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Canes Country Roundtable: Disappointments

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In honor of Puck Daddy's "Summer of Disappointment" series, we have decided to propose our own list of disappointments

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Peter Karmanos is listed as the most "disappointing" team executive by many
Peter Karmanos is listed as the most "disappointing" team executive by many
Gregory Shamus

During the month of August, our friends over at Puck Daddy have been promoting a summer series entitled, "The Summer of Disappointment".  You can read the Hurricanes version here, in case you missed it.

In honor of the series, the staff here at Canes Country decided to put together our own listing.  When you have not made the playoffs in five years, there is plenty of disappointment to share!  But of course, there was some disappointment even before that.

Bob Wage - Managing Editor

Most Disappointing Team:

2002-03 Last Place Finish

Just a season after the miraculous run to the Stanley Cup Finals and some high expectations that followed it, the Hurricanes failed in extreme fashion.  Not only did they finish with the worst record in the league and a last place finish, they scored the fewest goals in the league as well.  It was excruciating to watch them at times that season.  (The Canes also beat overwhelming odds and lost the draft lottery that spring as well.)

Most Disappointing Hurricane:

Sean Burke

In 1997, the Hurricanes were the new kids on the block, were playing in a borrowed arena, and were trying to put their best foot forward as they struggled to build a fanbase in a new hometown.  But just a month after the puck was dropped for their inaugural season, star goalie and former team MVP, Sean Burke, was arrested by Raleigh police for assaulting his wife.  Domestic abuse was not exactly what management wanted people to talk about when mentioning the Hurricanes, but for awhile that's what happened.  You just can't make this stuff up! 

I'm sure Paul Maurice and Jim Rutherford got tired of answering questions about why they did not suspend their goalie for his actions and as you could guess, Burke was soon traded.

Most Disappointing Moment:

Triple overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings in game three of 2002 Stanley Cup Finals

After an unlikely and shocking run through the playoffs to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Hurricanes were next facing the best team that money could buy, the Detroit Red Wings.  The Mayberry jokes were running rampant as the Detroit press was taking shot after shot at the team, the area, and the Caniacs.  But SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, to start off the series, the Canes were giving the Wings everything they could handle and more.  

The Wings coasted to the President's trophy with 116 points and were built with several future Hall of Famers and all stars, like, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Nick Lidstrom, Dom Hasek, Chris Chelios, Sergei Fedorov, Luc Robitaille, Brendan ShanahanPavel Datsyuk, and others, (combined salary, $80 million plus).  The Canes had Ron Francis, Rod Brind'Amour and supposedly a bunch of nobodies, (combined salary, about $25 million). 

The teams split the first two games in Detroit and came to Raleigh, (recently dubbed the loudest house in the NHL and at the time, rightfully so), for the all important game three.  In a nip and tuck contest filled with drama, Carolina took the lead on a Joe Vasicek goal, but the Wings tied it up a bit later.  Then Jeff O'Neill gave the home team a 2-1 lead early in the third period and the Canes were looking good.  But with only 1:14 left, Brett Hull would send the game to overtime with a sniper's goal that I still see in my mind today.

Arturs Irbe made 50 saves in this game but it would not enough because with five minutes and change left in the third overtime, Igor Larionov scored the game-winner and the magic was sucked out of the arena.  For all intents and purposes, the series was over for Carolina.  

To call the moment disappointing would be an understatement.  The moment was gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, knife-twisting, and tear-jerking.

Most Disappointing Transaction:

Signing John Grahame to a two-year deal in 2006-07

The Tampa Bay Lightning had a pretty good team back in 2005-06 and had just won the Cup the previous season, (before the lockout), but their goalie had a few issues during the year.  John Grahame was the player John Tortorella was referring to when he made the the famous "25% rule" quote.  

Grahame had finished the season with a .889 save percentage and the Bolts made it perfectly clear they were moving on, but apparently the Canes saw something in him that no one else saw and signed the goalie to a two-year deal.  

