s going on, it gets pretty clear. And so it really, I think there was some hesitation early, and I’m talking about last year when they first became available. We had a few guys that were just a little bit hesitant, just because they didn’t understand. But I think that’s all gone now with a little more time. People have a little more time for educating themselves on it, and we haven’t had those discussions anymore.

How good does it feel going into this season knowing that you’re going to have that protection that wasn’t there last year? Obviously we’ve seen with the Delta variant and breakthrough cases that the risks aren’t gone, but especially in terms of having your group vaccinated, how much does that ease your mind knowing that you guys are so much better protected than you were going into last season?

Last year was scary because you felt like any day guys would drop and be out. I don’t think you were ever too worried that nobody was going to recover, but you get a guy and then there was the tracing and all that, you’d have guys out for just being around guys. I think that was the worry more than anything, and getting the last second notice. That’s just how it worked.

We’re hopeful that doesn’t happen this year. Unfortunately, like you mentioned, I don’t think anybody really knows with the new variants and things, because I think people waited too long to put their arm out and get the shot. Now we’ve got issues going on, and I just hope it doesn’t turn into another tough year in that regard. So hopefully we don’t have to deal with this, but I think we’re just prepared for everything.

Looking at when you started, from your first training camp to now, how do you feel like you’ve grown as a coach?

I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I do know when I started, there was a lot of uncertainty on whether or not the stuff that we were going to throw out was going to work. I think there was just unknown, because we hadn’t tried it. I think that’s gone now so there’s a little more of a comfort level with the way we want to do things, that it does work. So there’s a confidence in that. So you’ve grown that way, just by the experience. But every day is a new challenge and I think that doesn’t change. So I feel like there’s an experience that brings a little bit of comfort, but it also brings the same challenges every day of trying to get better, and I think that will never change.

What did you miss most about a normal season that you’re hoping to get back?

I don’t know if it’s going to be normal. Normal, to me, is being able to bring the fans in and have that interaction, having just our families be able to come to games and be in the room, guys bring their kids around. That, to me, is normal. That’s where I’d love to get us back to. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. But, to me, that’s the stuff I’ve missed the most. That was normal. That was, unfortunately, stuff that wasn’t able to happen last year. So who knows. We’ll see where it all takes and goes. But I feel like we’re doing our part to try to get back to some sort of that hopefully sooner than later.

Is there a road city that you guys didn’t go to last year that you’re most looking forward to getting back to?

Not really. I’ll be honest. Last year, the schedule was actually a bonus, in my opinion, to not have to travel, number one out west. We didn’t have those four-hour flights or five-hour flights, or the all-night redeyes, that was actually really nice to go to a city and then ‘OK, we’re there for three nights, play two games or whatever.’ Come home and we just missed a lot of travel and a lot of getting into planes after games and going to the next city.

That’s the part that really sucks, to be honest with you, getting into hotels at three in the morning and having to get up the next morning to practice or play. That grind, that really went away. We didn’t have any of that, because we went to the city and sat there, played for a couple games and then came home. So I thought that was the bonus of the whole thing from last year. Now we’re obviously getting back to the other way.