ROD BRIND’AMOUR | Among NHL scoring leaders
A Stanley Cup and back-to-back Selke Trophy Awards – given annually to the best defensive forward in the National Hockey League – have given Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour a unique measure of respect around the league.
Could a scoring title be in his future as well?
A hat trick, along with an assist, in Saturday’s 8-3 victory over the New York Islanders gave Brind’Amour 18 points in just 12 games this season. It vaulted him into second place in the league in scoring at the time and earned him recognition as the league’s “second star” for the week, hockey’s equivalent of runner-up for “player of the week.”In addition, the four points he collected on the Island – a point each for the three goals and a point for his assist on Justin Williams’ goal – extended the captain’s scoring streak to nine games. In 12 games so far this season he’s failed to score a point just once.
Two-way player, indeed.
Time was when a scoring title may have been within Brind’Amour’s grasp. He was nearly a point-a-game player his first 10 seasons in the league, eight of which were spent with the Philadelphia Flyers. Philly had a high-octane offense in those days, and in 633 career games with the Flyers, Brind’Amour scored 601 points (235 goals, 366 assists).
But the well appeared to run dry when Brind’Amour came over to the Hurricanes in the Keith Primeau trade in January 2000. He joined an offensively-challenged team with a defensively-focused system. With less goal-scoring talent, then-coach Paul Maurice was forced into a defensive-minded style of play. As a result, Brind’Amour spent little time on the team’s power play unit and struggled to find his offensive touch while shouldering the defensive load against opposing team’s top lines and anchoring the penalty-killing unit.
That was all reflected in the numbers. After averaging .95 points per game with Philly, Brind’Amour scored just 73 goals (along with 127 assists) in 319 games those first five seasons with the Hurricanes. That equated to just .63 points per game; in an awful 2004 season he tallied only a dozen goals.
A 40-point season, which Brind’Amour averaged in his first five years with the Hurricanes, isn’t necessarily a bad year. But after the success he had in Philadelphia – which included four 30+ goal seasons – the assumption was that he was on the wane as a player.
Enter Peter Laviolette.
He took over the team in the middle of the 2003-04 season following Maurice’s firing and instituted a puck-possession offense that emphasized aggressive forechecking. Players were encouraged to be more creative and take more chances with the puck, and that emphasis on generating scoring opportunities paid immediate dividends for Brind’Amour, who now found himself playing a major role in the power play.
The team’s transition was delayed by the lockout season of 2004-05, during which Brind’Amour finalized what was said to be a painful divorce. But the next season, the Stanley Cup year, he came back to score 31 goals – his highest total in seven seasons. He finished with 70 points in 78 games, and last season, Brind’Amour had 82 points (26g, 56a) in 78 games.
At age 37, Brind’Amour also continues to be among the league-leaders in ice time among forwards and is still considered (behind Chicago’s Yanic Perreault) as the NHL’s second-best face-off man.
All in a day’s work…
Hurricane notes: Michael Leighton, a goalie for the team’s top minor-league affiliate in Albany in the American Hockey League, was named the AHL’s Player of the Week for last week. Leighton, 26, had back-to-back road shutouts and finished the week with a 3-0-0 record, a 0.67 goals-against average and a save percentage of .977… the Hurricanes take their division-leading 7-2-3 record to Florida tonight in a Halloween game with the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m., FSN). The home-and-home set will finish with a 7 p.m. game Saturday at the RBC Center in Raleigh. The Hurricanes won seven of eight meetings between the two teams last aseason… with a win tonight, the Hurricanes will tie the team mark for the most productive October in franchise history… wingers Andrew Ladd (ankle) and Scott Walker (torso) are still on injured reserve.