For the first time in 10 seasons, the Carolina Hurricanes will begin a season without one of their most familiar faces -- Rod Brind'Amour.
"I think anytime you lose a captain and a personality like Rod, it's going to be different," current Carolina captain Eric Staal told NHL.com. "He's a world- class player and a Hall of Famer in my eyes. He led us to a Stanley Cup and was always a pretty big personality in the dressing room."
While Brind'Amour retired after 20 seasons he will still be close by for advice, having been named Carolina's director of forwards development. Still, he leaves some big skates to fill. Acquired by General Manager Jim Rutherford from the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 23, 2000, Brind'Amour remains the Hurricanes' career points-leader (473 points in 694 games) since the franchise relocated to North Carolina in July 1997. Brind'Amour ranks first in assists (299), first in shorthanded goals (10), third in goals (174) and third in power-play goals (60).
Paul Maurice told NHL.com. "How that meshes with all the other greats in the NHL (for possible Hockey Hall of Fame nomination at some point) is for other people to decide. But when you look at changes in a franchise, from when I originally got here in 1995 when we hadn't produced a winning month in four years, to a team that eventually won a conference championship, a Stanley Cup and made a final four appearance, that's the impact Rod had."
Brind'Amour ranks second in overall franchise history (including Hartford) in assists, third in points and fourth in games played. He was named the 'Canes captain prior to 2005-06 and produced 31 goals and 70 points that season in leading the club to a franchise-record 52 regular-season wins. His League-leading 12 playoff goals during the team's Stanley Cup run were also a franchise record.
He starred in the faceoff circle too, using his powerful low center of gravity, quick stick and strong torso. Brind'Amour won the NHL's seasonal faceoff championship for the first time in 2008-09, winning 908 of his 1,488 draws (61 percent). He'd finish second in faceoff victory percentage three times behind seven-time champion Yanic Perreault earlier in this decade, finished fifth behind Scott Nichol in 2008, 12th behind Joe Nieuwendyk in 1999 and was 21st in '98 when Eric Lindros won and the NHL first began keeping faceoff statistics.
Rutherford knows how difficult it will be to find another player to fill Brind'Amour's role.
"Someone very good is going to have to come along to take his position and fill that role," Rutherford said. "I do think that Eric (Staal) is coming into his prime and the level of his game will continue to go up. Brandon Sutter took a huge step forward last year and I believe he's the smartest player on our team and knows the game as well as anybody that plays it that way.
"I don't want to say one guy has got to come in because Rod is out, but we have young guys like (Jeff) Skinner, (Zac) Dalpe and Riley Nash fighting for spots, so new guys are going to come in," Rutherford said. "How they're going to do and when they'll do it is the unknown. All of these guys will have an impact on our organization at some time; whether it's this year or next, I really don't know. All I know is that Rod Brind'Amour will be missed on the ice."
Brind'Amour has been working exclusively with the team's prospects.
"They're the ones I'll be watching and trying to help get on the team because they're the top guys and there's room for them," Brind'Amour said. "We're expecting one, if not more than one to be there. Now it's our job to help them and make sure they become great players."
Brind'Amour will have his jersey No. 17 retired prior to the Hurricanes' game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 18 at RBC Center.
"Both organizations (Hurricanes and Flyers) were big in my career," Brind'Amour said. "It's something you could at least look back on and it'll always be up there ... the jersey. It kind of puts the icing on the cake to end your career. It'll be one last chance to kind of get out there and say thank you from me to a lot of people who made it special along the way."
Rutherford is looking forward to celebrating Brind'Amour's career on his special night.
"When Rod came to our organization, he was coming off a broken foot, so I can remember right from day one to the last day the impact he's had," Rutherford said. "Really, there are so many players who played a huge role for us in winning the Stanley Cup (in 2006) and I know Cam (Ward) won the Conn Smythe Trophy (as Stanley Cup MVP) and I agree with that pick, but there were times throughout those playoffs that, without Rod Brind'Amour, we didn't have a chance.
"Rod scored many big goals, won key faceoffs, killed penalties; it's pretty hard to go through the whole list of what he's done for us because the impact he had in our organization will last a lifetime."
The two-time Selke Trophy-winner inherited the captaincy in Carolina from Ron Francis in 2005, and wore it with dignity until last January, when he passed the torch to Staal.
"I've known (Staal) for a long time," Brind'Amour said. "Ours was a relationship that didn't need words; I know the kind of person he is. We take that role seriously. It's not something to say, 'Whatever.' You're a leader of an NHL hockey team. If I had to pass it on, I couldn't think of a better guy to have it. We all knew he was going to get it, but a lot of times, it simply goes to the best player automatically. There's more to it than that, and he's a great kid and I'm glad he was the one."
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