The Hurricanes improved their team defense in the season leading up to their Stanley Cup Finals run. It didn’t last. After limiting their goals-against to 217 during the 01-02 season, they saw that number balloon to 240 in 02-03. That’s a -69 goal differential. Not good and, by that, I mean NHL-worst -69.
The top-4 did the best that they could and the blame doesn’t fall solely on them; the team defense as a whole was atrocious. As imperfect a stat as plus-minus is, the fact that Sean Hill was able to post a +4 on this team should have earned him a handful of Norris votes.
The previous season saw Carolina limit their opponent to 2 or fewer goals in 44 games, winning 29 of those. The 02-03 crop of Hurricanes managed that feat 37 times, losing 14 times (16-14-7). I’ll concede that barely being above .500 in those games speaks volumes about the team’s woeful lack of offense.
On the flip side, the Hurricanes surrendered 5 or more goals on 15 occasions, including a stomping to the tune of 8-2 at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings. Their record in those 15 games? You might want to have a sit-down, grab a drink, and make sure a trash can or toilet is within sprinting distance.
I’m sorry, I really am. I should be considerate and spare you such horrific stats but then I wouldn’t be telling the whole story. Go back to that thrashing by the Kings, a team that boasted two forty-point scorers. Not goals, points. They were a middling team that missed the playoffs yet, facing the Hurricanes, they spent an evening cosplaying as the 83-84 Oilers.
With the Hurricanes clearly out of contention for a spot in the playoffs, veteran Glen Wesley was shipped off to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second-round draft pick. Of course, he returned to the team in the offseason, but I imagine the six weeks spent in Toronto were a nice detour from the train wreck of the Hurricanes’ defensive corps.
Get the Pepto ready:
Maybe the goaltending was a bright spot…