After two straight tough losses for the Carolina Hurricanes, Bryan Allen
stood in the locker room, faced the media and tried to dissect what had gone wrong.
It was a veteran move, and he had all the right answers, to-the-point as they were.
“People pay money to come watch us, and we’ve got to be better,” he said after Dallas topped the Canes 5-2. Some fans expressed their displeasure with boo’s as the Canes left the ice. “Those are our fans and hopefully they support us through good times and bad, but we’ve got to find a way to be better.”
A day later, the 31-year-old defenseman said he wasn’t looking to take a leadership role; facing the press was just something he felt like he had to do.
“You have to answer in times when it’s good and when it’s bad,” he said. “You can’t hide. You’ve got to deal with those hard times, too.”
Playing with a Florida Panthers team that didn’t make the playoffs for the four and a half seasons he played with them, Allen is no stranger to hard times. On February 28 last season, the Canes sent forward Sergei Samsonov to the Panthers in exchange for Allen, a rare, inter-divisional trade.
“When I came last year, we were in a playoff run, which was exciting,” he said. “I haven’t been in one for awhile.”
Between Florida and Carolina last season, Allen averaged 18:19 of ice time per game. This season, paired with Tim Gleason
, Allen has averaged 19:55. The pairing of No. 5 and No. 6 has become a solid defensive combo for the Hurricanes, the most consistent head coach Paul Maurice has seen this season.
“We’ve asked them to do a big job, along with Sutter’s line, most nights to play against the other teams best, and they’ve done a very good job at it,” Maurice said.
Putting two defensive-defenseman together might not seem conventional. Maurice said that he doesn’t expect a lot of offense out of them. But they are certainly a force on the blue line.
“For the most part, you see an offensive guy with a more defensive-minded guy to balance things out. But I think we’ve been given the responsibility to not be scored on,” Allen said. “It’s worked well in the sense that we think the game similar and it’s been an easy adjustment playing with each other.”
Selected fourth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Allen is in the final year of his current contract. Even with young guys Justin Faulk
and Ryan Murphy
knocking on the door, it’s tough to imagine the team would want to let go of Allen with the way he has played this season. And for his part, Allen would love to stay.
“I definitely like it here,” he said. “You seem some of the pieces in place. We’ve got a young team, but there’s a lot of talent and skill, and it’s going to be a good organization in the years to come.
“I think the whole organization in general – from top to bottom – is a classy one that treats us well. It’s got a family feel to it. The city has been really good, too.”
A native of Kingston, Ontario, Allen has logged 533 NHL games over his 10-plus year caeer. Yet, with new defensive coach Dave Lewis, Allen said he is still learning.
“They’ll be certain times, like today, when he’ll mention little things to make you think differently than you might have before,” he said. “They’re not rocket science things, but they’re things that you’ve never thought of that make the game simpler.”
Gleason said last week that Lewis has let him play his game. Allen has seen the same, and it’s something that has brought out a more physical game in the 6-foot-5, 226-pound defenseman.
“He’s very supportive and encouraging, and he’s not down your throat,” Allen said. “Mistakes happen in a game, and you try to limit them as much as possible. But he’s there to support you and show you what went wrong. He’s definitely been a positive influence.”
In two games that saw the opposition score a combined 10 goals, Allen was only a -1. He averaged over 20 minutes of ice time and wasn’t one of the defensemen singled out by Maurice in postgame comments.
He’s played a gritty game this season and has numerous times been seen in the thick of scrums, sticking up for his teammates. He’s a veteran player, and should his play continue, his toothless front might become a mainstay on the Carolina blue-line alongside Gleason.
“They’re two veteran guys who don’t have a lot of questions in their minds about how their game is played. They try to be as physical as they can,” Maurice said. “They’re big and strong. When they go into the corner, they’re not worried about hurting anyone’s feelings. They play a man’s game.”