There are a lot of people who made it happen. This is for all of them.
This is for you, Jordan Staal.
You arrived here in 2012 looking to propel the Canes to success alongside your brother. He left; you’re still here. You may have never reached the offensive heights you spoke of when leaving some long shadows in Pittsburgh, but you are the most indispensible component of this roster. Year after year, you sat in your locker and answered question after question, most of them disappointing. Finally, those questions have changed. This is the year you get to add to your 73 career postseason games, second only to the captain on the Canes’ roster.
This is for you, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce.
For four years, you’ve been touted as the best defensive pairing in the league, and you’ve never been able to show your skills under the bright light of the postseason. While you aren’t playing together this year, this is the year you finally get your turn in the spotlight. The crowd that only pays attention to the NHL during the playoffs is about to see just how solid you are and why it’s been such a long time coming to welcome you to the show.
This is for you, Justin Faulk.
Eight seasons. 558 career games. Every one of them a regular season game. Finally, you’ve made it to the promised land. You’ve learned a lot about yourself as a player in the past couple of years - perhaps the co-captaincy wasn’t for you (nor was it really for anyone else), but you’re unquestionably a leader on this team and deserve to soak it all in. Ticketed out of town by seemingly everyone for the past year, you’ve hung around, never let it faze you, and this is the year you get your postseason reward with the only NHL team you’ve ever known - and in style, too, scoring the game-winning goal in the playoff-clinching win.
This is for you, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.
Finns have had a long history of success with the Hurricanes. But over the past two seasons, the two of you have taken it to another level. Only one of you may (occasionally) wear a letter, but you’re both leaders in your own way and have taken the mantle of leading this team on the ice in spectacular fashion. You’ve answered so many questions over the past couple of years, and this is the year you get to show off the answers in the postseason. Teuvo, you’ve been here before, but it’s time for the two of you to lead the Canes into the spotlight.
This is for you, Calvin de Haan.
Islanders fans were upset when you signed here because, while you may not be a household name, you’re the kind of dependable glue player every team needs. In your introductory press conference, held on the Fourth of July, you were insistent that you wanted to come to Carolina specifically to be part of the solution. Mission accomplished. This is the year your words turned into action, and while you’ve presumably had quite enough of sticks coming up high on your face, you’re headed back to the postseason for the third time.
This is for you, Petr Mrazek.
You famously took a bet on yourself to sign with the Hurricanes, bypassing even your agent to call Don Waddell directly and say “give me a million dollars for one year and I’ll prove myself to you.” This is the year your bet paid off. You’ve given the Canes stability in net, along with your partner in crime Curtis McElhinney, and for the first time in years you’ve given the home crowd plenty to cheer about in the crease.
This is for you, Brock McGinn, Warren Foegele, Haydn Fleury and Lucas Wallmark.
All of you have spent significant time in Charlotte during your careers. You’ve been part of this organization for years. You’ve tasted success at the AHL level, and you’re the types of players every organization needs to serve as a bridge between the levels of professional hockey. This is the year you get to show that the experience of winning in the minor leagues can translate to success at the NHL level. All of you are about to make your playoff debuts, and after years of waiting it can’t come soon enough.
This is for you, Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Martinook, Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, Andrei Svechnikov, Saku Maenalanen, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Greg McKegg.
You’ve all come from somewhere else. Some of you were part of blockbuster moves; some of you were part of under-the-radar moves. Every one of you was specifically targeted to fill a role on this roster, and this is the year you’ve made the team’s moves look prescient. Most of you have played in the playoffs in the past, and you’ll be the ones the team leans on to show the postseason ropes to the 13 players in the locker room who have never started more than a game of Stanley Cup playoff hockey.
This is for you, Tom Dundon and Don Waddell.
The doubters were numerous, and vociferous. You didn’t know what you were doing. You’re disregarding every shred of conventional wisdom. You don’t actually care about this market, only about pumping up the franchise value for an inevitable move. You traded key components for peanuts. All of that, and more, from what seemed like every corner of the hockey world. This is the year you told conventional wisdom to take a hike, to tell the Hockey Men that their way of doing business is far from the only way. You didn’t even need to expand the playoffs. Your way of doing things has paid off in spades, and you’re well and truly entitled to a victory lap.
This is for you, Rod Brind’Amour.
As with your entire career, you continue to somehow be underrated despite unquestioned success. You were tagged by many as “more of the same” after replacing a coach under whom you served as an assistant. Not only have you shown your chops in a role you’ve never held before, you did it with the trademark confidence and innate motivational ability that is all too familiar to anyone who watched you lead this franchise to the Stanley Cup 13 years ago. This is the year you begin your journey to try to become the 14th man to win the Stanley Cup as both a coach and a player, the first since Larry Robinson in 2000 and only the fourth in the last 35 years.
This is for you, Justin Williams.
You knew what you were getting into when you signed here on July 1, 2017. The decision to not make you captain right off the bat disrespected your pedigree and was a self-inflicted mistake that the team didn’t recover from. This year, you’ve shown what a mistake it was and why rectifying it was so important. It’s hard to believe that the last time you made the playoffs with the Hurricanes, you were a 24-year-old in your fifth NHL season. Here we are, 13 years later, and you’re back. This is the year your famous proclamation, “we’re done losing,” came to pass, and now you get to show this team - your team - what playoff hockey is all about.
This is for you, Canes fans.
You’ve endured a lot over the past ten years. Four coaches, three general managers, two owners, apathy, frustration, heartache, anger, agony, uncertainty. Twice, you’ve seen your team lose a win-or-go-home game in the final game of the season. You’ve seen longtime franchise staples move onto greener pastures. You’ve seen high hopes vanish time and again. Through it all, you stayed loyal, hoping against hope that someday, the frustration and the disrespect from everywhere else would finally, mercifully, disappear.
This is the year that it finally happened. You've made a bond with this team, and now you get the reward for your investment.
This is for all of you. The dream is real. The X next to their name in the standings isn’t going anywhere. The words you’ve waited ten long years to hear never sounded sweeter than they do right now.
We’ve made it.
The Carolina Hurricanes are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.