Hurricanes make some moves behind the bench

Brind'Amour becomes an assistant, Francis back in front office

Staff writerJune 8, 2011 

— Rod Brind'Amour now is officially an assistant coach for the Carolina Hurricanes, but with a twist.

He may not be at every Canes game next season.

Nor, he said, will he necessarily be behind the bench when he is at the games.

"It's a work in progress," the former Canes captain said Tuesday after the announcement by general manager Jim Rutherford. "We're trying to figure out how it will work."

Rutherford also announced that Dave Lewis, a former NHL head coach, would join Paul Maurice's coaching staff as an assistant and handle the Canes' defensemen. Lewis replaces Tom Rowe, who will become one of the team's pro scouts.

In another move, Ron Francis will become the team's director of hockey operations, working directly with Rutherford.

There are decisions still to be made about Brind'Amour's role. It will be his first year in coaching, and he's not sure if he would best help the team, and Maurice, down at ice level or by observing from on high and passing along recommendations.

"I don't know yet, but I don't think you'll see me behind the bench too much," Brind'Amour said. "But (Maurice) is the boss and whatever he says I'll go, I'll go."

Maurice said the two would sit down once the Canes' 2011-12 schedule is released and decide how many games Brind'Amour will work with Lewis and assistant coach Tom Barrasso. Brind'Amour will be actively involved with practices, staff meetings and video sessions.

"Regardless of who's on the bench, he's a fulltime assistant coach with me," Maurice said. "The question is where he's standing when the puck is dropped, and that's it."

Brind'Amour, 40, also has the title "development coach" and will continue to work with young forwards in Carolina's minor-league system.

"This is what we agreed to do, and part of the plan going forward for this year," Rutherford said.

Brind'Amour has made a commitment to coach the Junior Hurricanes' pee wee team - his oldest son, Skyler, is a member - next season and wants to fulfill that obligation as best he can.

"That was a major concern for me," he said. "It was something I really wanted to do, be with the kids."

Lewis, 57, returns to the NHL after coaching Ukraine's national team last year. One of Rutherford's former teammates, Lewis was an assistant coach on the Detroit Red Wings when they won Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998 and 2002 -- the '02 Cup against Maurice and the Canes.

Legendary coach Scotty Bowman retired from the Wings after the 2002 season, and Lewis was promoted to head coach. Lewis was not retained after the 2004-05 lockout season and later was the head coach of the Boston Bruins for the 2006-07 season. His overall record as a head coach was 135-83-33.

Lewis, a native of Kindersley, Saskatchewan, was a defenseman for 15 years in the NHL before retiring in 1988. Rutherford said he wanted to hire a former defenseman with coaching experience to handle the Canes' defensive corps.

The Hurricanes are looking to restructure the back end. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen, due to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, may not be re-signed and the team may look to work a trade or invest in a free agent.

Francis was associate head coach and director of player personnel the past three years. Maurice, who often turned to him to handle the team's power play, said Francis still would be involved with the power play but added the new staff would "get all the ideas on the table" before deciding on coaching responsibilities.

Brind'Amour, who captained the Canes' 2006 Stanley Cup champions, retired after the 2009-10 season.

"He just recently finished playing and he knows the players very, very well," Maurice said. "He stepped away for a year and has had an opportunity to watch our team from an entirely different angle.

"I think it was a great opportunity for him ... (and) I've liked the way he described what he saw. Very clear, very concise. And no ego, no agenda."

Brind'Amour smiled when asked if he should now be addressed as "Coach."

"Just Rod," he said. "I'm Rod."

That's another adjustment that has to be made.

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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