If Carolina had an experienced goalie on their roster, perhaps the signing would have made more sense but even though Cam Ward got hot in the playoffs, Martin Gerber did the heavy lifting in the previous regular season.  Ward was still inexperienced and showed it the next season.  Grahame was known as a party guy and supposedly lived up to his reputation in Raleigh clubs.  Ward needed a mentor and it was puzzling to say the least that Grahame was the choice. 

A one-year deal would have been a gamble, but a two-year deal seemed like blind, wishful thinking.  How did things turn out?  After winning the Cup, the Canes missed the playoffs.  Grahame had a losing record both seasons in Carolina, (his last in the NHL), and finished with save percentages of .897 and .875.  

Honorable Mention:

2002-03 Darren Langdon and Marek Malik traded to Canucks for Jan Hlavac and Harold Druken.

After a slow start, Rutherford was trying to shake things up with this trade but it blew up and made things worse.  Langdon was the heart and soul of the dressing room and was loved by teammates and fans.  Malik was like a big brother to fellow Czechs Joe Vasicek and Jaro Svoboda, and the production for both youngsters plummeted after Malik left.  Malik was a pretty decent defenseman for the Canucks and later for the Rangers.  After Hlavac scored a hat trick against the Wings, neither player did anything for Carolina.  

2002-03  Sami Kapanen and Ryan Bast traded to the Flyers for Bruno St. Jacques and Pavel Brendl.  

This was a salary dump, pure and simple and while the Flyers got a decent, producing player in Kapanen, the Canes got a cool hockey name in St. Jacques and years of funny doughnut jokes with Brendl.   

Signings of the Kaberle Brothers

After his career best year in 2006, Rutherford signed Frantisek Kaberle to a four deal with a no-trade clause.  (Yes, a no trade clause).  But with one injury after another, no production, and much frustration, this contract was eventually bought out.  Rutherford followed this up by signing Tomas Kaberle to a three-year deal after many in the NHL felt the defenseman was all but done.  Soon enough, they figured out that the guy really was done and the GM did work his way out of that deal with a crafty trade, but that contract was also eventually bought out.


Most Disappointing Coach/Executive:

Peter Karmanos

Karmanos threw Peter Laviolette under the bus in an interview after the coach was fired and many were upset and terribly disappointed in that.  It seemed to show no class, respect, or gratitude for the greatest and most successful time in franchise history and it tainted the Cup win for many.  With his rant, the owner also seemed to foolishly discredit his own general manager, players, and his entire franchise as he more or less called winning the Cup a fluke in a ridiculous attempt to denigrate his former coach.  Perhaps coming one point short of winning the President's Trophy was also a fluke?

One must wonder if Karmanos is living in bizarro world??  He thinks that the team and coach who won the Cup were just lucky, but his present team, comprised mostly of players who have missed the playoffs for five straight years, is a "great" one, just unlucky with injuries?    

Most Disappointing Fashion Choice:

combo jerseys

Anytime fans try to mix the Whalers jersey and the Hurricanes jersey into one, it does not seem to work.

____________

Cory Lavalette - Editor

Most Disappointing Team: Coming off of the Stanley Cup in 2006, the 2006-07 squad missing the postseason is easily the most disappointing. Not only was it a huge letdown for the team and fans, but it has often tarnished the franchise's defining moment. Many have deemed 2005-06 a fluke because the Hurricanes were unable to come close to replicating their performance in their Cup-winning season.

Most Disappointing Hurricane: There are quite a few big-name defensemen that could fit the bill here, but perhaps none was more disappointing than Sandis Ozolinsh. Carolina acquired the puck-moving defender from Colorado and the 32nd overall pick that became blink-of-an-eye NHLer Tomas Kurka for Nolan Pratt and three picks in the 2000 draft (Nos. 14, 47 and 63). While the picks never panned out for Colorado, Ozolinsh was never the player then-GM Jim Rutherford expected, and certainly didn't live up to the big-money deal he signed in Raleigh. After a 44-point season in 2000-01 that included an array of defensive miscues, Rutherford jettisoned Ozolinsh to Florida halfway through the following season. The bright side is Rutherford turned Ozolinsh and Byron Ritchie into a couple key pieces on the 2002 Cup runner-up and 2006 championship teams: Bret Hedican and Kevyn Adams.


