Carolina Hurricanes: Was Jan Hlavac ever really here?

2003 Season: Player Jan Hlavac of the Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)
2003 Season: Player Jan Hlavac of the Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images) /

One of the things that Jim Rutherford was known for while general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes was his penchant for reclamation projectsA November 2002 trade brought in a player who fit the bill.

This is the first installment in a series focusing on players that you may have forgotten ever wore the sightless eye of the Carolina Hurricanes.  To fit the criteria, a player had to have shown some promise in the NHL before their short stints in Raleigh.

Jan Hlavac had the tools necessary to carve out a decent NHL career and, it many aspects you can say that he did.  The truth is, you don’t suit up for 436 games without doing something right.  The thing with Hlavac is that he teased a level of offense early in his career that he was never able to revisit.

A 1995 second-round pick of the New York Islanders, Hlavac broke in with the other metropolitan New York team in the 1999-2000 season.

A fluid skater with strong hockey sense, the 23-year-old had an impressive rookie season for the Rangers and followed it up with a 28 goal, 64 point sophomore campaign while playing primarily on a line with fellow Czechs Petr Nedved and Radek Dvorak (more on him in a future article).  All signs pointed towards Hlavac’s arrival as a reliable scoring forward in the NHL.

Then came August 2001.  Eric Lindros, a fixture in Philadelphia since 1992, was engaged in a holdout that saw him sit out the entirety of the 2000-01 season.  Endless speculation ended when the Rangers sent a package (including Hlavac) to the Flyers in return for the hulking center.  Hlavac spent just 31 games in Philadelphia, recording 7 goals and 3 assists, before being sent to the Vancouver Canucks in mid-December of 2001.

The Czech winger played in 46 games for the Canucks in 2001-02, recording 9 goals and 12 assists.  Not bad, but not the offensive prowess he had shown with the Rangers.  Another slow start saw Hlavac manage only 2 points (1g, 1a) in nine games before he was traded again, this time to the Carolina Hurricanes:

Hlavac got off to a good start with his new team, picking up the primary assist on Jeff O’Neill‘s game-winning goal in his first game.  He picked up his first goal with a power-play tally five days later, looking to establish a rhythm offensively.  Despite seeing ice time with the likes of O’Neill and captain Ron Francis, Hlavac was unable to maintain any consistency.

A six-game pointless streak that marked the transition from November to December later gave way to an eight-game streak that spanned early to mid-January.  After a short reprieve, the well seemed to run dry again as Hlavac suffered a five-game drought in early February.

That’s not to say his time in Raleigh wasn’t without a few highlights.  A wild 6-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings in late-November saw Hlavac net a hat trick.  He also had a three-assist game against the Calgary Flames in mid-December and a one-goal, two-assist performance against the Montreal Canadiens in late November.

LW. <ul><li><strong>Games Played: </strong>52</li><li><strong>Goals: </strong>9</li><li><strong>Assists: </strong>15</li><li><strong>Points: </strong>24</li><li><strong>ATOI:</strong>17:10</li></ul><p>While Hlavac didn’t add much to the Hurricanes, his production was very much in line with the previous year.  He was certainly a useful forward but he was counted on for more than he could handle, evidenced by his career-high 17 minutes of ice time per game.</p>. . Carolina Hurricanes. JAN HLAVAC

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In fairness, Hlavac was a part of the most offensively-anemic Hurricanes team (over an 82-game schedule), a team that only bested the lockout-shortened 12-13 squad by 43 goals despite playing in 34 more games.  Then again, you could say that relying on an inconsistent player is a large part of what sealed their fate.

Hlavac was not re-signed by the Hurricanes and, in August of 2003, returned to the New York Rangers for what would be his last season in the NHL until a one-year return for the 2007-08 season.

Do you remember Jan Hlavac’s stint with the Hurricanes?  How did you feel about the trade?  Have you purged all memories of the 2002-03 season from your mind?

Next. The impact of the Svechnikov, Aho, Teravainen line. dark