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A question-and-answer conversation with Carolina Hurricanes majority owner Tom Dundon, who bought the team in January and has reshaped it heading into a new season:
Q: In your mind, what is Rod Brind’Amour’s best quality as a head coach?
Dundon: “Probably empathy. He cares. When you combine his passion and intensity with someone who truly cares about people, the organization … he has all the things that people see but when you’re with him every day you see how much he cares.”
Q: Why was Justin Williams the right choice as team captain?
TD: “That was more a Roddy thing. I think we might have gotten involved more if it was like what we had last year (co-captains). I would not have given the latitude but he had the latitude. From what I hear from players it seemed like an easy choice with Justin. He has the temperament. It’s just built-in with Justin. That’s who he is. It makes perfect sense.”
Q: Looking at the team, do all the pieces seem to fit right to you?
TD: “It’s interesting. I don’t know that you know until you see results, right? I think we accomplished most of what we wanted to accomplish this summer. The way training camp went, it feels like everything is pointed in the right direction. But having said that we haven’t accomplished anything. …
“The only way to answer it is to get results (but) it feels right now like it fits and everybody is committed and I think that’s the main goal. Who plays together and all those things is secondary to having everybody committed and in shape and proud to be here. And from what I can tell they expect to win and that’s a good start for us.”
Q: Was there anything in the offseason you wanted to do but were unable to do?
TD: “Yeah. We had lots of ideas and whether the things we discussed would have made us better, I can’t know for sure. The way Scott (Darling) responded was one of the really important things because we wanted to have better goaltending. Whether that was Scott getting in shape and committing himself the way he did, or bringing in another goalie, we won’t know for six months. I’ll tell you in six months if we made the right decision, but that was a priority and we did that. … We considered a lot of options and I think we ended up with the best option of all of our options, the way it turned out.
“I don’t have a lot of regrets. .We gave ourselves a chance and then getting (the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft) and bringing in a talent like Andrei (Svechnikov) … for Andrei, it’s just time. It’s just time and experience because the talent is there. It’d be hard to beat that deal.”
Q: Do you think Svechnikov is ready for the NHL?
TD: “I think he’s more ready than most rookies. Having said that, he hasn’t done that. But he cares, he tries hard, he’s prepared and he’s got the talent. Talent and effort almost always wins.”
Q: So playing him nine games and sending him back to junior hockey won’t happen?
TD: “Look, I don’t know. We have to see nine games. It would be surprising. Given how hard he works and how quickly he picks things up and how much talent he’s already shown, that would surprise me.”
Q: Speaking of the goaltending situation, what is Darling’s status after the injury Sunday?
TD: “I don’t think we know 100 percent but it’s not long term. We know it’s nothing catastrophic.”
Q: Will you look to pick up another goaltender?
TD: “I don’t know if we will or not. Even if (Darling) was out for a few days, I don’t know if we would. We don’t need another goaltender. … The thing I’m most proud of since I got involved with this organization is seeing what Scott did. I couldn’t be more impressed with him. What he did was hard and he wishes he was never in a position where he had to go through it. We all do. But we can’t change yesterday and he did everything.”
Q: Did Warren Foegele have the kind of camp where the owner walks in and says, ‘We’re keeping this guy”
TD: No, not at all. Roddy made that decision. We all get together and talk about things but Rod had a pretty big voice in this. But it was pretty obvious, the way he was playing. No one has to debate it.”
Q: What did you think about the Sunday preseason game at PNC Arena, big crowd, hard-fought game with Nashville?
TD: “It was crazy. Even though we didn’t win, it was fun. You knew we were there, we were present. We didn’t get intimidated. I don’t think we could have won or been competitive in a game like that last year. I didn’t see any of those last year that I can remember.”
Q: Did Micheal Ferland get you out of your seat with his physical play?
TD: “He was a guy we really wanted. What’s nice is he’s a really good person, locker-room guy, family guy. And he scored 21 goals and he’s got talent. And the fact is to have someone who can do all those things and provide that level of toughness, it definitely invigorated not only ownership and management and fans, but the other players, too.
“He’s exactly what we need and obviously he’s going to be a fan favorite. What was great about it was he didn’t have to get into a fight to be tough. And that’s what Roddy has been preaching, sticking up for each other. But, yeah, it was pretty fun. It was clear that it was the first time since I’ve been around that we had the guy no one wanted to incite.”
Q: In your talk to the fans Sunday, did you say you have a “crush” on Sebastian Aho?
TD: (laughs) “Yeah, obviously he’s what it’s supposed to look like, right? Tries really hard, works really hard and is super talented.”
Q: How does it stand with contract negotiations with Aho?
TD: “It’s a priority. I have no idea how it’s going go or how we’re going to do it but it’s something we all want to get done. He wants to be here and we want him here. It’s figuring out the details but we’re going to figure it out.”
Q: You’ll be wearing the Hartford Whalers jersey in two games. Was it hard to get league approval?
TD: “They were great. There’s a normal process you go through. It took a lot of work to get it done as soon as we did, and adidas and the league were helpful. And it was a jersey that existed. If that had been a jersey that didn’t exist it would have taken a lot longer.”
Q: What has been the feedback from fans?
TD: “I read some stuff and I think most people like it. Some people don’t. I think for the players it’s kind of fun. For the organization it’s something different. The Hurricanes haven’t been on the front of ESPN or The Hockey News very often, so for us to get relevant I think those are good things.
“We did it because we think it’s entertainment and it’s fun. We didn’t do it for any other reason. We’re not trying to honor anyone or anything. There’s nothing deep and meaningful about it. It’s a good-looking jersey and people like it and it’s fun. And we did it.”
Q: What will be your emotions Thursday at the season opener?
TD: “A lot of people did a lot of work. Roddy worked really hard, the players worked really hard. More than anything you want to see the people you care about get rewarded. For me, I want that and want it for the fans. But it’s just one game and we’ve got to keep in perspective we want to be good in every game for a long time. If we win or lose that game, it shouldn’t change what we think about what we need to do to be successful. But I’m sure looking forward to it.”
Q: It has been said losses eat you up. Will you be able to handle it a whole season?
TD: “I don’t know. I doubt it. Everybody is going to lose games but if we lose games and it looks like it did (Sunday), when it’s tougher and it’s faster and it’s more confident and there’s effort … we lost last year and we knew the problems that were manifesting themselves. Win or lose now I’m comfortable with the effort, the preparation, the toughness, the commitment and the people.
“I think we’re going to win. But there’s a way to win and lose that makes you comfortable. Last year I wasn’t comfortable with the way we lost.”