Today’s Daily Cup of Joe steps out of the present and into the past and puts forward a few Canes assertions that are likely contrary to popular opinion.
Game 5 against the New Jersey Devils in 2002 NHL playoffs is single biggest win in team history
I get the significance of the Stanley Cup win in 2006 and acknowledge there is a strong case for it but here me out…
In 2000-01, the Hurricanes made the playoffs for the first time in Raleigh but ran into a buzz saw in the New Jersey Devils. The series had an unexpected amount of positives after the team was down 3-0 and seemingly destined for a rough first-time playoff experience in Raleigh. But the undermanned Canes stormed back, won two games and won captured the hearts of the first core fan base who was there. The ending was the extended standing ovation at the end of game 6 despite the team losing the series that day. That still ranks among my favorite moments in team history.
Fast forward to 2001-02. The Hurricanes return to the playoffs, but lo and behold the opponent is again the New Jersey Devils. The series started well with two hard-fought wins in Raleigh, but in the Devils won games 3 and 4 in New Jersey, chased starting goalie Arturs Irbe and were utterly dominant in doing so. At that point the Hurricanes quick start had evaporated to nothing and the most likely path for the series was probably the Devils riding momentum to a game 5 win and then finishing the series in game 6 in New Jersey. No way do the Hurricanes rebound if they lose game 5 at home for a third straight loss and a 3-2 series deficit.
At the top of the heap for drama for that game 5 was who would start in net. Kevin Weekes had seen action in relief in the prior games in New Jersey but had not started a game for some time. Yet Paul Maurice gave him the call. The game was tight the whole way and went into overtime setting a spectacular ending. First was Kevin Weekes’ lunging save to take away a shot that looked to be headed into an empty half net. To this day, I think it was the greatest save in Carolina Hurricanes history. Then Josef Vasicek finished things off shortly thereafter when he tipped a point shot to score the game-winner. With momentum regained, the Hurricanes scraped out series win in game 6 in New Jersey.
Without that win, there would have been no Miracle at Molson, no Jeff O’Neill black eye game, no Niclas Wallin overtime heroics, no Ron Francis overtime game-winner in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals and no triple overtime game in the first Stanley Cup Finals game in team history.
More significantly, could a loss in that game 5 have actually erased all that followed including the 2006 Stanley Cup championship? I think that is actually possible. That 2001-02 Stanley Cup Finals run is what built the first core of the fan base. With consecutive first-round playoff exits and then horrid 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons followed by the full-year lockout in 2004-05, is it possible that the Hurricanes would not even still be in Raleigh if not for that magical 2002 playoff run? Fortunately, we will never know.
Rod Brind’Amour was completely robbed of the Conn Smyth Trophy in 2006
My aim is not to discredit the play of Cam Ward in the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs. He was stellar and obviously played a huge role in the Stanley Cup win.
That said, I think the voters missed by a WIDE margin in not awarding the Conn Smyth Trophy to Rod Brind’Amour. In addition to simply leading, he did absolutely everything for that team. He played as many minutes as possible against the other teams’ best players. He played and produced on the power play and also shorthanded. He was among the Canes’ top scorers. He scored a couple huge clutch goals. And more generally, he was just the best player on the ice in so many of those playoff games even above Cam Ward.
To this day my blood pressure rises when thinking about Brind’Amour not winning the Conn Smyth he deserved that year.
The fan base has always had a weird, oftentimes intense disdain for overachievers but at the same time unhindered affinity for lovable failures
There are contextual factors in play, but during some of the down times for the franchise, the fan base has had an uncanny knack for picking odd scape goats. Maybe hesitant to blame the stars they loved like Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk and Cam Ward (who did take heat from some part of the fan base), Canes fans consistently used overachievers as scape goats. The repeated story was this…Underachiever who resume-wise did not even project to be an NHL player rose up into the NHL and landed in the Hurricanes player. Said player overachieved and by virtue of the team being light on legitimate top 6 forwards rose up the depth chart. That coinciding with lack of success for team led to multiple iterations of a large portion of the fan base converting the overachieving hero into a scape goat. Undrafted Chad Larose was the most notable in this group, but it also featured Patrick Dwyer and Nathan Gerbe for good runs and then lesser but similar attention for players like Joakim Nordstrom who were good players that were overslotted by the team’s lack of high-end players. Rather than blaming beloved stars who often underperformed or management who did build a strong enough roster, the fan base in my view seemed to take out as much frustration as possible on players who did not deserve it.
