The Big “What If”: Pronger over Daigle, Part II

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This is Part II of my examination of what would happen if the Ottawa Senators selected Chris Pronger over Alexandre Daigle in 1993. For Part I of this series, head on over here.


FROM HARTFORD’S PERSPECTIVE

1993-94: There is a sense of anticipation in the air in Hartford, as Whaler fans were excited to see what their new prospect, Alexandre Daigle, could bring to the team. It didn’t seem to matter that he had been picked 2nd; fans were still buying jerseys with his name and number on the back. (Daigle himself, when asked about being passed up for Pronger, stated that “usually, no one remembers number two”, but hoped he could change that perception.) The rookie forward was expected to be an immediate contributor at the NHL level, likely getting top-six minutes from the very start.

Despite the excitement Daigle’s drafting generated in the city, fans still had to grapple with the fact that the team was in disarray. Not only had GM Brian Burke resigned at the start of the season to take a job with the league, but Paul Holmgren soon resigned as head coach, feeling he couldn’t handle both the GM and coach jobs at the same time. In his place was assistant coach Pierre McGuire, who was unable to command the respect of the locker room; over the course of the season, the team seemed to stumble into controversy after controversy, never really finding their footing. So despised was McGuire that when he was dismissed at the end of the season, captain Pat Verbeek would call it the “best thing to happen to the Whalers”.

Hartford was out of the playoffs, having finished second-last in the Eastern Conference with only 60 points, ahead of only Ottawa in that regard. For what it was worth, Daigle seemed to be pretty effective in his first year of NHL hockey, recording 51 points to finish 4th among forwards on the team. It wasn’t a big arrival for Daigle, but it showed promise. He would get some more forward help in the 1994 Draft, as Hartford would select Jeff O’Neill with the 5th Overall Pick.

1994-95: The chaos of the past year was over, and the Whalers were starting anew. Paul Holmgren was back behind the bench to restore some order, with Jim Rutherford brought in as General Manager so that Paul wasn’t overworked. The team also had a new owner in Peter Karmanos, who had bought the team back in June. Holmgren would be tasked with making sure that Alexandre Daigle continued his development from the previous year; it is always tough for a young player to adjust to a new coach, but as the starting head coach last year, Holmgren at least knew Daigle well enough to establish a connection with the sophomore.

The Whalers were expecting big things, even trading away three 1st-Rounders to get Glen Wesley from Boston in order to prepare themselves for a post-season run. But as the season went on, it was clear that Hartford still wasn’t quite good enough to contend. Late in March, captain Pat Verbeek would be traded to the New York Rangers for a package that included journeyman Glen Featherstone and two draft picks (a 1st in 1995 and a 4th in 1996). If there was any consolation for Hartford fans that year, it was that their prized prospect Daigle would finish tied atop the team leaderboard with 37 points, putting him level with Andrew Cassels.

Hartford was once again out of the playoffs, finishing 10th in the East with 44 points. Though they had traded their original 1st-Round Pick to Boston in the Glen Wesley deal, they did have the 13th Overall Pick thanks to their trade with the Rangers. They would use that selection on goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Halifax Mooseheads, the first netminder taken in the 1995 Draft.

1995-96: The Whalers had somewhat of a false start last year, and the fact that they had traded away three 1st-Round Picks to get Glen Wesley made making the post-season more urgent, especially with fans not exactly flocking to the Hartford Civic Center. Even with Wesley in tow, however, Hartford was still not good enough to contend for a playoff spot, and early on in the campaign, Paul Holmgren would be dismissed as head coach in favour of Paul Maurice, who would become the 2nd youngest coach in NHL history upon his hiring.

Maurice’s arrival produced mixed results. While he didn’t alienate the locker room quite like Pierre McGuire had during his tenure, he found himself unable to get the best out of Alexandre Daigle, who would slump to a total of only 17 points in 50 games. Maurice would find himself getting some help from Rutherford, who would acquire Jeff Brown and Kevin Dineen in December to add some talent to a team in desperate need of it. Brown, in particular, would shine for the Whalers, racking up 38 points in only 48 games with the team, leading all Hartford blue-liners at the end of the season.

The Whalers would miss the post-season for the fourth time in a row, finishing 11th in the East with only 68 points. This time, there was no deal for a 1st-Rounder to be had, and Hartford would be left out of the opening round of the 1996 Entry Draft. The Bruins would have the Whalers’ pick at #6, using it on Kitchener Rangers forward Boyd Devereaux.

