The playoffs are always an exciting time for any hockey fan but for some people, it can be a frustrating team if their team is on the outside looking in. Carolina fans know this feeling all too well, as the Hurricanes have failed to make the playoffs the last four years and it's pretty clear that many are dissatisfied with the on-ice product from recent years. Going four years without a playoff appearance is a drag and what might add salt to the wounds of Carolina fans is that there are quite a few former Hurricanes in the post-season right now and performing well.
The most notable one is easily Justin Williams, who scored two huge goals to help the Kings advance past the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Every Carolina fan knows all about what Williams did during his time as a Hurricane and how great of a performer he was during playoff time. He was a big reason why they won the Cup in 2005-06 and doesn't get a lot of credit for his contributions. Williams has also been one of the more underrated (and underpaid) players in the league in just about every aspect. He has consistently been a top forward at controlling puck-possession and a top-50 forward in even strength scoring, which is something the Hurricanes have needed until this most recent season when they added Alexander Semin to the fold.
Every fan with hindsight goggles will probably tell you that trading Williams was an enormous mistake by the Hurricanes and one that they'll always regret. The links I just posted to Williams' career stats strengthen this argument, especially when you consider that 2008-09, the year he was traded, was his worst season in recent history and a pretty big outlier compared to his career numbers. Going by that bit of information alone, trading Williams looks like a big mistake, but after taking context into the situation, I'm not sure if this trade is as bad as it appears.
Going back to the 2008-09 season, you might remember that the Hurricanes were making a push for a playoff spot in the second-half of the year and one of the moves they made to bolster their roster was acquiring Erik Cole from the Edmonton Oilers, a trade that also involved sending Williams to the LA Kings in exchange for someone named Patrick O'Sullivan, who was then flipped to Edmonton for Cole. In the end, the Kings got the best player out of this deal, but I don't think it's fair to say that this trade was terrible. Williams was battling multiple injuries all season, was in a slump and the Hurricanes were trying to improve their team immediately. Unfortunately, they had to give up Williams but it's hard to say that Cole didn't give the Canes the jolt in the arm they needed. He had 14 points in the final 17 games of the season and it's debatable that they would have made the playoffs without him.
Again, the Kings ultimately got the best player in the deal but saying that this trade was awful implies that Cole was a bust in Carolina, he wasn't. Cole was a very good Hurricane and continued to play well in his next two years with the team before departing for Montreal. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford has done plenty of things that I don't agree with, but the Williams trade was far from his worst move.
With that in mind, Williams isn't the only player who has left Carolina only to find success or make the playoffs with another club. I've seen a lot of rumblings through various social media sources about how the Hurricanes have traded or let a lot of talent walk in recent years and how the team's depth is gutted because of it. There seems to be a high volume of former Hurricanes spread across the NHL and I've always felt that most of them were let go for justifiable reasons, but just for fun, let's take a look at how some of the Canes alumni have performed in recent years and how much "value" was lost with them.