In some cities, this negativity is more a way of life for the fan base against a number of victims when the team was ot playing well. But the reverse situation for another group of players is what actually makes it more of an oddity. For as much as the fan base has readily chucked underdogs under the bus, the fan base has had an over the top love for what could be termed ‘lovable failures.
Arguably the most notable in this group was Alexander Semin. After signing a one-year free agent deal and having a strong first year with the Canes playing on the top line with Eric Staal, Jim Rutherford signed Semin to a long-term contract. Though Semin has been gone for more than five years now, the Hurricanes will still be paying his buyout for the 2020-21 season. No doubt the way the team handled the situation was not ideal, but Semin really was bad that season. The production on the score sheet was not there obviously, but maybe more significant were the stretches where he just seemed to be somewhere else. But yet probably in part do to management’s mishandling of the situation a pretty significant contingent of the fan base defended Semin to the end such that there was actually a hearty debate when he was bought out. The other two big examples are goalies. Eddie Lack legitimately rates as one of the best people to wear a Hurricanes uniform. He was affable and fun on social media and engaged with the fans. He was sincerely a great person. That lovability won the hearts of Canes fans and kept them in his camp regardless of how he played on the ice. In two years, he never really did find a stretch of more than a couple games during which he was good or better. Yet the fan base defended him until the end. Then finally my last entrant for this category is maybe most puzzling. The team traded for and made a significant investment in Scott Darling to the tune of four-year contract totaling $16.6 million. Comments and reports (from him included) that surfaced in the aftermath of his time with the Canes indicated that he basically responded by showing up for training camp not ready to go. He proceeded to get injured in training camp and then never really did find any meaningful stretch of being decent or better as a starting goalie in Raleigh. But the fan base stuck with him through a rough first year and then mustered a ton of optimism for him heading into the second year of his contract. Peak Darling was when was when he had his own Twitter hash tag defending him I guess because it is the right thing to do to give players second and third chances? The ratio of fan love to how much he deserved either from results or just doing the right thing is the oddest fan appreciation disconnect in team history for me.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Does anyone else have the guts to second my controversial assertion that game 5 against New Jersey in the 2002 NHL Playoffs actually trumps the Stanley Cup win? If not, will anyone at least agree that it is closer than most would realize?
2) Who else thinks Rod Brind’Amour was robbed of the Conn Smyth in 2006?
3) What do you make of my assertion for a weird contrast of the fan base regularly chucking underdog heroes under the bus during hard times but at the same time defending ‘lovable failures’ to the death even if maybe they did not deserve it?
That’s a fun little nugget of an article!
1. I can’t say (I never saw it). The first hockey game I watched was game 7 of the 2006 finals (I was living in Charlotte but had no interest in hockey. But when my wife, who had spent a decade in Canada, moved in with me I was re edcuated, and the first game we watched was that one. My favorite game, ever, is the Miracle at the Rock (2009 game 7 win against the Devils), but I can totally see your point about the Game 5 win being so significant.
2. Yes, Roddie has consistently been robbed of honors he should have received, including the trophy in 2006 and, more recently, induction into the hall of fame. Players like Roddie are incredibly rare, and embody the best values of being a world-class athlete and a great human being.
3. I disagree somewhat with your points here, though not much. I think most “die ahard” fans were realistic about the sitaution and understood the failures of the team had to do with their stars not living up to expectations and contracts and management not surrounding them with the right support cast.
I had no love for Darling after the first set of failures, I got tired of the Ward fandom as early as 2010 or so, he had the ability to rise up on the big stage but through some combination of being over used or just not as good as advertized, he often failed over extended stretches. Great guy, part of our history, but not an absolutely top tier goalie.
I guess the casual ans probably eltotherwise, and to that extent agree with your point. I also think the team (and media staff) over hyped some players and stayed aggressivley clear of criticizing their performance, which is why Mike Maniskelco was such a breath of fresh air on the Fan Aftermath show.
