Thursday evening as the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers battled for the basement of the Eastern Conference, NHL executives gathered in the office of commissioner Gary Bettman and hammered out an unprecedented ruling that will change the history of the Florida Panthers franchise forever. The meeting held along with Miami Heat player Le Bron James, who has agreed to donate his salary to ensure that the Panthers will spend to the cap limit next season, guarantees that the Panthers will appear in the playoffs this year! Thus reversing the record setting 10 year playoff exile that would have been set.
The Panthers who are now tied for 15th place in the Eastern Conference, and 17 points out of the final playoff spot, will now be allowed to enter the post season for the first time since Bill Clinton was president, and little Miss Rat Trick was playing her first season of T-Ball. Ah such fond memories. The NHL felt that there were a number of factors that contributed to their decision, and is prepared to stand behind this first ever change of the system. Speaking of system, Jacques Martin did have something to do with this. So much for boredom!
Here are some of the main reasons that the NHL felt that their reversal of the Panthers fortune was necessary for the good of the game. Keep in mind that the entire discussion occurred in the “quiet room” of Mr. Bettman’s office.
* The maddening calls that went against the Panthers this year on goals that were allowed by the gang in the Toronto War room have been reversed. They actually couldn’t remember if it was five calls or six, but assuming that it was five, that’s 10 points. The after effects of winning those games could have resulted in a momentum swing where Florida could have won an additional five games, therefore a 20 point differential in all. Thus vaulting the Panthers into the top eight. See how the math works?
* The additional fact that another February of trade rumors were circulating became such an emotional burden on the team, an NHL sports psychologist suggested that this was a situation where the mental toughness of the group was severely tested. “No professional athlete should go thru this continually”. After reading the good doctor’s 689 page report (which is thicker than the league’s CBA agreement) it was felt that the boys should be given a chance to experience playoff hockey because of it. Stephen Weiss was relieved to hear this as he experienced the most difficulty in seeing another season of friends departing.
* The contract status of certain players who were awarded unnecessary and inflated deals by a general manager who skipped out, leaving a team in shambles, shouldn’t handcuff a team. It was decided that since former General Manager Jacques Martin signed forward Rostislav Olesz to such an absurd deal, Olesz has promptly been sent to Montreal for Martin to deal with. In return the Panthers have received forward Michael Cammalleri and center Tomas Plekanec. Cammalleri as compensation for Olesz, and Plekanec as compensation for pain and suffering. Olesz remains out for the balance of the season. Martin shrugged his shoulders when told of the deal. Please keep reading after the jump.
* Mike Keenan was consulted on the situation and was asked if he would reverse the trade that sent goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks. The NHL felt that Luongo deserved a chance to be the goaltender representing the Panthers in the playoffs. Keenan agreed to reverse the trade under one condition only….that he be brought back to coach the Panthers for the remainder of the season and playoffs. Also, Keenan requested demanded to have a final say in any personnel moves. The deal was completed late last night and in time for Luongo to be at this morning’s scrimmage. Shortly after the scrimmage however, where Luongo gave up seven goals on nine shots, Keenan dealt the shaken Luongo promptly to Winnipeg for Ed Belfour. Keenan saying, “I know there’s no team there, but if there was, that’s where I would have sent him to begin with. No offence to the people of Winnipeg. It’s just my feeling that Luongo still hasn’t gone through the maturation process of an NHL goaltender”. The Panthers also signed free agents Brian Noonan, and Stephan Matteau to help with the playoff push. Gary Roberts was added as the team’s trainer and conditioning consultant. Keenan and Dale Tallon are convinced that these three players and Roberts will provide the necessary leadership in the dressing room. It would be Keenan’s second stint behind the bench for Florida. In typical Keenan fashion, and to find out the level of conditioning, a bag skate is scheduled for Saturday morning at 6:30 A.M. and is open to the public.
* Finally, since the Panthers now have qualified for the playoffs, a team needed to be removed from the top eight to even things out. As the night turned into morning the debate which continued over drinks and pizza, ultimately resulted in the execs elbowing each other in the head unnecessarily. It was finally determined that the Pittsburgh Penguins would be given the bad news that they would not be appearing in the post season. The decision was really pretty simple. Matt Cooke, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would not be available for the first round anyway, therefore the league felt that there would be no significant loss. Sources say that Mario Lemieux is preparing a letter to the league in an effort to reverse this decision.
Someday we’ll enjoy the postseason……..
As you all know today is April Fools Day. I couldn’t bring myself to write a typical post on such a holiday, and had been tossing this around in my head for awhile. Sure, none of it is true, none of it makes any sense, and with the Florida Panthers in the midst of a seven game losing streak, I had to do something to amuse myself…..and hopefully you too!
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