Wed Dec 09 04:22pm EST
If a player was a minus-42 since Oct. 2008, would you think twice about scratching him? What if he had gone from being a primary player in the lineup to a forward whose minutes of ice time had dipped into single digits in two of the last four games? What if it was Dec. 7 and his last goal came on Oct. 10? What if he was 39 years old and his prime was barely visible in the rearview mirror?
We wouldn't be asking a series of rhetorical questions if they didn't lead to "of course not," but Rod Brind'Amour(notes) isn't some anonymous player. He's the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes and one of these veterans whose dedication and work ethic has served as a model of inspiration for the last several seasons.
So when Coach Paul Maurice scratched him as a "hockey decision" on Monday, it was a landmark moment for both the player and the franchise. He's back for the Hurricanes against the New Jersey Devils tonight, but the first healthy scratch since he arrived in Carolina is something much more than a hockey decision for his teammates.
NHL.com caught up with two of them, and their reactions to Brind'Amour's removal from the lineup and subsequent return were interesting and perhaps a little contrasting:
"It was a surprise, but it's something you just try and block out -- try not to think about too much because, eventually, it happens to everybody," Hurricanes forward Scott Walker(notes) told NHL.com. "It makes no difference if it happens down the road or now, but the thing is for a guy with his storied career, it was tough to see. But we put ourselves in this position (with a 7-17-5 record) and left ourselves open to management making changes. Whether that be in the form of trades or sitting guys out, we're victims of our own problems here."
"It was hard to see because he's been our leader and led us to a championship," Staal said. "He's the hardest-working guy I've ever played with, so all those things combined, it's tough to see, but he's back in the lineup now and he'll be ready to go. I'm sure he'll have a little extra hop in his step and hopefully we can get the 'W'."
Reading into those quotes, one almost gets the sense that Staal's dealing in "the now" for Carolina while Walker's taking a more big picture approach for Brindy's career. We tend to side with Walker: Unless Brind'Amour doesn't improve, there will be more scratches if the Hurricanes stay healthy up front; and even if he does play, will his ice time continue to dip closer to enforcer-levels than the vital player he's been for Carolina over the years?
If he doesn't improve ... well, the market for a 39-year-old center with a $3.6 million cap hit, two full years left on his current contract and more minuses than an algebra exam is probably a tad miniscule. On top of that, Canes Country writes that Brind'Amour "reportedly" has a no-trade clause as well.
So retirement could be the only option.
Canes Country held a reader poll recently about the captain's future, with "Give him another chance and put him back in the lineup" leading "Ask him to retire, if he does not then put him on waivers" as the top two choices.
So, from that sample, it appears the majority of Hurricanes fans are getting their wish; and although the end would appear near for Brind'Amour, one only needs to remember back to March to see what happened the last time he was being counted out.
Yet for the Hurricanes and their captain right now, March must feel like years ago instead of months.