Or their playoff hopes will be toast!
So, here we sit after 45 games with three days of no games to be played for the first time in years in awhile. A time to rest, reflect, work on the power play and blow up evaluate the roster and our position in this playoff hunt.
Breaking things down, the Panthers are in the 13th spot in the Eastern Conference with 43 points which is less than one per game. Hardly a playoff quality. Our record is 18-20-7, which to some will appear to be two games under .500, but actually those 7 games were loses and the record is really 18-27. Montreal is in the eighth spot with 48 points, Philly is ninth with 47, and The Islanders, Thrashers and Lighting are slightly ahead with the Isles at 46 and Atlanta and Tampa with 44. Who would have thought we’d be chasing the Islanders? Anyway, the recent Canadian road trip of three games resulted in a total of two points. A bad loss in Toronto giving up a two goal lead, a frustrating shutout in Montreal and a victory over a sluggish and beatup Ottawa club.
There are 37 games left in the season of which there are 74 points available. If the thinking remains that 95 points will get you in the playoffs we need to go 26-11 the rest of the way. A slip that I honestly don’t see this group being able to sustain. Here’s why, and not to be a pessimist, but let’s not kid ourselves. We are very streaky have been so all year. Our first ten games we were an awful 2-7-1 if I am correct. We’ve had about three winning/point streaks to go along with about 4 losing streaks.
As for players we seem to ahve the streakiest. While Nathan Horton is probably playing the best hockey he’s played in a very long time, how long will it continue? Stevie started slowly, then got hot. Very hot. Now he has cooled off proving that HE’S NOT THE #1 CENTERMAN some think he might have been. Olympic hopeful? NO WAY. Michael Frolik has defintely been trying to shake the sophmore slump. He’s had some moments and is playing better as of late, but still trying to find consistency.
Steven Reinprecht went through a hot streak he probably hasn’t seen since juniors, but once Cory Stillman got hurt, he lost all his momentum and is still trying to find it with Stillman just now coming back. On and on I can go, but you get the idea. This is what happens with complimentary players who have peaked at various points in their seasons. They hit a wall. They may ultimately get back on track, but not to where they were before.
So what to do at this point? It’s obvious to most that a couple pieces need to be added to make this roster a playoff roster. Whether or not David Booth comes back, that shouldn’t stop management from trying to acquire some much needed offence. We are challenged offensively. Everyone including our head coach knows it. I feel that we’re also missing that veteran leader who has been through the trenches a bit. Someone with ability that’s better than Cory Stillman.
While driving to a meeting yesterday in my car, I heard that Petr Sykora is not a happy camper in Minnesota. How would he look on the second line? Or on the power play?
Now to go to the other extreme, it’s beginning to look like Atlanta isn’t going to be able to sign Ilya Kovalchuk. Do the Panthers go after him and if they do, what do they offer? Can this organEYEzation afford to lay out 8-10 million per year on one player? Probably not as they tried that before with Pavel Bure, but they forgot to give him a supporting cast.
So somewhere between these two players is what we need, although I would see what it would take to get Sykora. Now as for who is tradeable, I would have to say that anyone except for David Booth is available at the right price. I know there are a bunch of you that say that Horton, Weiss, Frolik are untouchable. Well, if we don’t make the playoffs with them here at the end of the season, will you still feel the same way? To get you have to give. Also, what about Tomas Vokoun? While I like him, he may be the most marketable as far as talent, but it’s his contract that scares most away. We’d obviously need a goalie back, so that makes moving him a bit more chaotic, but it is possible.
I would like us to be buyers at/before the deadline than sellers. And please no Steve Emminger type deals ok?
The playoffs while not out of reach are slipping away. It would be 10 years in a row, or is it nine? It’s been so long I have forgotten. If ownership and management are serious, we need to do something to at least try and improve. It just has to happen.
I can’t imagine what would happen to the attendance and off season attempts at free agency if we miss the playoffs again! If the Panthers stand pat and do nothing they will have only themselves to blame. Sometimes you just have to admit that you just don’t have all the horses.
So c’mon Randy. Like Barney Fife, get the bullet out of your pocket and load your gun and pull the trigger.
Just don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
Thanks for reading.