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08-06-2012, 03:18 AM
The Czech Condor
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I will do one of these strictly for the Hurricanes portion of the franchise as it would be well beyond my scope to attempt to gauge the heartbeat of a team that was moved before I became a diehard hockey fan. I go into this attempting to avoid any mulligans or gimmie shots.

Player: Glen Wesley

As much as it would be easy to further the rhetoric of Ron Francis' signing with Carolina as "legitimizing" this market, I have to go with the Red Head here. No player more accurately represented our rise to glory as a franchise than Wesley. He was here for our darkest days of hidden seats in Greensboro, he was here for the departure from Hartford, he was here in 2001-2002 when we made our first run in front of a national audience, and he was here when we sent the nail home in 05-06. No other player can make the claim of having been through the worst days and remaining dedicated to the area and franchise as much as Wesley. As much as Brind'Amour ultimately came to enjoy playing here, he was pretty open about not wanting to be here initially after his trade. Give me the guy that was class through and through, was here for the whole thing, and has stayed after class to help us build the defense with some pretty damn impressive results he gets far too little credit for with young guys like Justin Faulk on up to veterans like Jay Harrison. Wesley never made a splash the way that Francis did by coming back or Brind'Amour did by being a vocal leader and captain, but nobody else was a Hurricane at a time when it was embarrassing to be a Hurricane, stuck with it, and came with us to glory.

Season: 2001-2002

Without the 2001-2002 heartbreak, there is never the 2005-2006 glory. I firmly believe that to be true. I think as an organization we have never been more wide eyed and awed by the magnitude of important games being played in Raleigh, NC. I know that personally, until this playoff run I always felt like the little brother of the NHL. The little brother of the Devils. The little brother of the Leafs. The cute little upstart with the cute little swirl on the crest. When we started our march by defeating New Jersey, the hockey world payed attention to Carolina for the first time in league history. We had won a playoff series. We had advanced. When we beat Montreal in dramatic fashion, we became a Cinderella. When we took out Toronto, we became a threat. When we won the first game of the Finals, we came three wins away from beating what some consider to be the best team of all time that was so chock full of bought hall of fame players that they couldn't even all get powerplay time and all we had was gumption, our Latvian sparkplug with the crusty pads, and Ron Francis who for whatever reason had whipped this group into a frenzy. Long before the term "cap hit" became part of the vernacular, we delivered a body blow on behalf of the bottom 26 teams in the league who couldn't buy the game by sheer force of wallet. That David vs. Goliath dynamic, with the advent of the salary cap, may never come again. At least, it will never be as dramatic as the disparity between the two pedigrees as it was that season for us. It taught a young group how to win, and it taught a GM how to build a team.

Goal: Martin Gelinas - Game 7 against Toronto in OT

I was very tempted to say the Francis goal from this same playoff run, but I have to tip my cap to the goal that even provided us that opportunity. Goals do not get much bigger than Game 7 of the ECF in OT to take the series, much less to take that opportunity away from Toronto who thought they had a legitimate chance to win their first cup since..... well we all know since when. And I think that says enough that we all know. As much as we recognize that hockey media revolves around Toronto, I don't know if we recognize enough what that series did for our profile and what that goal did to Leafs fans. It was an absolute dagger. I have an incredibly difficult time saying the greatest goal of our history is a goal in a series in which we didn't win, but the goal that clinched the East for us in 2002 was as big as any scored in 05-06.

Trade: Doug Weight to Carolina

The fact that we, the Carolina Hurricanes, made a deadline acquisition for a rental was enough to make this a significant moment in Hurricanes history. The fact that it was the biggest name on the market with a NTC that actually wanted to be a part of what we had going here in Carolina made it a true nod to the progress that Carolina had made in the eyes of the hockey world. The fact that Doug Weight solidified our lines, became a rally point for us, and gave us perhaps the greatest image of the war of attrition that is the Stanley Cup playoffs is all just icing on the cake. This move made everybody stop and say, "Well maybe this team is for real this year", when only we lucky few in Carolina and abroad who followed us every game knew. There were other trades that yielded more long lasting returns and there were trades that we "won" by greater margins, but this move to me represented the fact that we were now contenders.

Unsung Hero: Erik Cole

As just a brash rookie in his second professional season, Erik Cole came into the NHL playoffs and started kicking ass. Between dipsy doodling his way past Scott Stevens, to finally solving the unbeatable Jose Theodore and daring Doug Gilmore of all people to interrupt his celebration, to 05-06 when his comeback in Game 6 in Edmonton from a broken neck showed us how equally insane and cup lustful he was.... there will never be another. He never scored that big goal for us that meant the difference between moving forward and going home, he never really had his moment in the sun in 05-06.... we lost the game that he came back in the playoffs in embarrassing fashion.... but the balls on this guy helped relax everybody on the bench. Any team that Erik Cole plays on is never going to be the team short on intestinal fortitude. Whether he was too young and stupid to understand the stakes in 2001-2002, nobody told the guy that this team wasn't supposed to be here. He played like he owned every building he stepped into. That confidence was a contagion.

Fight: Jason Doig vs. Caniacs, Hurricanes Players, and Camera Men

Not really a fight as much as a note of hilarity, but does anybody else remember that split camera "Jason Doig shift camera", that tracked the guy the ENTIRE time he was on the ice? I have never before, and may never again, see that kind of production on an NHL broadcast. It was certainly before its time. Jason Doig trolled the entire organization.

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