As we approach game 41 which would be the half-way point of the seaon once that game is played, I thought I’d take a look at the current status of our Panthers and make a prediction/judgement as we move forward.
Currently we sit in the eleventh spot in the Eastern Conference with 39 points. Our record is 16-17-7. We are one point out of the eighth spot, and while we consider ourselves in the “hunt”, there are several things to be leery about.
Assuming that it will take 95 points to make the playoffs, which always seems to be that magic number, the Florida Panthers will have to win 28 of their remaining 42 games. That works out to a winning percentage of .666, or a record of 28-14. Pretty tall task ahead wouldn’t you say? And this is of course just to make the final playoff spot, which has been the apparent goal of the team for quite some time now.
For me, therein lies the problem. As a dedicated and passionate fan of this sport I’ve grown a bit tired of the “just make the playoffs” mantra. Or “let’s aim for the eighth spot” and then anything can happen. No, for me that’s not enough. Since I don’t see much happening if that’s all we do. Yes, I understand that it would be nice to finally make it even as the eighth seed, but let’s face it. Opening against Pittsburgh, New Jersey, or Washington, whichever of those teams finish first, is not an opponent that this roster will be able to overcome in a seven game series.
As my photo at the top indicates, effort even at 110% is not enough. We need finishers! We need the mentality of being able to finish off an opponent with that killer instinct. You know, step on the gas pedal thinking. When I look at the roster of players and how we play, I cannot honestly say that we have that makeup. Looking at certain players who lack that finishing ability is what drags this team down. Let’s have a look:
Gregory Campbell a very nice player who works hard, plays hard every shift, but as we sit right now has ZERO goals and plays about 15 minutes per night. He had a career year last year and coach Peter DeBoer expected more from him this year. Campbell has had many scoring chances this year where he’s not been able to bury his chances. If he’s had even 5 opportunities, closing 3 of those could have made a difference in those games.
Rostislav Olesz a player with alleged scoring ability, has yet to display it on a consistent basis mostly due to injuries. In typical foreigner fashion he has skill, but when he has a chance he prefers to pass rather than shoot, or when he does shoot he tries his backhand shot that every goalie and cameraman is ready for, fooling no one. Currently with 7 goals in 39 games, more is expected. I just don’t think he can deliver and for what he’s earning, that’s sucks!
Kamil Kreps a player that other than his faceoff prowess, doesn’t bring much else. In 34 games he has produced ONE goal, has trouble creating scoring chances, and just doesn’t play all that smartly. As a mostly fourth line player, I don’t view him as an energy type player that can provide a momentum swing. His current play which if it doesn’t improve, could find him as the odd man looking in once Cory Stillman and David Booth come back.
Shawn Matthias a young forward who came with a ton of promise but has delivered a boatload of dissappointment. While Shawn continues to accumulate frequent flyer miles as he seems to be on the Rochester to Florida back and forth track, when he’s here he doesn’t do much. When he goes back to Rochester he appears to do even less. Why is he still around? Face it, if Detoliet (not a misprint) thought he was such a good player, do you really think they would have let him go for Todd Bertuzzi?
Bottom line here is that we need results. We need players to take advantage of their opportunities and bury their chances. Shoot rather than pass. Follow your shot, and be ready for a rebound. Have a scoring mentality and the mindset that you must create and take advantage of scoring opportunites. Although the ability to recognize them would help as well.
As for the coaching staff, I ask that you figure out another way for making some of your line changes. Too many times this year and even during the Uncle Jack era, a line change would be made as a 3 on 2 was developed, or a forward would find himself all alone in the opposition’s end and no teammate in site. Pete, you need to work on that cause to me that indicates defence first, offence second.
Effort is great as we want the effort. But you must be able to finish. This roster isn’t scaring anyone and if you shut down the Weiss, Horton, Frolik line, you pretty much can count on beating this team. My guess, and it’s only a guess is that the management is waiting for Cory Stillman and David Booth to return, giving us two scoring lines.
Waiting won’t get us into the playoffs. Waiting won’t make us a better team. We’ve waited almost ten years.
I realize that you need a willing partner to make a deal, but somewhere somehow, there has to be a deal out there.
Thanks for reading.