As ESPN explains in 2019 Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho: The personality of our team comes from Rod [Brind’Amour].
The coach who led the Canes to their only Stanley Cup in 2006 is demanding, but he supports his players. At 50, Brind’Amour still lives up to his nickname, Rod the Bod. He is known to train as hard, if not harder, than his players and even does his annual fitness test for fun. On the bench he can be a brash rascal, but in the post-match press conference he speaks with brutal directness. He also became known for his patented locker room talk.
But this is the year 2021. And even one of the best motivators in the NHL struggles to find the right motivation.
Honestly, that’s the hardest part, Brind’Amour said. The boys need a little more this year. So in order to find that message… you’re gonna have to get more creative on that front. You don’t want to talk too much because now it’s every day, all the time, so the players are also tired of hearing your voice. It’s a delicate balance, and I think that’s part of the training: finding that balance.
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Brind’Amour has already found the chords to strike. Entering the second half of the season, the Canes have the third most points in the league, behind the Tampa Bay Golden Knights and Vegas Golden Knights, and are second behind the Lightning in the Central Division. They are in the top 10 in goals scored and goals against. The important thing is that they get contributions from everywhere.
When first goalkeeper Petr Mrazek underwent thumb surgery after just four appearances, 26-year-old Alex Nedeljkovic excelled (despite being fired in January). According to Natural Stat Trick, Nedeljkovic has an above-average save percentage of 6.83 on 5-on-5 goals, which ranks seventh among all NHL goalies. Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin are always present on the defensive side of the ball, but Brett Pesce has also established himself as a top blueliner. And offensively, Vincent Trocheck was forced to start the season (13 goals in 24 games). He was injured in early March and winger Teuvo Teravainen is out with a concussion. The Canes held on and the change of team allowed us to take advantage of the magical chemistry between Aho and Martin Necas :
Did Aho and Necas score a goal together?
Previously unreleased pic.twitter.com/bU3e5RYx5i
– Carolina Hurricanes (@Keynes) March 23, 2021
But for the Canes, it’s no longer about proving they can compete with the best teams in the league, especially in the regular season. It’s about making the playoffs. Carolina shocked everyone by reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019, but the team burst the 2020 postseason bubble with a first-round loss against the Boston Bruins.
The bar has been raised for these guys, and I think they’ve answered that question, and they expect to win every night, Brind’Amour said. And that’s the only thing that’s acceptable. That’s why we’re here. And we have a team good enough to say so honestly.
In other words: Anything less than a long playoff run would be considered a disappointment. But Brind’Amour – especially in the COWID-19 era – can only see so far.
In a normal year, you look at things from week to week, Brind’Amour said. We watch it every day. Like, we have a plan, but it’s in the drawer. How was the game? What do we think? And you go from one day to the next not knowing what tomorrow will bring, for many reasons.
The key to this season?
We try to make it as normal as possible, Brind’Amour said. That is: All the excuses are there… We just try not to make them up.
Technically, the Canes only played one game with a full team in 2021 – and that was the first game of the season. Brind Amour preached the old hockey trophy: The team that is healthier and stays healthy longer will be the winner.
Trocheck is back to skate with the team, but Teravien’s absence threatens to leave no timetable for the 26-year-old’s return.
It’s a big loss for many reasons that many people don’t understand, Brind’Amour said. Teravanen is arguably one of the best defensive players in the NHL. He’s very, very smart and can cover other guys who are a little more aggressive or take more risks. So his departure is a great loss… and we’re certainly feeling the effects of losing these two guys, as well as Troch and Teravian.
Although he has only played 24 games this season, Vincent Trocheck is the team’s third top scorer. James Guillory-USA Sports Today
The Canes have managed to string together two good winning streaks this season: a five-game winning streak in January and an eight-game winning streak in March. They also had two defeats in three games.
Staying healthy is key, but also staying consistent – we have so many games in a row, and if you have a dip, it can really turn you off, Brind’Amour said. For me, it’s not even a physical thing, it’s not a physical wear and tear. We don’t train anymore, hardly at all, it’s just matches. It’s not about physical wear and tear, it’s about mental focus. Usually we have a few days here and there between the games and that is not the case now. That mental focus is probably the hardest thing for the players this year.
For the coach, it’s a matter of finding the right motivation, but keeping it at the right time.
That’s the biggest trick of all, finding things they haven’t heard before, Brind’Amour said. I don’t like to get in front of a group just for the sake of getting in front of a group. Every time you say something, it has to mean something.
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