1996-97: From a fan’s perspective, Hartford seemed to be a team with little hope. They weren’t anywhere near the post-season, they had no 1st-Round Draft Pick this upcoming season to look forward to, and the man believed to be the league’s next superstar was suddenly looking like a massive bust. The box office reflected the lack of hope, and the Hartford Civic Center was sparsely populated over the course of the 1996-97 season. Now, it wasn’t just coaching or management jobs in jeopardy, it was the team itself that was in danger of being moved elsewhere.

If there was any silver lining to the endless sky of clouds, it was that Alexandre Daigle would rebound well from his previous debacle of a season, finishing the 96-97 campaign with 51 points to tie his career high. He was still not the #1 centre on the team (Andrew Cassels still held that role), but it was enough to at least stave off the “bust” talk for a little while. But neither of the team’s other two major prospects fared that well; Jeff O’Neill would only manage 30 points in 72 games, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere would record a save percentage of .881 in 8 games of work.

For the fifth straight year, Hartford would miss the playoffs. They were 11th in the East again with 71 points, and fans were tuning out. Peter Karmanos felt he had no other choice but to move the team, with North Carolina as the destination of choice. The team would now be known as the Carolina Hurricanes, adopting a new red-and-black colour scheme, with a new logo to go with it. The team would not be represented in either of the first two rounds of the 1997 Entry Draft, with Boston using the last of the three Wesley picks to take centre Daniel Tkaczuk 6th Overall. The Hurricanes would finally pick at #80, the last pick of the 3rd Round; they would use the pick to take Val-d’Or winger Francis Lessard.

1997-98: It was a new start for a franchise that had fallen into disarray over the past few seasons. The Hurricanes now had a chance to wipe the slate clean, and give the fans at the Greensboro Coliseum an NHL team that they could be proud of. They had a young coach in Paul Maurice, two new potential cornerstone players in Gary Roberts and Trevor Kidd (acquired from Calgary in the off-season for Andrew Cassels and J-S Giguere), and with a 1st-Round Pick in 1998, they could start finding top young talent very soon. They had one big question mark, though, and that was the man expected to be their future star in Alexandre Daigle. Would he finally break through to become the top talent he was expected to be, or would fans still be left waiting?

Not only did Daigle not have that break-out year, but he only got worse. After only 16 points in 38 games, the former 2nd Overall Pick would be traded to Philadelphia for Vinny Prospal, Pat Falloon, and a 2nd-Rounder in 1998. It was a sorry end to a tenure that saw Daigle never score more than 51 points in a year. Much like their former starlet, Carolina floundered, despite the best efforts of Kidd; given 47 games of work, Kidd would register an astounding .922 SV% to finish tied for 2nd in the NHL. Kidd’s brilliance allowed the ‘Canes to let go of Sean Burke, who would be traded as part of a deal that saw Martin Gelinas and Kirk McLean join Carolina.

At the very least, Carolina could be forgiven for their poor play this year, as they were still adjusting to their new locale. They would finish 11th in the East with 65 points, giving them the 6th Overall Pick in the 1998 Draft. Now with a chance to grab a good young player for the first time in three years, the Hurricanes would select Rico Fata, a promising winger from the London Knights.

1998-99: They may have been as dismal as usual in their first season in North Carolina, but news was about to get better for the Hurricanes. Not only would they add former Hartford favourite Ron Francis in free agency, but they would also be a beneficiary of league re-alignment. The ‘Canes would now play in the new Southeast Division with Washington, Florida, and Tampa Bay, meaning they now only had to contend with three other teams for a top spot. And even more, they would be joined by an expansion team in Atlanta the next year, leading to more potential points on offer so long as they could find their form.

While Trevor Kidd had come off a very good season, he would quickly lose the starting job this year to free agent signing Arturs Irbe. The Latvian netminder would post a stellar .923 save percentage in 62 games of work, showing the ‘Canes that even if Kidd was out of form, they were still in good hands in goal. Without a premier talent to build around, the Hurricanes had to turn to scoring by committee, with three players (Sami Kapanen, Ray Sheppard, and Ron Francis) racking up over 50 points. Gary Roberts would add 42, while Vinny Prospal would notch 39 points in his first full year with Carolina following the Daigle trade. Rico Fata didn’t fare quite as well, playing 20 games as a teenager, and only picking up a single assist.

