22-43-11-6; 5th place in the Southeast Division
It’s hard to fathom how quickly stagnation set into a team who was fresh off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance but the Carolina Hurricanes found out that it can happen. Injuries certainly didn’t help, nor did the decline in Arturs Irbe’s play, but the season’s failure ultimately permeated every area of the team.
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Things started off okay, with the team carrying an 11-7-4-3 record into December but eight losses in the final month of 2002 exposed every weakness the Hurricanes had. The dawning of 2003 saw them enter a death spiral, winning just 2 out of 15 games.
Things didn’t get any better, as a one-win February bled into a horrific final five weeks. March and April bore witness to a 4-12-2 record where the Hurricanes were shut out on three occasions. On top of that, they were held to one goal six times during this stretch while allowing an average of 3.17 goals per game.
Scoring 46 fewer goals than the year prior while surrendering 23 more is a recipe for disaster. Better days were on the horizon with the 2002 drafting of future Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward and the selection of Eric Staal in 2003. Unfortunately, the team was stuck in hockey purgatory for the time being.
What were your expectations for the Carolina Hurricanes heading into the 2002-03 season?