Dundon proved that his renegade perspective could be successful in a sport that cherishes tradition. Waddell stole back his career through sheer experience and smarts. Brind’Amour took his rightful place leading a franchise that he led to the promise land once before; being only smarter and more prepared.
Nobody, and I do mean nobody, is more responsible for the greatness of the Hurricanes story than the players themselves. These men have banded together, they have taken on all comers, they have looked in the face of adversity and demanded the best for themselves; a demand that has yielded tremendous results up to this point.
Think of the men that comprise this group; these aren’t prospects destined for hockey glory, and they aren’t individuals of extreme talent that cultivated a super team. This group is comprised of players who all have something to prove; they have all overcome adversity and have proven the falsity of the narratives placed against them.
Players like Jordan Staal. The former first round pick who had never really lived up to the individual success of his brother, and was regaining a captaincy he lost two seasons ago. Many questioned his ability to lead, while he has proven that his style of play can earn the respect and admiration from a young locker room.
Players like Erik Haula. A player on his third team before his 28th birthday. He has produced over his career, but always seems underappreciated. A knee injury last season put his career in jeopardy, but thus far has looked every bit the 30-goal scorer he was in Vegas; if not more.
Players like Jake Gardiner, a talented player who has always produced at a high level but was too often maligned and attacked by a fanbase that was clamoring for a savior. Unrealistic expectations put Gardiner in a no-win situation. As a Member of the Carolina Hurricanes, however, Gardiner has been able to thrive playing his game, and contributing every shift.
Or a player like Dougie Hamilton. One of the best defensemen in the NHL, who has seemingly spent every season on the trade block. Dougie has found a home in Carolina. He has been one of the best players on the roster and has produced at an elite level that would see him as a lock for Norris consideration.
These players have forged their own path. They were never guaranteed their legacy, they are cementing it by the will of their own two hands, and the aid of their brothers in red. These men have defied the odds and have helped to build the chemistry that is necessary to lift hockey’s coveted trophy.
These people, and these players, have been a massive part of a worthy narrative; but they aren’t the only factors that make this season special…