The solid goaltending, combined with the sheer lack of talent in the Southeast, proved to be a perfect storm. The Hurricanes would win the Division with 82 points, proving to be the only team from the Southeast to reach the post-season at all. Because of their Division title, the ‘Canes would be seeded 3rd, and drawn against the Boston Bruins in the opening round. Boston had a new centreman to build around in Jason Allison, and had Joe Thornton still waiting in the wings. They also had Ray Bourque still kicking around at the age of 38, and still putting up 57 points. Not even Arturs Irbe at his best was enough to contain Boston, who simply had more talent; the Bruins would win the series in six games to move on.

Despite the joy of finally reaching the playoffs, tragedy was about to strike for the Hurricanes. Leaving a team get-together following the team’s elimination by Boston, Steve Chiasson would crash his pickup truck on the way home, dying on impact. An NHL veteran of 13 years, Chiasson had been traded to Hartford in their final season, and played 94 games in Greensboro for the team. He had not factored much in their regular season in 98-99, playing only 28 games, but he led all defensemen on the team with 3 points during the playoffs.

Carolina would have the 15th Overall Pick in the 1999 Entry Draft, selecting Scott Kelman from the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.

1999-00: The Hurricanes were not only looking to improve upon their first playoff appearance in Carolina, but also to raise the spirits of fans and players alike following the death of Steve Chiasson. It was an unenviable task having to replace a veteran presence like his, but many of the older players on the team would step up to have season reminiscent of their earlier days. Ron Francis would lead the team with 73 points, while Gary Roberts would chip in 52 as well. Paul Coffey, always an offensive threat from the blue line, would contribute 40 points at the age of 38.

Of course, where the veterans rose up, the younger players felt the need to match them. After being unable to break 40 points throughout his career, Jeff O’Neill finally got his chance to shine, and would set a career high with 63 points in 80 games. Vinny Prospal also impressed, contributing 55 points. It was a sight for sore eyes to see young talent stepping up after the failure of Alexandre Daigle, and while they may not have had a potential superstar in their ranks, the Hurricanes at least knew they had somebody to build around for the future.

Carolina was back in the post-season, having finished 7th in the East with 86 points. They would have the unfortunate luck of being seeded against the Washington Capitals in the first round, forced to face the team that had won the Southeast Division that year. The Caps were loaded with talent, with the likes of Peter Bondra, Adam Oates, and Sergei Gonchar all on the books, but the marquee matchup would be in goal, as Arturs Irbe and Olaf Kolzig squared off in the series. Once again, Irbe was very good, but Olaf Kolzig was just that much better, as the Capitals would win the series in six.

While Carolina was still improving, the management team felt it wasn’t enough, and they needed help now. Jim Rutherford would swing a trade during the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, dealing D-man Nolan Pratt, the Canes’ 1st-Round Pick in 2000, and their 2nd-Rounder in 2001 to the Colorado Avalanche for offensive blue-liner Sandis Ozolinsh. It was a reunion of sorts for Ozolinsh and Arturs Irbe, as the two Latvians both played for the San Jose Sharks in the team’s early years. (The Avalanche, meanwhile, would use Carolina’s 1st-Rounder to take Slovakian forward Marcel Hossa.)

2000-01: The time for the Hurricanes to contend was arriving. After a couple of seasons of playoff hockey, fans in North Carolina were hoping to see more from a now-promising team. Gone were the likes of Paul Coffey and Andrei Kovalenko, but in their place were players like Sandis Ozolinsh and Kevin Hatcher, as the team re-tooled in an effort to stay competitive in the Eastern Conference. Tyler Moss was brought in as a back-up option for Arturs Irbe, who hadn’t been at his best the previous year after playing a league-leading 75 games; the hope was that Moss could come in and be a serviceable second-string goalie when Irbe was too tired.

Those hopes eroded quickly. Not only would Irbe play 77 games to lead the league, but he had to do so out of necessity, as Moss was dreadful when called upon (3.99 GAA and .853 SV% in 12 games of work). But as goaltending problems started to arise, offensive players picked up the slack. Jeff O’Neill had another great season, this time being the target of Ron Francis’ passes; O’Neill would score 41 goals, putting him in a tie for 7th in the NHL. Scoring by committee was once again on the menu for the ‘Canes, as all of O’Neill, Francis, Sami Kapanen, and Martin Gelinas broke the 50-point mark on the season. Sandis Ozolinsh pitched in as well, leading all Carolina blue-liners with 44 points. One player who didn’t pitch in was Vinny Prospal, who was traded mid-season after struggling in 2000 (13 points in 40 games).

