Plenty has changed since the soon-to-be-29-year-old last suited up for the Carolina Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate during the 2008-09 season. Chief among those is the location of said team, which moved from Albany to Charlotte during his absence.
“It’s definitely a little bit weird, but I look at it as an advantage,” said Flood.
There are a few holdovers from his last River Rats team, including teammates Nicolas Blanchard, Justin Peters and, to a lesser extent, Zach Boychuk and Brett Bellemore, who made late-season professional debuts after the junior seasons had concluded. Patrick Dwyer has since become an NHL regular with Carolina, while former junior teammates Eric and Jordan Staal have managed to land on their feet.
Beyond those, perhaps most important is the continued presence of head coach Jeff Daniels and assistant coach Geordie Kinnear, who know exactly what they’re getting and are more than happy to have him back in the fold.
“I think it’s huge,” said Daniels of that familiarity. “I’ve worked with him in the past, he’s low maintenance, very professional and keeps things light.“
“It definitely makes things easier,” said Flood, a 2003 Montreal Canadiens draft pick who spent three seasons in the Hurricanes organization from 2006-2009. “I know what to expect. They’ve matured as coaches and I’ve matured as a player, but the personalities are the same.”
That maturation will be a key part of Flood’s presence on this year’s Checkers team. Still on his entry-level contract while in Albany, the organization brought him back to provide leadership and experience on a team that could have as many as four rookies competing for spots on its blue line. Of players on Charlotte’s roster Tuesday, he was the oldest and most experienced, having played 39 NHL games with the New York Islanders and Winnipeg and all of last season with Lokomotiv in the predominantly Russian KHL.
Together with Michal Jordan and Rasmus Rissanen, Flood will be part of a leadership core that will also provide the kind of depth Carolina will need throughout the season – a group that could grow even further if one or both of Bellemore or Matt Corrente was to come down from the Hurricanes.
By all accounts, he has the kind of character that would make him well-suited to the role.
“It’s tough grinding it out and getting cut (from NHL rosters) year after year, but if you stick with it and be a good teammate, that’s going to help you,” said Flood. “The older you are the harder it is to get a contract, and if it doesn’t help you get to the NHL, it will help you stay in the game.”
Even though he left for Russia last season – something he said presented itself as the best option at the time rather than something he went looking for – Flood is still looking for that next chance to make it to the highest level, calling his return from Europe a chance to take care of “unfinished business.” In addition the character intangibles, he’s proven to be a solid two-way contributor, having recorded 40 points (11g, 29a) over 63 games in his last full AHL season with St. John’s in 2010-11.
When the time comes for the Hurricanes to make a recall on defense, they could very well opt for a steady, well-rounded and experienced veteran, though that’s something they’ll have to weigh against giving younger players a chance they might also deserve.
If Flood ends up having to be patient, it’s something he’s done before. It wasn’t until his fourth pro season that he got his first NHL game with the Islanders, and it was his sixth season until that longer-term breakthrough with the Jets.
“He’s the perfect example of sticking with it to get that opportunity,” said Daniels.