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Will success as coach help Brind’Amour’s Hall case as player?

Brind’Amour evaluates his first season as head coach

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour breaks down the success of his first year at head coach
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Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour breaks down the success of his first year at head coach

The chances that Rod Brind’Amour’s name will be called when the Hockey Hall of Fame announces its new inductees Tuesday are, again, curiously small. Among the plugged-in pundits who think they have a line into the selection committee’s secretive ways, Brind’Amour’s name is rarely mentioned.

That is ludicrous. In a year where Vincent Lecavalier is the only first-ballot NHL name worth serious consideration and there’s only one dead solid lock for the Hall – Hailey Wickenheiser, an easy and obvious choice – Brind’Amour is as good a choice as any, the best defensive forward of his generation, an unparallelled leader and a champion, with raw stats that certainly clear the bar.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour talks about how he knew his squad was different than other NHL teams.

The rest of the names under popular consideration all have thinner claims. Either their numbers or their accomplishments don’t stack up to Brind’Amour: Daniel Alfredsson, Theo Fleury, Curtis Joseph, Lecavalier, Alexander Mogilny, Jeremy Roenick, Doug Wilson, Sergei Zubov.

Worthy of the Hall of Fame? Many of them, for certain, but not all of them. More worthy than Brind’Amour? Hardly.

This is an old story. Brind’Amour has been passed over six times. Unlike, say, baseball, the entire process is conducted in secret. No nominations or vote totals are announced, so it’s impossible to know if Brind’Amour is getting closer to induction or farther away with each passing year. Larry Walker, at least, knows where he stands among the overlooked in his sport.

The 18 voters – Ron Francis and Pierre McGuire among them – will meet Tuesday and make their decisions. And that’s that. Invitations are extended and blazers are fit, and it happens again in 52 weeks.

In the weird way these things work in hockey, Brind’Amour’s successful debut season as Carolina Hurricanes coach shouldn’t have any bearing on his Hall of Fame candidacy, but it inevitably will, if not now, then down the road. His success behind the bench won’t so much retroactively legitimize his playing career as it will make it easier for committee members to nominate and vote for him. The hockey world can be like fifth grade sometimes; no one ever wants to go first and no one ever wants to be laughed at.

Not that anyone would have snickered before, but after what he did this year, no eyebrows would be raised either.

As for future years, Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon has commissioned his analytics staff to prepare a full statistical assessment of Brind’Amour’s career, essentially an attempt to put Brind’Amour’s past numbers in present-day terms. Basically: If we knew what we knew now, analytically speaking, what would we have thought of Brind’Amour then? (Exhibit A: Patrice Bergeron, acknowledged as a future Hall of Famer in a way Brind’Amour never was during his career.)

That’s a considerable undertaking, but like his coaching, it has the potential to underpin a retroactive reassessment of Brind’Amour’s entire career, to give his resume further foundation for the Hall of Fame voters.

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Rod Brind’Amour hoists the Stanley Cup as he and his Hurricanes’ teammates celebrate after beating the Edmonton Oilers in 2006. Ted Richardson News & Observer file photo

It shouldn’t need it. Brind’Amour’s resume stands on its own, no matter what any ex post facto analysis would indicate, no matter how well he does as a coach. For whatever reason – and, again, would the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2006 have already put the committee over the edge? – Brind’Amour hasn’t been given the same respect by the committee as have his equals, peers and in some cases, inferiors.

Maybe this is the year. More likely, it isn’t. The call may never come. But it should.

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered the Summer Olympics, the Final Four, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He joined The News & Observer in 2000 to cover the Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a columnist in 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has won multiple national and state awards for his columns and feature writing while twice being named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.
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