Editor’s note: It’s Marvel week at SB Nation, and we’re continuing our series of Marvel-themed content today by looking back at Canes seasons past and favorite movies.
With Marvel week continuing, I thought it would be fun to compare some Canes seasons past to MCU films.
While it’s obviously not possible to do this with every film, given that most MCU films are well, good, and the Canes have a whopping six playoff appearances in their North Carolina existence, there will be some that line up well, most for good reasons, others, well…
Needless to say, spoilers below.
2014-15 season - Thor: The Dark World
There are a lot of similarities between the worst Canes season in recent memory and the objectively worst MCU film. Both came in with a decent amount of intrigue. The preceding chapters, The Canes’ 2013-14 season and the first Thor film both had their moments but were ultimately disappointing.
Still, there was a lot to be interested in with both. The Canes entered the year with a new head coach and GM, and a collection of talent that could bounce back in Eric and Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Semin, Jiri Tlusty, Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera.
The Asgardians had a follow up for Thor, the fallout of Loki’s actions in the Avengers and the introduction of the Dark Elves.
What followed for both was … not enjoyable. The Canes stumbled out of the gate and did not win a game in October, starting 0-6-2, as Skinner and Jordan Staal were injured in the preseason, and Eric in the second game. The team hit a couple hot streaks, but finished fifth worst in the league.
Similarly, Thor: The Dark World offers little in the way of redeeming qualities, the plot is a jumbled mess, there’s nothing interesting whatsoever Malekith as a villain and everything just feels unimportant. The only things worth paying attention to are the introduction of the reality stone, and Loki’s shenanigans.
These two join together for all the wrong reasons.
2000-01 season - Avengers: Age of Ultron
I’m comparing these two for their underatedness and overall importance to the full story.
Age of Ultron is so important to the character development of pretty much the whole team, especially Iron Man and Captain America. It sees the Avengers face their inner demons, and, in the case of Tony Stark and Ultron, literally fight them, introduces Scarlet Witch, Vision and the mind stone. This movie arguably sets the stage for the rest of the MCU.
The Canes squeaked into the playoffs as the eight seed in 2001, and fell behind 3-0 to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils. Then, the team won two games to improbably avoid a sweep and force a game six. The crowd gave the team a standing ovation in the waning minutes of its elimination game, forging an early bond between the Canes and their fans.
That, of course, set the stage for next season’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, and gave the impression that yes, this whole hockey thing would work in Raleigh.
Both of these chapters seem to never get their due, but are critical to what comes after.
2001-02 season - The Avengers
There seemed to be a large sense of: How is this going to work? With both of these. How is hockey in North Carolina going to work? How will weaving this many major characters together work? Both, of course, did.
Both the first Avengers movie and 2002 Hurricanes brought the sum of their parts together to form an impressive whole. Iron Man’s snarkiness and ingenuity, Captain America’s leadership, Thor and Hulk’s power, Black Widow’s sneakiness and Hawkeye’s sharpshooting brought us the core hero group we know and love.
And Ron Francis’ leadership and playmaking, a rugged D corps, the clutch goaltending of Arturs Irbe and Kevin Weeks, the steady play of the BBC line and Jeff O’Neill’s goalscoring brought a ragtag group to the Stanley Cup Final in the pre-salary cap era. And, of course, it captivated a fanbase, and established the long-held traditions of tailgating and meeting the team at the airport after a road game.
Both of these groups answered the questions facing them, in emphatic fashion.
2005-06 season - Avengers: Endgame
The best installments of each story come together. The Canes emerged from the vanishing of the 2004-05 season to claim hockey’s ultimate prize. The Avengers undid Thanos’ dusting of half the universe, and toppled their ultimate foe.
Both groups even had the same mantra “Whatever it Takes” to capture their ultimate goals: restoring life as they knew it, and bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup to Raleigh.
Game seven against Edmonton and the epic “Portals” scene and final battle with Thanos give me a similar amount of goose bumps.
Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Captain America finally defeating the villain that haunted them for years could be likened to NHL veterans like Rod Brind’Amour, Cory Stillman, Glen Wesley, Doug Weigh and Ray Whitney capturing their first Stanley Cup towards the twilight of their careers.
Both of these chapters were worth the weight, and ended with one overwhelming feeling: satisfaction.
2008-09 season - Thor: Ragnarok
With the Canes coming off two disappointing seasons following the cup triumph, there was little reason to anticipate a deep run in 2009. Similarly, there was little reason to expect the third Thor, solo film to excite after the embarrassing first two installments.
However, both came out of nowhere to delight the masses. The Canes rode a late-season charge into the postseason, and then ran to the Eastern Conference Finals with two game seven road wins thanks to the dominant play of Eric Staal, Ray Whitney and Cam Ward and the clutch goals from Jussi Jokinen, Sergei Samsonov and Scott Walker.
Ragnarok excited its fans through Taika Waiti’s storytelling, the team up of Thor and Bruce Banner, compelling plot lines, a dynamite soundtrack and leaning into comedy.
Both were a surprise in terms of how good they were, but both are now firmly entrenched as some of the best chapters in each story.
2010-11 season - Avengers: Infinity War
Both of these chapters packed in a lot of good, but ended in heartbreak.
The Canes had games in Finland, Brind’Amour’s jersey retirement, Skinner’s award-winning rookie season, hosted the All-Star game with four representatives and surprised by contending for a playoff spot all season and enjoyed the best regular season of Cam Ward’s career.
The movie seamlessly brought an overwhelming amount of characters together, including the much-anticipated union of the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, brought the epic battles of Titan and Wakanda and introduced Thanos as a fantastic villain.
Both had gut-wrenching finishes, however, with the Canes’ playoff chances erased with a game-82 loss to Tampa Bay, and Thanos gathering all six infinity stones to wipe out half of all living creatures, including several beloved heroes.
2018-19 season - Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I’m not sure anyone expected to love either of these as much as they ended up doing. Both packed in a ton of story lines to create a very enjoyable chapter.
The film had Captain America adjusting to modern life, his team up with Black Widow and further development of her character and getting to know Nick Fury better, not to mention the jaw-dropping reveals of Bucky Barnes’ survival as the Winter Soldier, and Hydra’s infiltration of Shield.
The Canes’ most recent full season was also dripping with story lines, from Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen the next step, Justin Williams’ leadership, Rod Brind’Amour taking the mantle as head coach, Andrei Svechnikov’s rookie year, the Nino Niederreiter trade, steady goaltending from bargain-bin signing Petr Mrazek and waiver claim Curtis McElhinney and the whole Storm Surge/Bunch of Jerks subplots.
Oh, and there was that whole ending a nine-season playoff drought and going to the Eastern Conference Final thing too.
Both of these were much more enjoyable than anyone had any right to expect, and successfully packed in enough storylines for two or three seasons/movies.