Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon and Head Coach Peter DeBoer have gone public with their feelings about how the Cats have played so far. To summarize, they both like the way the team is playing so far into this young season. With a 7-8 record the Panthers have 14 points. To put that in perspective, they are three points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and three points out of the 15th spot in the Eastern Conference. And last in the Southeast Division.
They also admitted that they aren’t throwing any parades for a team with a .500 record. Thank goodness for that as we don’t need any confetti at this point. The two are focused more with how the Panthers are playing rather than what the record is. And as I said in my post yesterday, the record could be slightly different with a couple subtle changes to the roster.
As my question in the title asks, are you the fans happy? I will admit that they’ve played very well at times, and seem to be working hard most nights. Some of the new additions are making some decent impressions. Marty Reasoner has been a huge addition especially on the penalty kill unit. Mike Santorelli has scored in consecutive games and has been impressive with his speed and tenaciousness. While I think he still needs to become more of a finisher on his scoring chances, I like what he brings to the game. Dennis Wideman has been a minute muncher on defence and has played very well to this point.
What’s amazing at this point so far in the season that while the Panthers seem to be hanging around and have been competitive in most of their games, there are some other surprises in the conference that make you raise your eyebrows a bit, and are also part of the reason Florida is still in it so to speak. Who would have thought that the New Jersey Devils with Ilya Kovalchuk, would be struggling the way they have been. Injuries or no injuries, they have always been a very resilient team. The Buffalo Sabres also have gotten off to a slow start and are out of the playoff race so far. The Tampa Bay Lightning however have surprised the other way as even though they are without Vinny Lecavalier who is out with a broken hand, they are in the top eight in the East.
If the Panthers want to sniff a playoff spot, they will have to play a touch better than .500 hockey for the remainder of the season. Is it possible? With this roster of complimentary players and no superstar other than goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who deserves a chance to play for a winner, this unit must work their arse’s off every single night. A task that will be very difficult to do over 82 games. Not one game on their schedule is easy, and that’s what makes it hard for this team.
They can’t take any nights off. And if they have an “off” night, they’ll get steamrolled by an elite team like they did Saturday night against the Flyers. They will have to string together a few winning streaks though before they can be called impressive. A few runs of four to five in a row will help them, but if they follow that with the reverse, then there won’t be any progress.
I’m a tough customer when it comes to this team and if you want me to answer my own question about am I pleased I would have to say this: I’m pleased with where they are right now, and actually expected them to be slightly worse off. However, I expect more from a few players and if those players aren’t able to step it up, then finishing 12th to 15th will be a reality. Going full throttle each and every shift over 82 games is hard for anyone. It’s harder when you lack talent and in some cases hockey smarts.
The season is still young, but while the Boss’s are pleased, you can’t say there isn’t room to improve.
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