The overworking of Arturs Irbe seemed to drag the Hurricanes down in 2001, as they would miss out on a post-season spot by a wide margin. Their 76 points put them in 9th place in the East, but they were 12 points behind Boston, who claimed the last playoff berth. While it wasn’t time to panic, there were still warning signs for the Hurricanes’ front office, as the team was now starting to slip away from the goal of being a contender. The ‘Canes would have the 12th Pick in the 2001 Entry Draft; feeling that drafting highly-ranked forwards was not going well for them, Carolina would select Prince George Cougars defenseman Dan Hamhuis.

2001-02: Jim Rutherford and Paul Maurice may not have been axed just yet, but another poor season would mean that they would very likely be in contention for the sack. Rutherford would act quickly to shore up the team, adding free agent goalie Tom Barrasso and former Cup-winning blue-liner Aaron Ward in the off-season. The one major glaring issue at this point was the forward depth, as the Hurricanes would have to hope that Ron Francis could produce a season reminiscent of his glory days; he would have to do this despite turning 38 last March.

Francis faced pressure to perform at an advanced age, but he rose to the occasion brilliantly, leading the team with 77 points in 80 games. Jeff O’Neill and Sami Kapanen were both above 60 points, and Bates Battaglia would chip in with a career-high 46. But it still wasn’t enough, as Carolina found themselves on the outside looking in by mid-season. Sandis Ozolinsh would be traded out for multiple pieces, while Tom Barrasso would be dealt to Toronto at the deadline. Though Arturs Irbe would only play 51 games this year, he would still struggle to a pedestrian .902 SV%, a clear sign that his best days seemed to be behind him.

The ‘Canes would miss the post-season again. They would end up 11th in the East with 80 points, and owner Peter Karmanos would make his moves following the regular season, firing both Jim Rutherford and Paul Maurice. Former Tampa Bay GM Rick Dudley would take Rutherford’s place, while Hall-of-Famer Bryan Trottier was selected to be the new head coach of the team. Dudley’s first order of business would be the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, where his team had the 10th Overall Pick; the team would use the pick on Eric Nystrom, son of Trottier’s old Islander teammate Bob Nystrom.

2002-03: The Hurricanes looked like they were in a re-building mode, and with fans starting to look towards the exits, things were not looking good for the immediate future. Already, opinion pieces across the hockey world were beginning to be written about the viability of the ‘Canes in Carolina, as well as the future of hockey in the Southeastern United States as a whole. While there seemed to be no moves by Peter Karmanos to suggest that he was looking to move the team again, there were a few that pointed to the hiring of Bryan Trottier as a desperation measure intended to sell a few more tickets.

Even if Trottier had any effect on the box office gate, he certainly had a poor effect on the bench. Artures Irbe now looked a shell of the goalie that once carried the load for the team, as he would only play 34 games, with an ugly .877 save percentage. Kevin Weekes, acquired a year earlier from Tampa Bay, would fare much better as the new starter of choice with a .912 SV% in 51 games, but his efforts were being wasted by a team with virtually no offense to speak of. Only Jeff O’Neill (61 points) and Ron Francis (57) could break the 30-point mark, as the team looked like they had no creativity outside of their first line.

The struggles of the season meant that the team was dismantled at the deadline. Gone were Sami Kapanen, Glen Wesley, and Bates Battaglia, all dealt out for picks and prospects. Bryan Trottier wouldn’t even last that long, fired just over half-way into the season; Rick Dudley would take over as coach for the rest of the campaign. The season would end with the Hurricanes in dead last in the league with 52 points, and even that wasn’t any more of a comfort, as they would not win the Draft Lottery, and instead had to pick 2nd. Now desperate for any sort of talent, the ‘Canes would draft centre Eric Staal of the Peterborough Petes, who would now be expected to carry the hopes of a franchise on his back.

THE HURRICANES AFTER TEN YEARS: When they selected Alexandre Daigle, the Hartford Whalers were a team that had virtually bottomed out, now pinning their hopes on a potential star to bring them back to any sort of relevance. Ten years later, the only things that have changed are the player and the locale; now, instead of Alexandre Daigle, it is Eric Staal, and instead of the Hartford Whalers, the team is known as the Carolina Hurricanes. Not even a change of scenery can alter the team’s lot in the league, as they are still one of the NHL’s doormats, even in one of the weakest divisions in the game.

