Not that it will get this team into the playoffs, but knowing that their NHL future could be on the line, these are five players that I feel must be productive this season for the Florida Panthers. Otherwise, they will be exiled. You might be surprised with my choices and you might also have your own. Nonetheless, it’s important for these blouques and their play to determine if they will be part of the solution here in Sunrise.
Michael Frolik: A talented winger whose still trying to learn the english language, which hopefully isn’t hampering his progress, this kid must rebound from his sophomore season. Not that I would call it a slump, but he certainly went through some rough times last season. While he scored 21 goals and had 22 assists playing in all 82 games, there were times that he was invisible. Playing on the first line and getting power play minutes Frolik is being counted on to score, and score often. He’s quick, has a good shot, but needs to bury the puck often. Confidence and conditioning might have been an issue for him last season, and I’m hoping that he’s determined to have a breakout season this year.
Rostislav Olesz: Granted, he was a first round pick and has been troubled with injuries, that’s no excuse. Here is a player that has ability, skill and is willing to work the corners. But he continues to slip on bannana peels and miss crucial time. Plus he’s has the piano on is back of the long term contract that was given to him by former GM Jackass Martin that hasn’t helped. The subject of many trade rumors which can’t help anyone, he needs to not only play a full season but score a minimum of 25 goals. Playing on the third line, or maybe even the fourth makes that a challenge. No matter. It’s required. Otherswise, dump him, but him out, or place him on waivers.
Michael Grabner: Grabner one of the players that was acquired for Keith Ballard in the Vancouver trade is an up and coming youngster with a ton of potential. He’s fast, skilled and is also a former first round pick. Grabner has had three seasons in which he has scored 30 goals or more in the AHL, and he now needs to prove he belongs in the big time. Question is, where will he lineup, and will he get the ice time to prove himself. The previous two Panther coaches tend to keep players like this on the third and fourth lines, limiting the production. This kid needs top six minutes early in the season to be productive. I’m hoping that he gets them. 20-22 goals would be great.
Chris Higgins: Another first round pick (seems to be something we have an abundance of) who has fallen to the wayside. After having some successful seasons in Montreal and eclipsing 20 goals or more three times, Higgins had hit a wall. Sent to exile in New York for the Rangers and then traded at the deadline to Calgary, Higgins needs to find himself again. Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon thinks Higgy can get his touch back here in Florida. His ethic on and off the ice must be impeccable. The problem is that here in Florida, there’s a lot of distractions. If he doesn’t turn himself around here, then surely will disappear.
Michal Repik: Drafted in the second round in 2007, Repik is another player that the Panthers continue to have hope for. Problem is that he seems to not want to play at both ends of the ice, and on this team, that’s bad. Head coach Peter DeBoer has seemingly put this kid in his doghouse on many occassions and he just can’t seem to get out of it. Repik has a touch for scoring, but on this team, if you haven’t learned by now, you must play be responsible at both ends of the ice. Repik went back and forth from Rochester to Florida 16 times last season. That crap has to stop.
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