Most Disappointing Moment in Hurricanes History: After missing the playoffs in 2006-07, the Hurricanes controlled their own destiny in their 2007-08 season finale at home. All that was standing in the way of a Southeast Division title and a playoff spot was the Florida Panthers, who had nothing to play for except for pride. Carolina couldn't come through, falling 4-3 to the Panthers -- who got a combined 43 saves from Tomas Vokoun (who left due to back spasms) and Craig Anderson -- and completed a collapse that saw them throw away a five-point division lead in the season's final six games. The Capitals then did what Carolina couldn't, beating Florida 3-1 in their final game, clinching the Southeast Division title and eliminating the Canes from postseason play.

Most Disappointing Hurricanes Transaction: Oft-injured Justin Williams had been a key --and underrated -- part of Carolina's 2006 championship. But Rutherford had grown tired of two straight seasons of Williams being in the press box more than he was on the ice. So Rutherford swung a trade at the 2009 deadline that sent Williams to Los Angeles in exchange for Patrick O'Sullivan and a second round pick. O'Sullivan was then shipped to Edmonton for former Hurricanes winger Erik Cole and a pick swap. The deal did ignite the Hurricanes, who reached the postseason and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. But the team has seemingly never replaced Williams, an all-situations, clutch performer who has gone on two win two more Cups with the Kings and was named playoff MVP this past offseason.

Most Disappointing Hurricanes Coach/Executive: Rutherford struck gold the first time he replaced long-time coach Paul Maurice, hiring Peter Laviolette in a decision that helped bring the Stanley Cup to Raleigh in 2006. He was hoping for more of the same outsider influence when rising coaching star Kirk Muller was tabbed to take over after Maurice's second go-around ended in November 2011. Instead, Muller's two-and-a-half-year stint behind Carolina's bench was riddled with disappointment, underachievement and more questions than answers. The knock of Muller when he was hired was that he came across as a bit aloof: a solid assistant coach who maybe couldn't lead a team on his own. Despite having two former head coaches as assistants in Dave Lewis and John MacLean, Muller never created an identity for his team and seemed to lose them when his answer to why the team struggled was always," work harder." In the end, the initial concerns about Muller's "aw shucks" demeanor seemed to be what ended his run in Raleigh.


Most Disappointing Hurricanes Fashion Choice: The Hurricanes haven't had many missteps in this category. The new uniforms unveiled prior to 2013-14 were an improvement over the previous incarnation, and while their alternate black jerseys present some issues (hard to read numbers and name plates), the use of the secondary logo as the main crest is appealing. There's no denying that the Hurricanes main logo, however, is among the least liked in the NHL (The Hockey News staff ranked it dead last this summer). While I don't believe it's as bad as many portray it to be, its unveiling upon the team's relocation from Hartford was met with mostly disapproval. The Whalers colors and logos -- some of the league's best at the time -- were completely washed away when the franchise was reborn in North Carolina, and the team has never been able to erase the Whalers logos and traditions from the public's mind.

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Brian W. - (C-Leaguer)  Contributor

Most Disappointing Team:

The puck daddy team suggested the 2006-2007 team.  And there is some  validity.  But there were a number of injuries going in to that season (F. Kaberle, C. Stillman).  Cam Ward, who was coming off a Conn Smythe, was also being asked to helm the goal for an entire season at a very young age.  And, even though they missed the playoffs by a good margin, the Canes still held their own destiny in their hands until about 5 games left in the season.  After all of that there wasn't that much dissappointment in the fanbase.  No, for me the most disappointing season in history is:

2009-2010

The previous season saw the Canes reach the Eastern Conference final.  Paul Maurice was brought in to replace the man who replaced him and got the Canes playing well together and tightened up the defense.  That team was a bit undermanned and, after a 7 game slobberknocker of a series against Boston, was out of gas by the time they got to the ECF against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  In the off-season the Canes repatriated  Aaron Ward.  Brought in Stephan Yelle to shore up the fourth line and provide a faceoff winner.  To make room for the Ward the team let Dennis Seidenburg go.  To say those moves did not work out is an understatement of monumental proportions.  The team not only started poorly, but sucked out loud while doing so.  After starting out 2-2 the team would go 3-15-5 to start December with a record of 5-17-5 for 15 and dead last in the league.  As if that wasn't enough the Canes won enough meaningless games down the stretch to end up drafting 7th.  To be fair that turned out okay as the Canes got Jeff Skinner in the Taylor/Tyler draft which has to go down as a win, but it was too little too late.

