Recently-appointed Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour jokingly said first-year expansion team Las Vegas Golden Knights’ surprise run to the Stanley Cup finals was not a good thing because it puts him under a lot of pressure with his new, inexperienced team owner.
“No one picked Vegas to (make the finals),” Brind’Amour said during a question-and-answer session in last Saturday’s Rod Brind’Amour/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Cystic Fibrosis Golf Classic dinner and auction at the Campbell River Sportsplex. “And now I’ve got a new owner and he thinks ‘Vegas can do it you, you’re going to able to do it.’
“So, it’s a little more pressure than I need at the start.”
Brind’Amour was speaking at a new component of the annual fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis research in which Brind’Amour and his co-host of the event, Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, sat down with Sportsnet sportscaster Kyle Bukauskus for a wide-ranging Q&A. Both Brind’Amour and Bukauskus are from Campbell River.
The first question was about Vegas’ success in its first year of operation and whether that was a good thing for the league. Nugent-Hopkins’ answer addressed the wider picture.
“It does show the amount of parity there is in the league,” Nugent-Hopkins said, “how many good teams and good hockey players there are in the league.”
Nugent-Hopkins added that it was amazing to him that they just kept on going. They played the same way every night with four lines that all played the same way and they were players that were probably motivated because they had been let go by their teams.
“So those guys wanted it really bad,” Nugent-Hopkins said.
Brind’Amour, a former captain who lead the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup victory and was named head coach last month, touched on the quality of player as well saying Vegas got the eighth best player from every team (in the expansion draft) – maybe even better – and added to that a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender (Marc André Fleury) and a high draft pick in Cody Glass “who was a monster,” Brind’Amour said.
But, after all joking aside, Brind’Amour agreed it was a good thing for the league to see Vegas have the success it did because in the past, expansion teams were almost always doomed to failure for their first few years.
“The worst thing (the NHL) ever did with expansion is make teams suffer for 10 years,” Brind’Amour said.
Brind’Amour was next asked how he would adapt to being a head coach.
“Well, it remains to be seen, I guess,” he said.
Brind’Amour again joked about how in the past at the annual golf classic, nobody was saying “good luck next year” but for some reason now that he’s head coach, everyone last weekend had been wishing him “good luck.”
“I’m thinking maybe everybody thinks I need it,” he said.
After seven years as an assistant coach, Brind’Amour said, not much changes in becoming head coach. It’s the same amount of work, the same amount of time and preparation.
What is different, Brind’Amour said, is that as head coach, you’re now on the hot seat.
“But on the flip side, as an assistant, you’re not in charge of really anything. You’re kind of listening to what someone’s telling you to do and you’re sending his message. “
Consequently, Brind’Amour is excited to see if he can take everything he’s learned from his life and hockey career and get a team to play the way he wants them to play.
Both Brind’Amour and Nugent-Hopkins were asked who was the toughest goaltender they ever faced.
For Nugent-Hopkins, it was Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.
“There’s something about him,” he said. “I think I have had about five breakaways on him – I don’t usually get a lot of breakaways (and Rinne stoned him on every one).
“Hopefully he can get out of our conference so I don’t have to play him as much.”
For Brind’Amour, it was a no-brainer – Dominik Hasek. Brind’Amour called him “the best goalie that ever played, bar none.”