When the Whalers got the right to select Daigle, both the front office and their fans alike were stunned that Ottawa would pass up on such a promising player. Over the next few years, they would find out exactly what the Sens didn’t see in Daigle, as despite an encouraging start to his career, his flame would peter out quickly. He would be dealt away to Philadelphia in 1998, and after stints with the Flyers, Lightning, Rangers, and Penguins, he is now with Minnesota, hoping to find an NHL roster spot for what might be his last chance at the big league. When he first broke into the league, Alexandre said that “no one remembers number two”; he would sadly be proven wrong, as everybody in the hockey world remembers the promise that Daigle had and failed to live up to, and the massive bullet that Ottawa dodged – and that Hartford was struck by.

On opening night of the 2003-04 season, the Hurricanes send out the following roster:

Josef Vasicek – Ron Francis – Jeff O’Neill

Craig Adams – Eric Staal – Radim Vrbata

Jaroslav Svoboda – Kevyn Adams – Marty Murray

Ryan Bayda – Mike Zigomanis – Jesse Boulerice

Bret Hedican – Sean Hill

Glen Wesley – Aaron Ward

Dan Hamhuis – Bruno St. Jacques

Kevin Weekes

Arturs Irbe

This isn’t exactly the roster of a contender. In fact, this is a roster more designed for going after Alexander Ovechkin, who is likely to be the 1st Overall Pick in 2004. Offensively, this team has virtually nothing, and is expected to pin their hopes on Jeff O’Neill and Ron Francis once again, with Francis now 40 years of age. As far as the future is concerned, it will be a year or two before the transition is complete, but Eric Staal is expected to be the talisman of the franchise going forward. He has the talent to be great, but there will be concerns from the fans as to whether he will truly live up to his potential; this team, after all, has drafted the likes of Daigle, Scott Kelman, and Jeff Heerema, none of whom have lived up to their promise.

Defensively, the team… actually isn’t bad. There is a collection of good shutdown players on this team, including Hedican, Ward, and Glen Wesley, who returned to the team in free agency after a brief rental stop in Toronto. Sean Hill can add some power play punch, while Dan Hamhuis is in his rookie season, and expected to follow in Wesley’s footsteps. Bruno St. Jacques is a young player as well, but he doesn’t have quite the potential that Hamhuis does. In goal, Kevin Weekes is expected to carry the load, and while he is by no means terrible, he just isn’t the same as Arturs Irbe was in his prime.

Of all the players on this roster, it is worth noting that there is only one new addition, and that is Hamhuis, who the Hurricanes draft instead of Igor Knyazev in 2001. Knyazev, at this point, has not played an NHL game, and would never do so. Indeed, the ‘Canes are more notable for their omissions from the roster, including Rod Brind’Amour and Erik Cole – both of whom are with Ottawa in this timeline. Without those two, Ryan Bayda and Mike Zigomanis will get more opportunities to show what they can do at an NHL level, but they won’t be nearly good enough to replace the likes of Brind’Amour and Cole.


EFFECTS ON THE HOCKEY WORLD

PLAYER INTERVIEWS AT THE COMBINE WOULD BE MAKE-OR-BREAK. If Ottawa was to choose ANYBODY over Alexandre Daigle, even if it was Chris Pronger, the biggest influence in the decision would have to be the player interviews. And if the interviews ended up swaying that decision, then they could very well play a part in future picks being altered. If the interviews were such a factor, for example, could the Oilers have selected an Alex Galchenyuk or a Morgan Rielly over Nail Yakupov in 2012? Could the Blues have been tempted by a Jonathan Toews or a Nicklas Backstrom in 2006, instead of taking Erik Johnson?

As far as the importance of those interviews is concerned, it wouldn’t be an immediate change, as Alexandre Daigle was still viewed to have great potential early on. Gradually, however, they would be taken more seriously, as teams start to realize what had motivated the Senators to take Pronger instead. By today in this new timeline, the interviews are now seen as bigger than any physical test in the Draft Combine, and both teams and prospects alike spend tons of their time preparing for what is now considered the most important factor in a prospect’s draft spot.