Most Disappointing Hurricane

Igor Knyazev

There are a ton of disappointing Hurricanes.  An absolute ton.  But for me, Mr. Knyazev takes the cake.  Knyazev was the first round pick by the Hurricanes in 2001.  To call him a bust is an understatement.  In 140 AHL games over two seasons he posted 3 goals, 11 assists, and 14 points.  That puts him in Tim Gleason scoring levels, but in the AHL.  To top it off, after two seasons in the AHL he left for Russia and the team was at one point not able to locate him.  Igor Knyazev was just one in a string of poor draft picks from the Canes arrival in 1997 to the Cam Ward selection in 2002.  Disappointment flows off of Knyazev like stink lines off of Pigpen

Most Disappointing moment in Hurricanes History

Paul Maurice v 2.0

This one sort of turned out okay.  He did lead them to the playoffs the season he returned.  But the moment he was hired.  That was still terrible.  I can remember this moment to this day.  The word was Lavi was on his way out.  Early the morning Mo was brought back the team announced there would be a press conference later that day.  This of course conflicted with a meeting I had over at Chapel Hill, so I would have to be filled in later.  The Canes being the Canes though, started the meeting late, so I was able to catch the tail end on I-40 on the way back from Chapel Hill to the office in Raleigh.  It was mid way through the press conference and it was in to the question and answer section.  A voice came out of the speakers.  It was a voice I knew, but couldn't place.  Slowly I turned it over in the back of my mind while listening.  Had I heard this voice perhaps on center ice?  Maybe streaming 1090?  (Also, the days before Twitter, the NHL network, and new media were terrible).  No.  It wasn't that.  Slowly the realization kicked in.  It was the familiarity between the question askers and the answerer that tipped me off.  The new coach was the old coach.  Paul Maurice was back.  I know I screamed "no".  I believe there were some other words as well.  None of them should be uttered in pleasant company. 

I quickly grabbed my phone.  It had been put on silent for the meeting, and not taken off of silent when I left.  I had three new voicemails and a hand full of texts.  They all confirmed what I had already figured out.  It was a disappointing moment to say the least.

Most Disappointing Transaction in Hurricanes History

This has to be Justin Williams for Patrick O'Sullivan for Erik Cole.

This is one where the lens of history alters (Sharpens?  Dulls?) memory.  Williams has dealt with a number of injuries, so getting something of value for him before he was unable to play at an NHL level wasn't a bad thing.  O'Sullivan had issues but potential, so that wasn't terrible.  Quickly flopping him for Erik Cole was bringing a player back in to the fold who could play and play well.  The fact that the Canes actually moved up in the second round of the draft due to the way the playoffs played out was a bonus.  Erik Cole eventually left as a free agent for the Habs (and maybe, kind of, tinkled on the fanbase on his way out. [I have a chile potty training right now, so yes, I used "tinkle"]).  Justin Williams has been a solid player for the Kings giving them depth of scoring and winning the Conn Smythe in the playoffs this last season.  At the time, I wouldn't have called it as such, but for now, it's the most disappointing transaction in Hurricanes History.

Most Disappointing Coach/Executive

The puck daddy writer went with Kirk Muller.  All good reasons.  Can't really argue.  For me though, I'm going with:

To Be Determined.

