Andrew Ladd entered the Carolina Hurricanes organization with a splash and fanfare. Following the burst of optimism and momentum with the 2001-02 season, the team came crashing back to Earth and imploded in both the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. Following the 2003-04, the city of Raleigh and the Hurricanes hockey community hosted the rest of the league for the 2004 NHL draft. In addition to the wonderful event, the team put on a bit of a show for the home crowd trading up from the #7 spot to #4 and selecting Ladd. Coming off the two down years, the event provided some fun and rejuvenation for Caniacs. The event a huge success and rallying point for the Hurricanes hockey community and set the stage for a league return for the 2009 All-Star Game. Andrew Ladd was a headliner for the draft and as the #4 overall pick provided hope for better hockey ahead for Canes fans.
After spending the lockout year in the AHL, Ladd had a bit of a disjointed rookie season in 2005-06. He spent time in the AHL, time in the NHL and time injured. When healthy and in the NHL, he spent much of his time learning from a master in Rod Brind’Amour when he was slotted at left wing on a line that also featured Justin Williams. In that first taste of the NHL during the 2005-06 regular season, Ladd collected six goals and five assists in 29 games.
With the addition of veteran reinforcements in Mark Recchi and Doug Weight, Ladd played only three games in the first two rounds of the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs. He drew back into the lineup for the start of the Eastern Conference Finals series against the Buffalo Sabres and played the final 14 games of the playoffs. He totaled a modest two goals and three assists in his 17 playoff games including the game-winning goal in game two versus Edmonton in the Finals. But his biggest play was not a scoring play but rather a series-changing train wreck. With 5:56 remaining in the third period of a 4-4 tie in game one of the Finals, Ladd found himself with the puck on his stick and a path to the net. When Marc-Andre Bergeron tried to recover and impede Ladd, the result was a huge collision with goalie Dwayne Roloson that ended Roloson’s playoffs and forced Edmonton to go to their bench for a netminder. About five minutes later, with 32 seconds remaining in the game Ty Conklin mishandled a puck behind his own net almost directly onto Rod Brind’Amour’s stick in front of the net for an assist on an empty net game-winning goal for the Canes captain. We will never know for sure, but it is possible that Ladd’s single rush to the net changed the course in the entire Finals.
After being one of three Canes rookies to etch his name on the Stanley Cup in 2006 (others were Chad LaRose and Cam Ward), Ladd entered the 2006-07 season with high expectations for his continued development. After injuries and modest production in both 2006-07 (21 points in 65 games) and 2007-08 (18 points in 43 games), Ladd was traded to the Blackhawks at the trade deadline for Tuomo Ruutu.
Though his best seasons as a player came after leaving the Carolina Hurricanes, he claims a spot in Canes history for being a headliner of the 2004 NHL draft in Raleigh and for his role, especially the aforementioned Roloson collision, in the 2006 Stanley Cup win.