There was little question that Eric Staal
would captain the Hurricanes at some point. The team accelerated that process today.
In a closed-door meeting with the team before practice at the RecZone this morning, General Manager Jim Rutherford informed the team of the change, which makes Staal the 13th captain in franchise history. Former captain Rod Brind’Amour will assume the role of alternate captain.
Although it was ultimately Rutherford’s idea to make the change mid-season, he said that he gave Brind’Amour the opportunity to reject the move if he so desired.
“I made it very clear to Rod that if this is, in his opinion, not the right time or not the right thing to do, that he had every right to speak up,” said Rutherford. “Once there was some thought put into it and both guys were comfortable with each other, then it was time to move forward.”
As for the timing of the move, Rutherford said that Staal could gain valuable experience as a captain in attempting to deal with the Hurricanes’ current struggles.
“This would be the best time for somebody to understand what it takes to be a captain when you are in as bad of times as we’re in,” said Rutherford. “Different people have different opinions as to if you wait until the end of the season or when this should be done. I really feel very strongly that doing it at this point in time when we’ve started our rebuilding of this team to give it to the guy who’s going to lead this team on for the next several years.”
Rutherford said that he first pitched the idea to Brind’Amour and Staal several months ago, and that the three have had ongoing dialogue ever since. It was the mutual understanding reached between all three that resulted in the change finally taking place.
“The biggest thing for both of them was taking care of each other,” said Rutherford. “That’s why Rod has been such a great leader for his whole career and a great captain for us, and why Eric is the new captain. They talk things through with each other.”
Although he essentially decided that Staal would be the next captain of the team several years ago, Rutherford said that his decision was only reinforced by how Staal handled the regime change behind the scenes.
“He cares about people and cares about winning,” Rutherford said of Staal. “The thing that really confirmed how I feel about him was this whole exchange between him and Rod and the conversations they had to make sure both guys were alright with it. That to me is a leader.”
Rutherford said that he was appreciative of what Brind’Amour was able to accomplish in his four-and-a-half seasons as captain, including a Stanley Cup championship in 2006 and a run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009.
“In my opinion we wouldn’t have won the cup without Rod Brind’Amour,” said Rutherford. “When you talk about people as captains like the Brind’Amour’s and the Francis’s, I don’t know that there’s enough words to describe them in my opinion.”
As for Brind’Amour’s future with the franchise, Rutherford said that remained unclear beyond the player’s new role as an alternate captain. Brind’Amour has one year remaining on his contract after the current season ends, and will have to make a decision in the summer.
However, like today’s move, Rutherford said that Brind’Amour would ultimately have the final say in whatever happens.
”We owe it to him for what he’s done for us and the respect I have for him, that in these decisions he has a lot of input in,” said Rutherford. “He had the right to veto this decision on the captaincy, just as he will have a major decision to make as to when he decides to retire.”