Rod Brind’Amour says he has been jotting down potential forward lines for the fast-approaching season, his first as the Carolina Hurricanes’ head coach.
“I bet I’ve been through a thousand pieces of paper this summer,” Brind’Amour said Tuesday, only partly in jest.
Should Sebastian Aho stay at center or is the Finn best-suited at the wing?
Should the “TSA” line of center Jordan Staal, with Aho and Teuvo Teravainen on the wings, be reunited?
Where does newcomer Micheal Ferland best fit?
Who would be best with center Martin Necas? That is, if Necas is used at center.
Should Necas and Andrei Svechniokov play together?
One can almost hear the crumpling paper and the gears churning in Brind’Amour’s head.
One easy answer, and one Brind’Amour will use, is that all that will be decided in training camp, which begins Sept. 13. And in preseason games -- the Canes have six.
One thing Brind’Amour is leaning against is having Necas and Svechnikov on the same line. Necas, the Canes’ first-round pick in 2017, and Svechnikov, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, often were on the same line at the prospect camp this summer and seemingly intent on making sure the other had the puck and not playing their game.
Not to mention both will be NHL rookies. That’s asking a lot from the two forwards, both teenagers.
“That’s what we have to guard against,” Brind’Amour said. “You have to give them every opportunity and see what they can do and then make a decision. Are they going to be in our top nine? Is that the right thing? Does it make our team better?
“If it makes your team better it’s an easy decision. If it doesn’t, we have to regroup it and figure out as an organization what’s the best move for their development. The main thing for me, coming out of this camp, is can those guys play? I mean, anybody can play but they have to produce. They have to be in a position where they’re going to help our team.”
That’s where the older, more veteran players can help. Ferland, for example. The former Calgary Flame is a rugged forward and might be a good fit with Necas to keep things honest on the ice.
Aho led the team in goals with 29 last season, after a 24-goal rookie season. Former coach Bill Peters gave him a long look at center last season and Aho appeared to like the responsibilities of the position and showed good playmaking skills. One weakness: faceoffs.
“We know he can play wing. We know that,” Brind’Amour said. “Now can he play center, is that the best thing for him, for our team? That’s what are have to decide by the end of training camp.
“Do we start him there? Probably, and see how it works. We can always put him back on the wing. I think that’s the approach we’ll go with.”
With Aho at center, the Canes could have Aho, Jordan Staal, Necas and Victor Rask down the middle. If used on the wing, that changes things.
Most of the players have returned to Raleigh, although Brind’Amour said Aho and Teravainen are expected back from Fin;and on Wednesday. He said once the team has reassembled, he could quickly name the captain for 2018-19.
Staal and defenseman Justin Faulk served as co-captains last season, a Peters decision. Brind’Amour said against Tuesday he would use the more traditional approach: a captain and a few alternate captains.
Many are expecting Brind’Amour to name forward Justin Williams, a former teammate on the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup champs, the captain. Brind’Amour was one of those strongly urging Williams to sign a free-agent contract last year and return to the Canes.
“The good news is we’re going to have a really good team,” Williams said Tuesday. “I’m not going to sit here and make promises, but all I know is we have a really, really good team.
“The fact of the matter is you have to let your play speak for itself. Words are just words. ... I thought we underachieved last year. I thought we were better than where we ended up. But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. You need to go out, fill the net and make a difference.”