Williams Is the Hurricanes New Captain

In what is a move that many expected last season, and viewed by many as a given this season, the Carolina Hurricanes and head coach Rod Brind’Amour have named Justin Williams as the team captain for the 2018-19 season. The team made the announcement mid-afternoon on Thursday. It was also announced that last year’s co-captains Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk would serve as alternate captains.

Justin Williams – Winner, Champion

Williams is a player who is much-loved by Hurricanes fans. He was a significant part of their 2006 Stanley Cup Finals victory, along with then-teammate Brind’Amour. Williams has shown himself to be a winner, even more, a champion on more than one occasion.

When he re-signed with the Hurricanes in mid-2017, the team’s announcement recorded some of Williams’ career: “He has added 94 points (36g, 58a) in 140 career playoff games, winning the Stanley Cup three times – 2006 with Carolina, and 2012 and 2014 with Los Angeles. Williams won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, registering nine goals, 16 assists (25 points) and a league-leading plus-13 rating in 26 games for the Kings.”

Justin Williams Carolina Hurricanes
Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes captain (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Of his three Stanley Cup wins, for Hurricanes fans, his first in 2006 is the most important. The team announced reminded fans, “Williams played 265 regular-season games with the Hurricanes from 2004-2009 and ranks 10th in the team’s North Carolina history in scoring with 201 points (81g, 120a). He scored seven goals and added 11 assists (18 points) in 25 games for the Hurricanes during the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs, as the Hurricanes captured the first championship in franchise history.”

Williams has earned the nickname “Mr. Game Seven” for game-seven heroics in the playoffs throughout his career. His goal in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006 sealed the Hurricanes’ win.

Justin Williams Ends Co-Captain Debacle

When the Hurricanes signed Williams last year it was assumed that he would be the team’s captain. In the News & Observer, Luke DeCock wrote, “Williams was the obvious choice last season, only to be kneecapped by Peters’ dopey co-captaincy, an idea so bad that the ostensibly demoted co-captains both agreed Thursday that it was a bad idea and they thought so all along.” (from “Brind’Amour, on First Day, Sets Different tone — With Different Captain” – News & Observer – 9/12/18).

One of the criticisms former head coach Bill Peters received last season was for naming Staal and Faulk as co-captains of the Hurricanes. It was a lesson of what not to do to a team. It defies the natural order of leadership to have a two-headed captaincy. Of course, in the season prior to last season, Peters named four alternate captains and no captain so perhaps having two was better than having none. But, last season, Williams was everyone’s obvious choice, except for Peters.

Did Staal and Faulk Like Being Co-Captains?

It is clear that the Peters regime will not be remembered fondly going forward. This is Brind’Amour’s team and the past is in the rearview mirror. For example, in the DeCock quoted Staal and Faulk saying they were not thrilled with the co-captaincy. “I didn’t love it,” Jordan Staal said, and Justin Faulk said much the same thing.

However, I wrote in April that Staal told me at the end of season interviews with the team,  “I think it worked fine this year. I don’t think there were any issues. I think Faulker did a great job and hopefully, I did an okay job, too. It was no real issue, I guess.”

Jordan Staal Hurricanes
Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes, Mar. 1, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Also, during those interviews, Faulk told me, “I think Jordan and I are comfortable with each other. I think obviously it’s a weird situation. You don’t really see it. The last guys to do it were Briere and Drury, I think in Buffalo. It’s different, it’s weird. I don’t know if maybe you’ll have to ask other guys what they think of it. Between the two of us, we get along obviously really well. We understand each other really well. We know what to expect from each other and what each other brings. I don’t think that’s taken away anything from us or changed our approach our day and how we carry ourselves in here.”

Perhaps Staal and Faulk were being diplomatic in their answers in April as Peters was still the coach. They might feel a freedom to be more honest at this time in how they felt about the co-captaincy. All of which is moot. Williams is the captain and Staal and Faulk are the alternates.

Interestingly, Faulk being named an alternate might be a tacit signal that he is no longer being actively made available for a trade. Perhaps the team sees him as a longer-term asset — at least for this season — and has confirmed that by naming him an alternate.

Justin Faulk Hurricanes
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes, Mar. 1, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Captain Williams’ Impact

Brind’Amour and Williams are a lot alike. They are intense and fiercely competitive. His wearing of the “C” seems natural and feels right. A friend said to me, “Williams being the captain ought to be worth a few extra points.” His fire showed last season as he held no punches after a loss to the Boston Bruins and declared that what he felt was “beyond anger.” Maybe that fire will translate into a few more points in the standings.

At 36, Williams has already been to the pinnacle of his sport three times. He ultimately wants to lead these Hurricanes back to the Stanley Cup Finals, but first will have to get this group to share his passion. Brind’Amour will have to also inspire his team to reach higher and dig deeper than they have over the past nine years.