Not sure if this is a habit of toddlers in North Carolina, but for the Florida Panthers the beginning of the season will be all about telling us how optimistic we should be. Maybe we should. Or maybe we’ll come to our senses and realize that it’s better to not set the bar too high. Low expectations is most likely the way you want to handle yourself for the upcoming season. This isn’t my preseason prediction, but I’m warming you up to what it will look like, and it’s not going to be pretty. At least from me.
However, the team and media in South Florida will tell us to expect the unexpected. That this team will surprise us and that we’ll win more games than most observers and pundits (like me) will give us credit for. Blasphemy I say! While it’s apparent that we’re going to have a glut of players in training camp to fight for positions, the end result of the whole situation is we will continue to struggle to score goals no matter who makes the team. Believe it or not, Nathan Horton’s output has not been replaced. David Booth will be a mystery for at least the beginning of the season as we’ll probably be on pins and needles for at least the first 20 games with him.
Tomas Vokoun, one of the top goaltenders in the Eastern Conference is going to keep us in a lot of games that most other goalies wouldn’t. Despite the fact that we’ll have a fairly youthful defence with Dmitry Kulikov, Jason Garrison and who knows who else, we’re going to lose alot of games 3-2, than win 7-6. That’s just the way it’s going to be for now.
Cliff Viner called the Panthers a “Sleeping Giant” at one point over the summer. Can’t say that I agree with that. Well maybe the sleeping part, but giant? No way Jose. You can tell me that this team is going to be dressed up as whatever you want, but look at us on paper. Look at any other team in our division, as well as conference, and you tell me how we’re going to finish any higher than 15th?
Look at some of the question marks:
Michael Grabner-unknown prospect.
Chris Higgins- Can he find his scoring touch?
Little Stevie- Worked out with Gary Roberts this summer. Is missing Nathan Horton. Did he peak last year, or can he get any better? Remember the long stretch with no goals?
Rusty Olesz-Whatever will we make of him and his overpaid contract? A pretty expensive 3rd liner.
Erik Gudbranson-Can he make the team? Will he be given a fair shot?
Steve Bernier-Former first round pick. Has yet to live up to his billing. Can he find it here?
Tomas Vokoun-How long before he’s dealt? He does deserve to be on a winner doesn’t he?
Cory Stillman- How many steps has he lost, and can he provide any type of leadership?
Byron Bitz- Other than a cool name, is there anything else he offers that we haven’t had before?
Tyler Arnason- If he makes this roster, we’ve really got some problems.
Dennis Wideman-Which version do we get? The 2008-2009 or the 2009-2010? If we get the latter, we will suffer even more.
In trying to find the silver lining in all this, I can’t say that there’s one there. The media will blab about how much will be different now that Dale Tallon is here. Work ethic will change. No more country club atmosphere for the players to relax in. Produce or else. All that stuff is fine and dandy, and it’s esactly what we want to hear as fans.
Reality is, this pig ain’t pretty, no matter how much lipstick they put on it!
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