The Carolina Hurricanes’ decade long playoff drought has been well documented. But with playoff hockey set to return to Edwards Mill Road, it’s worth taking a look back in time and finding out where some of the present day Hurricanes were during the last Raleigh playoff run in 2009.
Predictably, many of the answers involve “playing hockey.” But Justin Faulk admitted his team’s season was probably over. “We were probably done. Otherwise, I was just chilling in high school.”
Faulk said he was a junior in high school. His current defense partner, Brett Pesce, was in ninth grade and remembers some - ahem - personal growth, “2009? I was a freshman in high school in Tarrytown, just going through puberty.”
“I would’ve been at nationals probably for my U-14 team, or my season just ended,” said Jaccob Slavin. “It was my freshman year of high school.”
Young gun and recent call-up Jake Bean was just ten years old, but is happy to have at least been in double digits. “Yeah, Svech was only nine. I was ten, I was just probably just enjoying my summer.”
The 2019 Hurricanes’ eldest statesman, Justin Williams, was playing hockey too. Williams had just finished playing his first 12 games in a Los Angeles Kings uniform after being dealt by Carolina at the 2009 trade deadline. The Kings missed the playoffs that year, but it would be the final time Williams missed out on postseason hockey until last year’s miss with the Canes. Williams went on to play 427 games with Los Angeles, capturing a pair of Stanley Cups.
The second oldest player on this year’s squad is journeyman goaltender Curtis McElhinney. “I’ve been a lot of places,” the 35-year-old said before pondering his response. “I can’t remember if I was still in Calgary or if I was traded to Anaheim. Go and HockeyDB that. That’s my history, my life history.” Those adventurous enough to do the research would find that McElhinney had just appeared in his first NHL playoff game for the Flames, stopping nine of the ten shots he faced. However, he was traded to Anaheim the very next season.
Jordan Staal joins McElhinney and Williams as one of just three players on this year’s roster who were playing in the NHL in 2009. Staal was just 20 and still a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He remembers sweeping the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final on the way to capturing a Stanley Cup. “We ran into Carolina. We were fortunate enough to get through them quick, which was nice, but a really good challenge,” Staal said. One of the biggest challenges according to Staal? Playing as a visitor in front of the Caniac faithful, “It was one of the loudest buildings I’ve ever played in.”
Canes’ Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour was the captain of that 2009 Hurricanes team. He acknowledges that the game has changed dramatically since there was last playoff hockey in Raleigh. “It’s quicker. It’s faster,” Brind’Amour said. “The players are bigger, stronger, faster. The game is I think coached at a faster way, meaning it’s transition hockey at its finest. There’s more skill involved in the game. There’s more high end players playing now than maybe even 10 years ago. I think there’s more emphasis on scoring.”
Haydn Fleury was just 12 years old in 2009, but he remembers watching the Hurricanes first round upset over the New Jersey Devils, even if some of the specifics are now fuzzy. “I think I remember Eric Staal scoring against the Devils. They tied it up, or something, late and then scored an empty netter, or Eric Staal scored, overtime five hole,” Fleury recalled. After being corrected on the details, Fleury wanted to confirm, “It was Eric Staal, right? I remember that.”
Now it is Fleury and his teammates that have a chance to be remembered when the Hurricanes take on the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals, on Thursday night.