It's either Jim Rutherford, Peter Karmanos, or the tandem of the two.  One of those two or the combination of both are responsible for missing the playoffs 8 of 10 seasons.  One of those two or the combination of both are responsible for the poor drafting and development that has plagued the team, even if it does appear to be getting better of late.  One of those two or the combination of both are responsible for the bi-polar spend/don't spend mentality.  I don't think we'll get confirmation on this issue this year.  The Canes will be bad this season.  The Pens will be better.  Neither has had the time in their current position to have a great deal of impact.  If the Neal trade blows up in Pitt's face then maybe we can say something about Jimmy Rutherford, but even that will take time.

Most disappointing Hurricanes Fashion choice.

This is easy.  It's not the primary logo.  I like that.  It's not the new home blouses, er, jerseys.  Nope.  It's the:

Mustard yellow practice jerseys with the alternate storm warning logo.

These things are old.  Seriously old.  Think circa 2000.  The worst color of mustard yellow.  The only item with the storm warning flag at the time.  Reebok was testing out the viability of a second logo for merchandise but didn't want it to work, so they put the logo on the worst and most expensive thing they could find.  It's so bad I can't even find a picture of it.

The only thing close to this is the Enforcer jersey.  Luckily for you, I can find a picture:

image
CCM 540 ENFORCER CAROLINA HURRICANES SLEE...
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After that comes anything with a camo motif.  It's all a tie. It's all terrible.  There has to be a better way to say "we support the military" then just throwing a logo on some camo cloth.  It is so common place now it requires no thinking.  It's like saying "we really appreciate you and we want to show you by doing this thing that requires absolutely no though.  Just remember, it's the thought that counts."

__________

Matt Krombach - Intern

Most Disappointing Team:

2002-2003 was quite a dissapointment.  Although I was very young at the time, every home game I went to it seemed like the opposing team scored on Arturs Irbe within the first five minutes of the game.  Sometimes within the opening 30 seconds.  They finished last in the Eastern Conference even after losing to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals the previous season.

Most Disappointing Hurricane:

I hate to point fingers, but I’m going to anyway.  Eric Staal hasn't helped the hole the ‘Canes have dug themselves over the past five seasons.  Sometimes when thinking of the most disappointing player one thinks of a player who had the world’s potential in his hands but never lived up to it.  Or maybe a player that never showed their worth.  What makes Staal an interesting case is that he came, he saw, he conquerd, and then he stopped.  We stopped seeing the fire and the passion in his game that we saw in his 100-point season in 05-06.  Since becoming captain we haven’t seen much leadership from him on the ice nor have we heard word of him be a vocal captain in the locker room.  He only had one power play goal last year and he’s getting paid $9.25 mil next season?  Something has to change.

Most Disappointing Moment in Hurricanes History:

Drafting Cam Ward.  Easy, tiger, I was only kidding.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was April 9, 2011 and the Hurricanes needed to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in order to advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs.  The ‘Canes won five of their six last games of the season while earning a point in each prior to their game against Tampa Bay. They managed to shut out Detroit in Joe Louis Arena, but by the time they came home they were so out of gas that they couldn't fight off the Lightning.  With only one game left and that game being the deciding factor of their season, it was discouraging to see a hard fought fight come to an displeasing end.

Most Disappointing Hurricanes Transaction:

After losing Justin Williams to Los Angeles while retaining Erik cole, the long-term benefits would not be on the hurricanes side.  That season of 09-10 would be the last time the hurricanes made the playoffs.  Erik Cole bounced from Carolina, to Montreal, to Dallas and has found himself in a nice spot to contend for the cup this year.  Also, since sealing the deal in 2006 for the Stanley cup, Williams would go on to win two more with Los Angeles serving as a versatile role player of the Kings’ offense.

Most Disappointing Hurricanes Coach/Executive:

Many don't like the acquisition of Kirk Muller as head coach but if it weren't for Jim Rutherford, Muller as head coach may not have happened.  For the 20 years in Carolina and the experience under his belt it’s surprising how little the franchise made the playoffs.  Some trades were questionable, others were solid.   But what comes in to question is how he values his players.  Semin should have been signed for three years, not five.  Should Jordan Staal have been inked for ten years?  It’s like he purposely gave players contracts that no one else would want to give or even think of handing out.   Some probably disagree but Rutherford should have ended his tenure with the ‘Canes a while ago.

