Five Players That Must Produce For The Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 6: Head coach Mike Keenan of the Florida Panthers talks to his team before the start of overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins during NHL action on November 6, 2002 at the Office Depot Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Penguins 4-3. (Photo By Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images/NHLI)

You Five Listen And Listen Good.

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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Tags: Michael Frolik Michael Grabner Michal Repik Rostislav Olesz

  • slapshot1106

    If this team is to have some success, they will have to have more guys overproduce than expected… As far as your list, the one guy I don’t see having a chance is Repik. I wouldn’t mind being wrong on this one, but I just don’t see him being a full-time NHLer.. Certainly it would be awesome if somehow he turned into some sort of clone of Stu Barnes or Ray Whitney, but I think he’d be luckier to be more like Tyler Kennedy or Richard Park… Either way, I just don’t see him flourishing playing on a roster like the Panthers… Maybe if he was surrounded by better talent, but I see AHL for him.. The Panthers also are more apt to give future playing time to their youth guys with size, so I see Repik gradually looking for other teams to play with sooner than later…

    With Olesz, I actually see a little upside. The problem being is it’s not as a Top6 guy… Not totally his fault as JM overpaid him and the team over-hyped him like many of their failed draft picks, but he can put some decent minutes in as a 3rd liner, PK… Probably best case for Olesz would be if he could put up Rob Niedermeyer-like #s.. Nothing flashy, but a pretty decent 2-way player.. I don’t think he’s a Tallon-type guy at all, but he’s not tradeable with that contract.. Tallon probably gives Olesz this year and maybe next because nobody wants to pay guys not to play, but I don’t see him as a long-term Panther..

    I also agree we need Frolik, Grabner, and Higgins to put up solid #s… One thing I see is a lot of leftys.. I’m not as negative as little Stevie as you, but his goals will certainly decline, maybe even cut in half.. He can be a better playmaker for some of these wingers we need to produce, but many questions remain.. It looks like they could certainly use a right-handed playmaking center, a la Tim Connolly or Kris Versteeg.. I’m not saying Connolly is the ultimate guy, but as a Sabres fan, I’m sure he could be had somewhere down the road for the right price(McCabe and Matthias maybe)… He’s not physical and wasn’t a great playoff presence, but he’d probably be a decent fit for a Panthers team that could use all the offense they can get–even if it’s just for 2-3 years…

  • Frank Rekas

    Hey Slapshot: The risk with Connolly I think was two-fold. Concussion history and his state of being invisible in the post season. Otherwise, I would have said, sure, let’s get him.
    Add to that his lack pof toughness, and we have another guy that most likely gets lost in thew shuffle.

    I agree a bit regarding Olesz. Not being a top 6 guy, we may never see his potential, if he has any. He needs to remain injury free.

    Offence will be hard to come by, and these 5 need to make it happen. If Repik isn’t going to get a chance, then let’s move him. It seems that once your in Pete’s doghouse, you never get out.

  • slapshot1106

    I think we mostly agree on Connolly. I wouldn’t be crazy about taking on more concussion cases, and certainly not long-term, but he is gifted offensively. We’re not going to discount top talent guys because they’re not tough.. If they’ve got NHL talent, they’ll find a job somewhere.. We can debate later, kind of like Sabres fans are now, that guys like Connolly aren’t true #1 centers… After all, there are only so many true #1 centers out there, and there’s surely not 30 to go around…

    Also, I’m just using Connolly as an example short-term. Obviously we’re hoping to develop Bjugstad or hoping Matthias steps up at some point.. But in the meantime, acquiring a playmaking center like Connolly would give them a decent 1A,1B center combo.. For a team like the Panthers that’ll never have $$$ to spend like the big market clubs, that may be their best chance…

    As far as Repik, every team seems to have “prospects” that many of us haven’t even heard of, but I think he’s just another one of those over-hyped guys they’ve been pushing for far too long… Yes I would’ve like to see PDB give him some more PP time and top-line minutes to see if he really has it, but we also have to repsect the fact that these coaches watch him on a daily basis… And the last thing we want is more Horton-clones… It just seems to be more over-hyping because we haven’t drafted for 10+ years.. Ellerby, Anthony Stewart, Shvidki, Taticek, Globke,etc… LOTS of MISSES…

  • Frank Rekas (The Rat Trick)

    All in all we will struggle no doubt. At some point we need to attract a quality free agent, or make a trade that brings a top notch player here. This team spends money, just not on the right players