For those checking in looking for NHL trade deadline coverage, part 2 of the Carolina Hurricanes’ trade deadline preview should be up before lunchtime on Friday, and you can also find 3 articles from yesterday: Part 1 of preview // Thoughts on Hainsey trade // Options for Ryan Murphy.
My daily post for Friday actually goes in a different direction.
Today it was announced that Bryan Bickell was put on waivers with the aim of getting him into game action in the AHL as he works to play his way back onto the ice in NHL despite his battle with multiple sclerosis. A return to the ice in Raleigh for Bryan Bickell would be a wonderful feel good event for March or early April.
Bickell’s news got me to thinking about how the Hurricanes community has witnessed such a high number of wonderful people and other stories already during the 2016-17 despite the fact that there are still 26 games remaining.
In chronological order…
1) Journeyman Michael Leighton makes a return to the NHL
When 35-year old Michael Leighton was signed to an AHL contract before the 2016-17 season started, the expectation was that he would provide a veteran goalie to share work load and also help young Alex Nedeljkovic in his first year in the AHL. When signed, Leighton had not started a game at the NHL level since January 27, 2013, and it was unlikely he would start another NHL career before retiring. But lo and behold, he started strong in Charlotte, and when Eddie Lack was injured, Leighton got the call. After more than 3 years since his last start, Leighton started and won 3-2 at PNC Arena on November 27, 2016.
2) Canes win game with strong case for wildest home game in team history
On December 13, Hurricanes fans headed to PNC Arena for a Tuesday match up between the Vancouver Canucks and the Carolina Hurricanes thought they were on their way to another run of the mill weeknight hockey game. Goodness were they wrong. What unfolded was easily 1 of the top 10 wildest regular season home games in franchise history. The game featured scoring early but nothing out of the ordinary. The Hurricanes exited the first period with a 2-1 lead. But from that point forward, the game featured increasing levels of seemingly insurmountable chaos. The second period saw the Canucks score 4 goals, run out to a 3-goal lead, chase Cam Ward in the process and run off to an easy win. Or so it seemed. In the third period, the Hurricanes proceeded to score 4 goals in less than 6 minutes. When the dust settled, the Hurricanes had scored 6 goals in a wild third period to pull out an 8-6 victory. Surely, I am not the only 1 who woke up the next day and immediately reached for my phone to check to see if I had dreamed it.
3) Equipment manager Jorge Alves lives out a dream
Continuing on the goalie theme, when Eddie Lack had recurring concussion symptoms after taking the morning skate but before the game, long-time equipment manager and sometimes practice goalie Jorge Alves was pressed into service. Aside from him actually getting into the game for 7 seconds, my lasting and favorite visual of him is decked out in game gear as a player but still tending to his game duties as an equipment manager on the bench. When Alves got into the game, he instantly became an NHL story of the week and a hero to every one of us commoners who dream to have just that 1 chance to step into a professional sporting event.
4) Make-A-Wish participant Chase Bass has a special day at PNC Arena and inspires Jeff Skinner to first star effort in win that Friday
Yet another example that people stories trump hockey bits and bites was Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Chase Bass special day at PNC Arena. He was a special guest and part-time coach at practice, before cleaning up in a ball hockey game outside and winning first, second and third stars in the game. Chase’s day finished with a big contract signing with Hurricanes’ general manager Ron Francis. But he was not done. His special day inspired ball hockey team mate Jeff Skinner to a huge 3-point night and first star honors of his own.
5) Alex Nedeljkovic sparkles back home in Ohio in unexpected, ahead of schedule NHL debut
Continuing with the ‘great goalie stories’ theme of 2016-17, the third entry also looks to the crease. With Eddie Lack out of commission with a concussion and backup Michael Leighton from too many days in a backup role, the Hurricanes did an AHL/NHL switcheroo. The set of moves sent Leighton to Charlotte to quickly play a couple games to be ready for his next start in Raleigh, and in exchange recalled Ohio native Alex Nedeljkovic to presumably warm the bench for the Hurricanes’ game in Columbus. But when Ward and the Hurricanes struggled, Nedeljkovic was called into action at the midway point of the game. With the game going poorly Nedeljkovic not supposed to play, the situation was potentially ominous. But 21-year old Alex Nedeljkovic demonstrated his ability to play under pressure, rose to the occasion and stopped a perfect 17 out of 17 shots in 29:57 in the net in his home state debut.
6) Sebastian Aho rises up for his first NHL hat trick in a huge game
Sebastian Aho was 1 of the biggest stories entering the 2016-17 season. After a phenomenal 2015-16 season that included a world junior championship, a solid season in Finland and more international play, he arrived with high expectations. Still very early in his NHL career, he is meeting those expectations, and has been chronicled regularly here at Canes and Coffee. After a Hurricanes win on January 7, I took note of an especially strong effort by Aho not so much because of raw scoring but rather because of his effort and willingness to do the hard work that the team needed. Cory Fogg’s ‘Hurricanes In-Depth’ feature on February 14 took a broader look at Aho’s development. But arguably his best game came in a huge effort in 1 of the team’s biggest wins. Coming out of the All-Star break, needing a win and facing the Flyers who were right above the Hurricanes in the standings set a pretty big stage. And with his first career hat trick and 4 points total in a rousing 5-1 win.
Help us work on a full top 10
Are there any games or other Hurricanes events that I missed that you think would be worthy of consideration for a top 10 when the season is over?
In addition to a possible return by Bryan Bickell, what special stories do you think we might see in the last 26 games that could also be considered?
If Ron Hainsey does in fact make his playoff debut in a Penguins’ uniform, can we still count it among our top 10 Hurricanes’ feel good stories for the 2016-17 season?
Do we need to change the category to “most memorable” or something less positive and more general, so we can include the bizarre melting ice cancellation game against the Red Wings?