Grading The Panthers First Quarter.

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Defence: It’s been kind of a turnstile the past few seasons in this area with all the players that have come and gone through here.  But one thing this year that you have to notice, is that for once it doesn’t take 8 passes to get out of the zone.  Now I don’t know if that has to do with Gord Murphy’s coaching, the players, or both.  Dennis Wideman and Jason Garrison (when healthy) have been solid additions.  Dmitry Kulikov however has taken a step back.   Bryan McCabe seems tentative at times.  Mike Weaver despite his size (5′-9″), plays much taller.  Someone else on this team should take notice.  Grade: C

Offence:  Like many of the previous years, we knew this one would be a challenge.  Scoring goals for Florida isn’t like shooting fish in a barrel.  Without a pure sniper, and with players that are streaky, the entire team has to work very hard at this.  With no creativity to boot, it’s not easy.  David Booth doesn’t even lead the team in goals, and has been “holding the stick” very tight lately.  He’s been stuck on five for quite a few games.  Pete the Bore has been double shifting him, and I actually think it’s making the poor kid even more frustrated.  Mike Santorelli has played very well, and leads the team in goals with six, while giving a great effort every night.  Michael Frolik is a talented player who is very streaky, but as of now is leading the team in points with 13.  Chris Higgins has been a non-factor offensively and is another player who’s snake bitten.  I expected more out of him, but it’s not like he has anyone to “dish” him the puck.

Cory Stillman, Rhino and Radek Dvorak are giving all they can offensively, and whatever we get from this trio we’ll just have to take.  Marty Reasoner has been a solid addition.  If he maintains the pace he’s on he’ll have a career high 40 points.  Finally Little Stevie.  He’s over matched and undersized for his role.  He’s had some nagging, and silly injuries, and has just about made me want to throw myself out a window most nights.  In the eight years he’s been here (or is it nine?), I keep hearing about how wonderful he is, etc., etc.  I’m no scout, I’m no general manager or coach, but I know this.  He’s a third line player on many teams.  Grade: D+

Special Teams:  The penalty killing unit has been superb, except for the past few games.  Whatever Gord Murphy is selling, these guys are buying, and I like it.  Mike Weaver has been a big help, and that was one reason why he was brought in.  Same for Higgy and Reasoner.  They hustle, challenge the shooter and eliminate the shooting lanes with active sticks.  It also helps to be one of the least penalized teams in the league.  While they’ve slid to the middle of the pack at 14th, their percentage is 83.1%.  Not too shabby, and with the recent slide, I’m hoping they turn that around.

Power play:  Much has been said about this horrific part of their game, that we even made Puck Daddy’s column on Saturday.  And by we I mean to include the Rat Trick site!  Last in the league with only five power play goals, and a percentage of 6.4%.  The streak as of this typing I believe is 0 for 37 or something like that, but who’s counting.  No creativity, no net presence, shots from the point only, and weak ones at that by Little Stevie.  Trying to cross the blue line while it’s stacked with the opposition, and dumping the puck in, but not being able to muscle our way to get control of it.  Jim Hulton is the culprit.  If we’d been able to score at least 5-6 additional goals on the PP, we could call it a power play, instead of piss poor.  Grade D.  Sorry, the PP drags this down.

Coaching:  I’m not wasting any time on Hulton Gord Murphy has been an excellent addition so far.  A huge improvement over Mike Kitchen.  Although, it could also be the players so let’s not bash Kitchen too much.  As for Pete DeBoer, I guess it would be hard for any coach to get more out of this team, but I can’t help but think that his tactics and his mannerisms are lacking.  I like a coach with fire in his eye’s and a mean streak.  For me there’s too much patting on the back, and not enough kicks in the arse.  When we stink, he should  say so and stop trying to find something good to say.  Your job is on the line too, and if you think for one minute that Dale Tallon is going to put up with mediocrity for too long, you’re mistaken.  Also, Pete’s lines make no sense sometimes and his double shifting of Booth is killing him.  Meanwhile Darcy Hordichuk plays 3 minutes a night, and one of our young potential goal scorer’s (Michal Repik) is for some reason firmly planted on the 4th line.  Waste.  Grade: C-.  If not for Gord Murphy this gets a D.

Now I’ve been on the opposite side of these conversations many times and they usually never came out good.  Well thanks to Miss Polk in third grade and Miss Wolfe in fifth grade, I’m ready to return the favor. :)

Overall grade:  D+.   Sure it would be easy to give this group a C, but with the problems and the issues that they have, that wouldn’t be fair.  It’s not just one or two items or players.  It’s a few items, and a few players as well as the coaching staff.  To quote a phrase from many “mafia” movies, “The Fish Stinks From The Head”.   Too many nights where the team isn’t  ready.  And for me that means that Pete’s on a short leash.  I had considered the overall grade to be a C, but Little Stevie screwed up the curve.

Thanks for reading.  Your comments are welcomed and appreciated.

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