EVERYONE REMEMBERS NUMBER ONE, BUT VERY FEW REMEMBER NUMBER TWO. Obviously, hindsight would tell us that Chris Pronger is a far better player than Alexandre Daigle, and this wouldn’t change in this new timeline. Even though they traded him away only a couple of seasons into his career, the Senators would still be viewed as having made the right choice in selecting Pronger over Daigle, especially considering that the resulting trade tree has netted the Sens Brendan Shanahan, Keith Primeau, Erik Cole, and Rod Brind’Amour, the latter two of whom remain on the team as of 2003-04.

As for Alexandre Daigle, the problems that seemed to plague him in Ottawa still plague him in Hartford/Carolina. He is jerked around by different coaches wanting different playing styles from him, and he is on a team with an even less stable future in Hartford. He wasn’t going to succeed in either of those destinations, and his own disillusionment with hockey likely would have followed him no matter where he went. With the drop in draft order, he is no longer considered one of the biggest draft mistakes in history, but is still deemed a “bust”. He is viewed as more of a Cam Barker than a Nail Yakupov or Doug Wickenheiser; not quite a historically bad pick, but still disappointing.

THE SENATORS WIN THE 2007 STANLEY CUP. When play resumed in the NHL following the season-cancelling lockout, the Senators were one of the teams that got off to a fast start. Nothing much changes in this timeline, with the exception of not having Dany Heatley this time around, as they don’t have Marian Hossa available to make that trade. Instead, the spot he would fill on the Sens’ top line is filled by Erik Cole, who may not be quite the scorer that Heatley was, but is good enough to provide a two-way presence alongside Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.

In addition to Cole, the Sens now have Rod Brind’Amour, who undergoes a career resurrection following the lockout. Not only does he win the Selke Trophy twice in the first two post-stoppage seasons, but he manages 82 points in 78 games in 06-07, giving Ottawa a formidable 1-2 punch. With Cole, Brind’Amour, Ryan Kesler, Robyn Regehr, and Greg De Vries (who stays with the Sens because the Heatley deal never happens), Ottawa has enough of a core that can overcome the Anaheim Ducks in the ’07 Cup Final. And just for an extra dollop of poetic justice, the Ducks that year still have Chris Pronger, the player that the Sens had drafted over Daigle so many years ago; this loss means that Pronger would go his entire career without winning the Stanley Cup.

Pronger isn’t the only person not winning Lord Stanley’s Mug, though…

THE CAROLINA HURRICANES ARE IN SERIOUS DANGER, AND POSSIBLY MOVE AGAIN. The Hurricanes were fortunate to have not one, but two long playoff runs that resulted in Stanley Cup Final apperances during their tenure in the state. In 2002, the ‘Canes managed to ride the momentum all the way to a date against the Detroit Red Wings, resulting in a 4-1 series loss, but would finally claim the Cup four years later after defeating the Edmonton Oilers in seven games. Not only are Brind’Amour and Cole with the Sens in this timeline, but the Hurricanes miss out on some key (or at least occasional) contributors to their long playoff runs, and as a result, don’t even make the playoffs in ’02. Taking their place in the Final that year are the Washington Capitals, who still lose to the Wings in five games.

And if it wasn’t enough that they missed out on the playoffs entirely that year, the ‘Canes would be crippled in 2006. Very important members of their Cup-winning team would not be present this time around, as the Hurricanes are missing both Justin Williams and Cam Ward in this timeline. Ward, in particular, is a huge loss, as he took over the starting job in the post-season and willed the team to the Cup that year. Instead of Carolina, Buffalo gets their spot in the 2006 Cup Final, and still manage to beat the Oilers. (Indeed, the Sabres are looked at as the early model of the new-era franchise in the NHL, at least before the Penguins and Blackhawks rise to prominence.) Without either of those Stanley Cup Final appearances to rely on, Carolina is now severely hindered in the box office. By the mid-2010s, the Hurricanes are one of the league’s problem children, as attendance at what is now known as PNC Arena plummets to just over 10,000 per game. Peter Karmanos, who has already shown his willingness to move a club he owns, begins looking for a new city for his team, with Quebec City seemingly the most likely destination. Whether he would pull the trigger or not is a question I can’t exactly answer, but if he doesn’t, Tom Dundon is still likely there to swoop in and save the team for the time being.


Next month, a look at a player from a non-traditional hockey country that could have become a star: What if Tony Hand played in the National Hockey League?

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