Manage Your Expectations. Hope & Pray For The Best.

The start of the NHL season is just a couple days away and I’m sure that everyone is pumped and ready for it to begin. As you know being a Florida Panther fan there hasn’t been too much to be “pumped up” about the last few seasons and for the most part this season will be the same.

My advice to you as you read this is just like the title says, manage your expectations. If you go into this season even with a slight notion that you feel we can make the playoffs, you’re setting yourself up for a heartbreak. If you actually think that finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference is doable, you’ll be disappointed. Take the following approach instead.

Hope that if nothing else they’ll play competitive hockey. With strong goaltending in Tomas Vokoun, one of the top goalies in the Eastern Conference, you know he’ll keep us in most games. That is when he’s not trying to make 50 saves. Which by the way has prompted Vokoun and backup Scott Clemmensen to donate $1.00 per save to the Jessica June Children’s Cancer Foundation this season. Very classy gesture by this dynamic duo.

Hope that rookie defenceman Erik Gudbranson who was offered a contract on Monday signs and plays to the NHL caliber level that we (I) seem to believe he can. I truly believe that this kid has the makings of a future captain for this organ-eye-zation. As well as my daughter’s boyfriend!

Hope that free agent acquisition Chris Higgins is able to bounce back and score anywhere from 22-28 goals. If he gets 30 that would be tremendous! Right now it seems as though he’s slated for the second line and with that and some power play time, if he can find that scoring touch again, it’s possible.

Pray that David Booth doesn’t suffer another head injury and returns to form himself. Anything north of 25 goals would be outstanding from Booth as well as being able to play injury free and appear in at least 75 games.

Hope that some General Manager out there needs a forward that could use a change of scenery and makes a pitch for Rusty Olesz. I still cannot believe that we’re stuck with such a non-productive player at such a stupid price. One of the things that Uncle Jack should have been forced to do when he bolted for Montreal was to take this drek with him.

Pray that team toughness somehow emerges. From where I don’t know. With Andrew Peters on waivers, and most likely about to spend most of his time in Rochester, the entire team must step up and protect each other. We are going to get stomped on every night if we don’t. Take a look around the league and see who’s in the East. Derek Boogaard, Colton Orr, Chris Neil, Jody Shelley, Patrcik Kaleta, Eric Boulton, and of course pests Matt Cooke and Sean Avery. Virtually every team has a bruiser of some sort. This is without even mentioning the guys that can play hockey like Mike Richards and Dion Phanuef, who will knock the snot out of you because they can, and when you let them, they keep doing it. Then they beat you by scoring goals.

Hope and pray the Peter DeBoer coaches like this is his last coaching opportunity ever. While he’s been here he’s been preaching accountability, responsibility and that he’s making his players earn their ice time. Take no prisoners Pete. You didn’t have much to work with your first two seasons and you have even less in this one. You can only go to the well so often. The problem is that you need to back up your threats. The country club atmosphere is over and you’ll never get these guys to believe that you mean business unless you punish them for lackluster behavior. No matter who the player is, no one should be above that code.

There are a ton of holes to fill and an abundance of weaknesses that are going to make this a long season. It doesn’t have to be miserable, and for all four of you reading this I’m telling you, it’s not the end of the world either, but let’s not kid ourselves.

I personally hate losing more than I like winning, but I know what to expect. I don’t have any delusions of granduer about how many wins we’ll have, and am not getting all worked up about making the playoffs this season. Don’t get me wrong, I want to win and win now. However, my advice to myself and to you is, be patient. Tough it out. If we’re competitive and lose that’s one thing. If however we spend the entire season beating ourselves with stupid penalties, poor passing, lackluster behavior, then yes, I will shoot myself.

I hope though that when I pull the trigger, I pray that I forgot to put the bullets in the gun!

Thanks for reading.

Your comments are always welcomed and appreciated.

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