A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A tip of the cap to the Cap.

Between 1999 and 2004, the Carolina Hurricanes were blessed to have Ron Francis as their Captain. He was one of the greatest and most underrated players in the history of our sport. This season, that role was taken over by Rod Brind'Amour, who has had a sensational season, playing with a verve that belies his age. For once, the rest of the league is taking notice. Even if the powers that be with Team Canada didn't.

The Doug Weight trade notwithstanding, the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise hasn't been known for making aggressive trades. The trade that brought Rod Brind'Amour to Carolina was sort of aggressive, sort of a cancer removal. That needs some backstory.

The Ron Francis Trade (version 1.0), which sent Ulf Samuelsson and Francis to Pittsburgh in 1991 for spare parts, was one of, if not the worst trade in the history of the NHL. In a sweet karmic twist, Francis would return to the Canes as a free agent in 1998. That season, however, Keith Primeau, the man who would eventually be trade bait for Rod Brind'Amour wore the C.

Primeau had replaced Kevin Dineen as Captain for the 98-99 season. He scored 62 points (30/32), which was tops on the team. During the off season, contract negotiations were rocky at best, and Primeau ended up holding out. The season started, and Primeau was unsigned. November came and went. December came and went. Primeau turned down offers of $12M/3 years and $20M/5 years. He was looking for $17M/4 years. Gary Roberts, then with the Canes, was fed up with the extensive holdout, and knew the damage it was doing the team.
"He has hung this entire team out to dry."


Peter Karmanos, Canes owner was furious, and put it a little more bluntly:
''We refuse to pay a prima donna, a petulant, pouting player who had 30 goals last year the same money as Toronto is paying Mats Sundin or Pittsburgh is paying Jaromir Jagr, who are consistent 100-point-a-year players or at least one-point-a-game players.... We didn't think Keith would refuse to play, but as we go on we learn our lessons just like everybody else.''

That is actually one of my favorite all-time hockey quotes.

You may not know all the details surrounding that Primeau/Brind'Amour trade. You think you do, but you don't.

Here's what you didn't know: The Hurricanes were this close to making a Keith-for-Keith trade. They had Keith Tkachuk, then of the Coyotes, on the hook. The only thing was that Tkachuk had one of those crazy escalating salaries which would have gone from $4.3M in 1999-2000 to $8.3M in 2000-01. Karmanos yanked the deal off the table, chiming in again with another gem of a comment:
"Keith Tkachuk has a stupid contract.... The reason (the Coyotes) would think about trading Tkachuk is because they don't want to carry his contract. I would not want to take on his contract, but that doesn't mean I don't want to put a competitive team on the ice."


There were a number of other trade possibilities. Another one involving Phoenix was Jeremy Roenick. There were a couple of other deals rumored to have been in the works with Philly, but none of them ever became serious.

Fortunately for the Canes, the deal that ultimately worked out ended up being better than any of those might have been. On January 23, 2000, the Canes sent Primeau and a draft pick to the Flyers for Rod Brind'Amour, a pick and Jean-Marc Pelletier. Neither player made an immediate impact on their new team.

In 2000-01, Primeau had a great season for the Broad Street Bullies, scoring 73 points (34/39) in 71 games while Brindy had 56 (20/36)in 79 games. Between 2001 and 2004, the players have put up similar numbers to each other, making it difficult to determine which team got the better deal.

If you take this year by itself, however, the Canes have to be ecstatic with their side of the deal.

With 53 games played thus far, Brindy has 49 points (23/26), and is on pace for a 72 point season. His 16 power play goals are a career high, and put him in fifth place in the league in that category. However, it's the less glamorous stuff that makes us really love our Captain.

For instance, Brindy has taken a staggering 1,484 faceoffs, and has won 899 of them. The 60.6% is tops in the league. Nobody is even close to those numbers. Joe Thornton is second with 1,230 faceoffs taken with 646 won. Among forwards, he is first in the league with a monstrous average of 24:39 ice time. The next closest is Ilya Kovalchuk with an average of 22:31. He is second in the league among forwards for blocked shots with 64. As evidenced by his 16 power play goals, Brindy is a key member of the power play. He's also been key on the kill. Carolina has been the fifth least penalized team in the league, so there hasn't been much penalty killing to speak of compared to previous seasons. Brindy does have two shorthanded points (1/1), and has been a big part of the team making a big improvement on the kill from 03-04 to 05-06. These are the things that make him a wonderful candidate for the Selke trophy.

Then there's the intangible stuff. The way he carries himself on and off the ice. The way he is the first person to show up for practice and the last one to leave. The way he leads by quiet example. The way he never makes waves. The way he plays hurt.

I'm completely baffled that Brindy wasn't even on the long list of Team Canada candidates.

1 comment:

tj said...

Great Brind'Amour numbers. They really put things in perspective. I named my Powerbook brindamour. I'm not kidding. The think about Kovalchuk's ice time vs. Brind'Amour's ice time is that Brind'Amour is actually playing both offense AND DEFENSE when he's on the ice, so there's really no comparison.

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