In 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes, with captain Rod Brind’Amour, third year kid and touted goal scorer Eric Staal, once disappointment now career level setter Justin Williams, rookie goaltender Cam Ward, and locally loved coach Peter Laviolette, raised Lord Stanley’s Cup high above their heads on the ice at RBC Center, defeating the Edmonton Oilers in seven games. Their future looked incredibly bright and the team they had on the ice was better than all the rest, proven by winning it all. Last season, they were 36-36-11 with 83 points, missing the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference by 10 points. What happened?
Let’s start with our lovely captain, Mr. Brind’Amour. He continued to put up points, scoring his 1000th NHL point in November 2006 and his 400th career NHL goal in February of 2007. On Valentines Day 2008, Brind’Amour tore his ACL in the first period of a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. From there, the rest of his career dwindled. He came back for the 2008-09 season, scoring 16 goals. January 20th, 2010 ended his reign as captain of the Hurricanes, the role being taken over by young Eric Staal. The next season, Brind’Amour retired as a player, staying as a coach within the Hurricanes organization, but a lot of love lost between him and his team.
Now onto Mr. Staal. The second overall draft pick in 2003 continued to produce at a torrid pace, putting up around 30 goals or more every season after wining the Cup in 2006. He was so prolific at what he did, he took over as captain from one of his mentors, the aforementioned Rod Brind’Amour. But since, his production has gone down, going from 30 goals a season to 20 to less than that, his PIM total climbing and his +/- going as far down as -20. Is he past his prime? Maybe. But that doesn’t stop him from trying as hard as he can to be the god he seems to be down in Raleigh.
Justin Williams? Injuries. After signing a 5-year, $17.5 million contract to stay in Carolina, he produced fantastic numbers in year one of his contract, but then tore his ACL and MCL in a game against the Florida Panthers, injured his back as soon as he returned to game play, sidelined himself for 4-6 month with a torn right Achilles tendon in a preseason workout accident, and finally having his left hand broken by a teammates slapshot. He was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, where he has since helped them win their first two Stanley Cups in franchise history and garnering the nickname “Mr. Game 7″.
Now we finally get to Cam Ward. After putting up a 37 win season in 2010-11, his production has never been the same. A slight drop to 30 wins the next season, followed by a season marred by groin and lower body injuries, playing just 17 games, and last season, putting up a 10-12-6 record in 30 games. Is it time to for the Hurricanes to move on from Cam Ward? Probably. But his contract is too massive to move, a cap hit of $6.3 million a year for the next two season, the ‘Canes will have to bear with him until his contract expires.
As for Peter Laviolette? Moved onto Philadelphia, almost won another Stanley Cup and is now the coach of the Nashville Predators. GM Jim Rutherford? Now GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The pieces Carolina has now aren’t awful, Alexander Semin can still produce and young gun Jeff Skinner is becoming a fan favorite. But making the playoffs will continue to be a tall task for the Carolina Hurricanes. They need a franchise defenseman to help take the load of of whoever will be in net, a trade for Dion Phaneuf, as unlikely as it is, would be a perfect fit, and more depth scorers from free agency, like former ‘Cane Ray Whitney, Lee Stempniak or David Booth. But as of now, maybe a new name is fitting for them, the Carolina Tropical Storms, because they aren’t strong enough to barrel their way into the playoffs as of now.