Most Disappointing Hurricanes Fashion Choice

The Marketing team made a bad decision by not adding the laces to the new white away jersey.

Jamie Kellner – Editor, Phoblographer

Editorial Note: Thanks for letting me weigh in late. Hellish work and travel week. Also a caveat... I did not follow the team prior to moving here in 2004. I know there are many important prior disappointments, but not having experienced them myself I have to base my opinion from 2005-06 forward.

Most Disappointing Team:

I agree with those who named the 2009-10 team and won't belabor points already made. After reaching the ECFs the prior season, expectations were high, and on paper the incoming team was certainly viewed to be as good (if not better) than the one who went deep the prior season. Until they stunk up the joint. Injuries, suspensions, 14 straight losses before the month of November was over. To be honest, I'm not sure we've yet recovered from that season.

Most Disappointing Hurricane:

I won't call you out by name, but you know who you are. I applauded your return here and despite the fact that you obviously weren't the same player who brought the Canes success in the Cup year, I never disparaged you on this blog or anywhere else. Yet you blocked me on twitter because you thought I (and many of my friends and colleagues) was being unfairly mean to you. The thickness of your skin disappoints me greatly. At least now, through the magic of CanesVision, every time I think of you I can associate you with the word 'shrinkage' ;)

Most Disappointing Moment in Hurricanes History:

April 4, 2008 is one of the few dates I can recall off the top of my head. LOOK AT THE GRAPH. Win and you're in. That's all they had to do. It was the freaking Florida Panthers. We always beat the Panthers, especially at home. The Panthers were playing for nothing but pride. They lost their starting goalie mid-game to injury, we shelled them with 43 shots, and still lost the game (Radek Dvorak scored their game-winner, by the way). The players were in tears as they gave away the jerseys off their backs. Peter Laviolette was too upset to conduct exit interviews, paving the way to his eventual dismissal. Outside of Dale hitting the wall at Daytona, it was without a doubt the most devastating sports moment in my life.

Most Disappointing Hurricanes Transaction:

The Williams → O'Sullivan → Cole trade was my first thought but that one has been discussed several times already so I'm going to take a totally different and bitterly painful tack. This disappointment is personal.

How about the bargain sum of $31.62 million for 238 games and 108 points? That works out to $293k per point scored and $133k per game played, and it's the Canes' return on investment from the last contract extensions given to Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen, and Tuomo Ruutu. Combinations of bad luck, bad timing, bad performance, and bad asset management did them in. Jussi's lackluster results in 2012-13 got him traded when his value was at his lowest; he at least rebounded in Pittsburgh and is thriving with an even bigger deal with the Panthers. Tuomo's contract was already a risk based on his injury history and style of play, but two subsequent hip surgeries left him a shell of his former self and it's undetermined if he can ever regain or retain his past glory. Joni will probably never skate again, although prior to the injury that likely will end his career he had played sparingly due to other injuries. Each player is only 31 years old. I endorsed each of their contracts loudly at the time, and while their departures were necessary, the end of The Finns leaves a gaping wound in my hockey heart. Hyvä Suomi, Hakkaa Päälle, and whatever the Finnish translation is for FML.

Most Disappointing Hurricanes Coach/Executive:

They've all disappointed me from time to time, but I can't call out Karmanos because he brought hockey to my home state, and Jim Rutherford built a Stanley Cup winner. I wasn't around for Paul Maurice 1.0 so I wasn't as passionate about him. I have to agree on Kirk Muller. My expectations for him were so high. Kirk is work. Just wait until he gets a full season with his own training camp. No passengers. But we didn't get a coach, we got a captain, with a bunch of platitudes and sound bites and no direction or strategy other than to work harder. That bitter pill is still stuck in my throat.

Most Disappointing Hurricanes Fashion Choice:

I like our new jerseys (both sets) and I like our primary and secondary logos. But I'm a picture-taker, and in addition to being difficult to read, black jerseys on white ice wreak havoc on dynamic range and exposure compensation.