This story begins in 1997, the proud (albeit struggling) franchise known as the Hartford Whalers had just moved to its temporary new home in Greensboro, N.C. to play in a 21,000 seat arena (The highest in the NHL), Located 90 minutes from the city of Raleigh. Playing to crowds of approx. 3,000 people, the Hurricanes made the playoffs in 98-99, and brought a culture of resiliency to the club that remains to this day.
Skip forward to 2002. Three years after their first playoff appearance as the Hurricanes, the team had moved to their new arena in Raleigh, and were challenging for their first ever Stanley Cup title. Unfortunately, it was apparent that nobody was going to beat the Detroit Red Wings that year, and the Hurricanes lost in the final in five games. Even so, the Hurricanes proved they could succeed in North Carolina.
After two years without the playoffs, and a third with no hockey whatsoever, the future of the Hurricanes was once again in question. Enter 2006 (and a $26 Million payroll) and the emergence of Eric Staal.
I don't think I am overstating anything when I say that Eric Staal single-handedly saved the Carolina Hurricanes. 45 goals. 55 assists. 100 points. Eric Staal brought a level of play to the club that had not been seen since Ron Francis. At just 21 years of age, Staal, along with stellar rookie goaltender Cam Ward, led the Hurricanes to their first Stanley Cup championship.
It is now 2009. The Hurricanes have not made the playoffs since 2006, but they currently sit in 5th place in the east with 91 points. While Ray Whitney continues to lead the team in points, the pace and tone of every game is set by the trio of Eric Staal, Erik Cole, and Tuomo Ruutu (who as I write this, has 24 Goals, and 216 hits.) Can history repeat itself? Can the Hurricanes continue their trend of going deep in the playoffs when they reach the post-season? That is what we're about to find out.
The Hot List
- Cam Ward: 6-0-0, .945 SV%, 1.83 GAA
- Eric Staal: 10 Goals, 15 Assists, 25 points in his last 20 games.
-Anton Babchuk: 4 Goals, 1 Assist, 5 points in his last 6 Games.
Points Required to Clinch Playoff Spot- 98.
About the Author
Written by Chris Cote
Originally from Cadillac, Saskatchewan, I've been a Hurricanes/Whalers fan for as long as anyone can remember. I have completed two years of Journalism studies from the University of Regina and love to write...