The Carolina Hurricanes have a new captain and it came as no surprise. The timing, maybe, but not the selection.
General manager Jim Rutherford announced today that forward Eric Staal would replace Rod Brind'Amour as captain. He said he first discussed the decision with Brind'Amour, who led the Canes to the 2006 Stanley Cup, and said Brind'Amour had the right to veto the move, but agreed it would be best for a team in last place in the NHL.
"It's something we were planning on doing at some point in time, not knowing exactly when that would be," Rutherford said. "I've had a couple of conversations with Rod over the last month or two ... just to see how he's doing in the overall scheme of things.
"The reason for now is that this would be the best time for somebody to understand what it takes to be a captain, when you're in as bad a times as we're in. ... I really feel very strong that doing it at this point, when we've started our rebuilding of our team, is to give it to the guy who's going to lead this team on for the next several years."
Staal, 25, is the fifth captain since the team moved to North Carolina and the 13th player in franchise history to serve as captain.
"It's an opportunity for me to learn this year with Rod obviously being here this year, helping me along the way," Staal said. "The relationship between Rod and I isn't going to change."
Staal said it as important to be "hardest-working guy" and the best in every game, every practice.
"I don't think I'm a guy who will be standing up giving rah-rah speeches in the dressing room. That's not me. That doesn't necessarily make you a great leader. It's knowing the right times when something needs to be said and making sure your play on the ice is what guys will follow."
Teams often name new captains between seasons -- Brind'Amour became Hurricanes captain on Aug. 25, 2005. Brind'Amour, 39, will remain an alternate captain and Rutherford said no decision had been made on whether Brind'Amour, who has a year left on his contract, would retire at the end of the season.
Staal has long been considered the player who would fill the captaincy once Brind'Amour relinquished it. An All-Star player, he had played 349 consecutive games for the Canes before being sidelined this season with an abdominal injury.
"Eric was the guy who was going to be the captain," Rutherford said. "He just has a special way about him. Cares about people, cares about winning."
Despite missing games this season because of injury and the death of his sister-in-law, Staal is second on the team in points with 33 (10 goals, 23 assists).
"Rod has been a great leader for his whole career and a great captain for us," Rutherford said. "He hoisted the Stanley Cup and led this team to the conference finals a year ago. ... "I made it very clear to Rod that if this is not the right time or the right thing to do, that he had every right to speak up.
"But once there was some thought put into it, both (Brind'Amour and Staal) were comfortable with each other. Then it was time to move forward.
"It was my decision to move it along, but I view it more as a mutual decision because I gave Rod the opportunity to veto it."