by Kate Shefte
Okay, first of all…
Patrick Eaves fights? Did anyone know he could do that?
Now, onto more serious matters. Although they’re currently hanging onto the final playoff spot in the east by a thread and only three points behind the division-leading Washington Capitals, (and let’s face it, that’s because the division is weak again this year and the Capitals have been decimated by injuries) the Hurricanes have been wildly inconsistent this year, beating hot teams such as Ottawa (at the time) only to turn around and drop two to the Thrashers. Everyone has been getting on Eric Staal’s case for his shaky play early in the season, Cam Ward’s for his off-and-on goaltending, Joni Pitkanen for his undeserved hype…but with a team, sometimes it’s best to go from the top down.
No one can question what Rod Brind’Amour has done for the team, the fans, and the franchise during his tenure in Carolina. He is a fan favorite in Carolina and it has become almost taboo to speak ill of Brind’Amour, lest they be mocked, painted and strung up from the RBC Center rafters. Although Brind’Amour, 38, seemed to be bulletproof, from injury and scrutiny, even “Rod the Bod” himself can’t be pleased with his performance this season.
Fans watched in horror as Brind’Amour went down with an ACL tear on Valentine’s Day of last year, something players his age often don’t come back from. He aggravated the injury in the preseason, but ever the health nut, he worked himself harder and insisted that he felt better than ever.
No one can deny that the beloved ‘Canes captain is going through a rough patch. Poor Brind’Amour, scoreless in his last seven, is rarely in the right place at the right time and seems to have lost that extra step that made him such a scoring threat. Of course, his value to the team can not always be measured in tangibles, but one expects a player earning four million dollars a season to contribute offensively, and the Hurricanes have come to rely on it. His plus-minus has plummeted in the early season; Brind’Amour is an implausible minus-18 after finishing his last four seasons with the Hurricanes even or in the positive. His plus/minus is by far and away the worse on the team; as a reference point, the second worse is Sergei Samsonov at minus-7.
That being said, Brind’Amour is hardly a liability on the ice. He remains one of the league’s most solid penalty killers and faceoff men, winning 76 percent of his faceoffs through Friday’s OT win at Philadelphia. Brindy is signed for another two seasons at three million dollars a pop.
I sincerely hope that I will be eating these words come April, that Brind’Amour will get back on track or hit a new gear. No one wants the captain to leave Carolina, not when the event planners already have his #17 banner on backorder and “save the date” cards all picked out for his jersey retirement celebration (January 17, 2012, everyone!) But the captain has been almost invisible on the ice as of late and – horrifying as it is to even think about it – the best the team has looked since last November was when Brind’Amour was injured and it was under Staal’s tutelage.
Perhaps Brind’Amour will rediscover the natural chemistry he has always had with fellow former-Flyer Justin Williams when the latter returns from injury later this week. Maybe he’ll have a monster game on Thursday against Pittsburgh and there will be joyful graffiti all over the comment box on this blog. But I’ve heard recent grumblings around fans sites that Brind’Amour’s age was starting to show, that he had seemingly lost his desire to play, and even that he should be stripped of his captaincy. Brind’Amour needs to swoop in and save the day, as he has done so many times before…and fast.