But this offseason, Carolina’s roster turnover was massive, losing 10 regulars through trades, free agency and the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, including defenseman Dougie Hamilton, goalies Alex Nedeljkovic, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, and forwards Warren Foegele and Brock McGinn.
Although the Hurricanes brought in goalies Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta, defensemen Ian Cole and Tony DeAngelo, and forwards Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Derek Stepan to fill in some of those roles, Brind’Amour knows just how much work needs to be done ahead of their season opener against the New York Islanders on Oct. 14.
“That’s a concern, I’m not going to hide around that,” Brind’Amour said. “I look at last training camp, we had one new player (Jesper Fast). The challenge is going to be getting everyone up to speed quickly. Last year, we hit the regular season running because I didn’t have any changeover. It was real easy for me. Now it’s just a little more challenging to get the new guys coming up to speed with how we’re doing things.”
Last season, Brind’Amour won the Jack Adams Award voted as NHL coach of the year after he led Carolina (36-12-8) to a first-place finish in the Discover Central Division.
It was the third straight season he guided the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs — they failed to qualify the previous nine seasons before he was hired — but they were eliminated in five games in the Stanley Cup Second Round by the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
If Carolina wants to go further this season, Brind’Amour is going to have to figure out how to best utilize the new-look roster.
That’s something Hamilton, who signed a seven-year contract with the New Jersey Devils on July 28, doesn’t think will be a problem considering how Brind’Amour integrated him after the defenseman was acquired in a trade with the Calgary Flames on June 23, 2018.
“He just let me play and I think I had a little bit of adjustment period, getting used to the new system,” said Hamilton, who led NHL defensemen with 42 goals during his three seasons in Carolina. “He was so good and with systems and details and always harping on the simple stuff, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we were so good. The culture there is good because of him. He set the bar, set the tone every day. He’s just like the ultimate leader. Everyone wants to listen to him and respect him. It’s so hard to kind of go against him and you just want to want to play for him.”
Stepan, who signed a one-year, $1.35 million contract with the Hurricanes on July 31, agreed.
“I’ve seen it early on in his coaching career, how many steps the group has taken,” Stepan said. “You see how hard the skill guys work for him, how much they compete. That’s something that’s tough to come by as a coach, to have that ability to squeeze every ounce out of every single guy, not just skill guys but bottom-six guys, too. To be able to push everybody in the same way and communicate with them is high-level coaching.”
Still, it’s about getting more than one or two guys to buy in.
Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville knows the challenges that come with a significant roster overhaul. After he led the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 2010, issues concerning the NHL salary cap forced them to part ways with nine regulars, including defensemen Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Sopel, goalie Antti Niemi, and forwards Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and John Madden.
Although the Blackhawks qualified for the playoffs the following two seasons, they lost in the first round both times before breaking through and winning the Cup again in 2013.
“In training camp, I’m sure they’ll get it pretty clear, quickly, how they need to play and how they want it to be played,” Quenneville said. “A lot of teams in the League have simple systems, and players are all mostly comparable in how you have to play. I think they’ll be fine.”
Brind’Amour said he’s never been the biggest fan of training camp but admits that if there was a year the Hurricanes needed it and preseason games, it’s this one.
In their first preseason game, a 3-1 win against the Lightning on Sept. 28, Brind’Amour gave 11 players more than one minute of ice time on the penalty kill.
“Training camp’s always been ‘eh’ for me,” Brind’Amour said. “I know no one really wants to hear a coach say that, but I loved last year, I’ll be honest. Our team showed up, we didn’t play preseason games, everybody just boom, let’s play. That would be my goal for sure, if we could ever figure that one out. But, if there was ever a year to have it, this would be the year because we need more time. We have all these new faces and me getting to know them is probably where this will help.
“That’s where the games come in, you kind of see where we’re short and as far as guys picking up the systems or whatever, and again, you get a feel for a player. I mean, you can watch them in practice all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s the games that count.”
Until they are able to get that feel for each player, the Hurricanes know they will need to rely on their core, which includes captain Jordan Staal, forwards Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen, and defenseman Jaccob Slavin.
“It’s just about getting guys on the same page as quick as you can,” Staal said. “From ‘Roddy’ to myself and the leadership group, and all the way to all our players who have been here for a while, we’re still creating that culture of what we want to do and what we have been doing recently.”
What the Hurricanes have been doing recently is building a winning culture, and despite the turnover this offseason, they’re out to prove they can maintain that level of success.
“There are different ways to look at it. At the end of the day, I think we did a good job this offseason,” Brind’Amour said. “I know we lost some pieces, that’s for sure, but picking the right pieces to fill in and get better, at the end of the day, we’re all trying to get better. We all think we’ve done that and obviously now we just have to prove it.”
NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale and independent correspondent Kurt Dusterberg contributed to this report