I also think there was too much hype regarding newly drafted players and it may have played its part in how Hannifan and Lindholm did not quite live up to their draft pedigree (Hannifan, never, Lindholm neede a change of scenery).
Zach Boychuk is another example of a player who was suppoeed to be “it” but never got it together at the NHL level, ditto Drayson Bohman.
Well, I still can’t go to Gonza’s without thinking “Lacko, Lacko taco”, he has stamped his presence forever into the Canes broadcast history with that commercial. Also a combo of Gonza and a Two Roosters dessert makes for a pretty fun family night out.
Very fun article. Many thoughts…
Yes, game 5 in 2002 against the Devils was a big one, but I’m going to say a playoff game against the Devils in 2001 was even bigger. In ’01 the Canes were getting pumped by the Devils. Down 0-2 to the Devils and both Ron Francis and Shane Willis had been taken out of the series by Scott Stevens. Game three started no better. Down 2-0 in the first…and let the fights begin! The Canes stood up to the Devils. No, they didn’t win the game, but even guys you would never see fight, were fighting. Sandis Ozolinsh? Yep. Tommy Westlund? You bet. The Canes came back and won game 4 in OT (Brind’Amour of course) and won game 5 as well. The Devils closed it out in 6, but now the Canes knew they could play with them…and in 2002…
If Rod had done the things he did in Carolina in Philadelphia he would already be in the HoF. Even bigger than the Conn Smythe snub was how Team Canada didn’t put Rod on the Olympic team in ’06. They chose Kris Draper instead. Pffft! A poor man’s Brind’Amour, but part of the Detroit dynasty.
I totally agree that Canes fans misplace their anger often. Somewhat because many fans here are Canes fans and not hockey fans. Skinner is the poster boy. Charismatic and talented, he was and is a lazy, selfish hockey player. I get folks wanted to get behind Darling’s story about mental health, but you still have to play! Darling went on Spittin’ Chicklets and threw a bunch of shade on the organization and the area, so screw Scott Darling anyway. I’m of the opinion that Mike Maniscalco is the new “underdog hero.” Thrust into a job he is ill suited for, the fanbase loves him because he’s very positive, survived a cancer scare, and is generally a nice guy. He’s not very good, but will work for peanuts, so there you go.
One more thing about Brind’Amour….It still sticks in my craw how they ripped the C from his jersey in the middle of the season. Brind’Amour was on the decline, but why you would insult a man that had already done so much for the franchise? Rutherford and Karmanos…no comment. I don’t know who’s idea it was, but if Eric Staal was a real leader he would have refused and demanded they do it with respect in the off-season. It goes to show what kind of guy Brind’Amour is that he still stayed connected to the franchise. Many guys would have walked.
I admit to being a bit of a Skinner fanboy, but he had some pretty impressive scoring to go with his generally likable demeanor, so he had some skill, wicked skill, but maybe not the complete package.
There is also a tendency, not so much of the fans but more so of management/coaching to overvalue grit and grind two-way guys (like McGinn).
Yes, we need them, yes, they are important to the success of the team but, no, we can’t win a cup or even make the playoffs with grit and grind alone, we have to mix in some skill, some chirping, a little bit of deviousness, all those factors create that magic formula.
Yes, switching captains just never made sense to me. I’m not even sure Staal was the right guy or the job. The captain isn’t necessarily the top player, it’s often the guy who cares, who can address team issue, mentor etc. I think Gerbe was that type of guy.
But it was yet another snub on Roddie. And, yes, Mike does a pretty terrible job being the “happy story” guy, even if I appreciate his trying.
I think he actually did a really good job filling in for John (not that anyone can), so maybe that’s his new role next year (though I still refuse to acknowledge that the team is just dumping Forslund).
Excellent Article, ’02 doesn’t happen if ’01 doesn’t happen. I’d guess ’06 doesn’t happen. Heck, JR may have been fired after ’03.
Yes, Rod should have won the Conn Smyth. Maybe he gets in the HOF if he did. Goalies get too much credit and blame. Plus the voters look too much at the last couple of games.
Darling was mishandled, he should have been brought into Raleigh right after signing. That way they could have gotten to know him and support him. Might not have mattered but would have had a better chance at success.