Hoping to bring a fresh approach to their coaching staff, the Hurricanes made a significant shakeup on Tuesday.
At a press conference at the RBC Center, General Manager Jim Rutherford announced the hiring of Dave Lewis, a veteran coach with 14 years of experience as both a head coach and an assistant coach, to guide the team’s defense. He also named Rod Brind’Amour, who had served as the team’s director of forward development since his retirement last year, as assistant coach and development coach.
Brind’Amour and Lewis will take coaching positions vacated by Ron Francis and Tom Rowe, who will assume new roles as director of hockey operations and pro scout, respectively. Full news release here.
“I’m excited for the players, but also on a personal level,” said Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice. “When you get different ideas and difference experiences into your group, it gives you an opportunity to move forward.”
Lewis, a 57-year-old who was a longtime assistant with the Detroit Red Wings under Scotty Bowman, meets Rutherford’s criteria of a proven defensive coach who also has experience as a player. In addition to his work as an assistant in the NHL with Detroit and Los Angeles and his three years of experience as a head coach with Detroit and Boston, Lewis logged 1,008 games during a 15-year playing career.
“In Dave’s tenure (in Detroit), they played the game a certain way that a lot of teams tried to emulate but could never get to,” said Maurice. “It’s not just the skill level or the talent – it’s the style of play. We studied them so hard in the ’02 finals … and Dave was a big part of designing that game.
“Not only does he make our organization better, but he’s going to make the coaches in our room better and we’re very excited to have him.”
Lewis stated several existing ties to the Hurricanes’ organization, including the 2002 Stanley Cup Final, owner Peter Karmanos’ connections to Detroit, time spent playing alongside Rutherford with the Los Angeles Kings in the early 1980s and a friendship with Hurricanes’ amateur scout Bert Marshall. Those, along with his own observations, convinced Lewis to return to the NHL for the first time since 2008, having spent the interim coaching internationally with Belarus and the Ukraine.
“Coaching against Paul also influenced my decision – how he sets his team up, they’re difficult to play against,” said Lewis. “They play with pace and they play with passion. It’s maybe not always the result you want, but they’re there and they’re in the game.
“It’s a strong, strong organization that I believe is one of the best in the league.”
Brind’Amour, who impressed management and coaches alike in his first year in the front office, will fill a role similar to the one held by Francis over the last two seasons. The Hurricanes expect him to miss an indefinite number of games throughout the season as he continues to work with the organization's young players in Charlotte of the American Hockey League, as well as those in college and junior hockey.
“That’s something that Rod and Paul will work together on, but I think it’s important to say up front that he’s not going to be coaching all the games so when he’s not there people don’t have to act surprised,” said Rutherford.
While Brind’Amour acknowledged that the time-consuming life of an NHL coach will be an adjustment, he added that he was looking forward to the challenge.
“When Jim asked me to get back in there a little bit more, it was something that I really wanted to get my hand in,” he said. “Really for me it’s going to be learning from Dave and Mo and some experienced guys here. I’ll try to help whatever way I can, and I think it will work well.”
“He’s just recently finished playing, and he also knows the players very, very well,” said Maurice. “Having stepped away from a year, he’s had an opportunity to watch our team from a completely different angle. It’s not like stepping off the players’ bench and into the coaches’ bench.”
Although he expects each of his coaches to fill specific roles during the season, Maurice said that exact responsibilities have not yet been determined. It’s certain that Lewis will be primarily responsible for working with the teams’ defensemen, but other tasks, such as the power-play void left by Francis, are currently vacant.
“We’re going to spend this summer getting to know each other and getting all of the ideas on the table, and then in terms of defining the responsibilities, that will happen after we move forward here a little bit,” said Maurice. “I think one of the strengths of this group will be that you have strong men, strong opinions and strong ideas that can articulate those ideas. We will use all coaches for influence in all areas.”
Maurice added that Francis, along with the rest of the team’s ever-growing hockey operations department, would continue to have input.
“Adding (Brind’Amour and Lewis) to the people that we have in place already – I’m very, very excited about this group,” said Maurice.