Three games left to our season. For as much as it’s been a long year, it’s actually gone quite quickly when you think about it. When things began, my prediction was that the Florida Panthers would finish 15th in the Eastern Conference, exactly where they are today. Now I’m no Carnac the Magnificent, but I feel as though I have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about. (Breaks elbow patting self on back). Many people felt that the Panthers were better than that, and at times during the season they were. Much better. The harsh reality however is that the style of play that was asked of them, could not be maintained for 82 games. Impossible actually.
You can’t be expected to have your goaltender give up two goals or less every single game as you struggle to get two yourself on most nights. (Season average is 2.4). Your power play can’t be at or near the bottom of the entire league all season. You can’t score with the man advantage, and you can’t score with a two man advantage, your designing a recipe for failure. Not the Blueprint for a winning team. This team has had to play mistake free hockey for an entire season. A very stressful and difficult thing to do with the roster that they had. And I’m talking before the trade deadline and not after. Granted there were a bunch of games that could have and should have been won. We will wonder and the pundits will say that the players could have dug deeper….the coach could have been more emotional….the mental toughness should have been better. What if a few of those reviewed calls had been overturned? Questions upon questions will be asked by us all.
The answers to those questions are many, but the bottom line is…… and I have felt this for quite some time….that without a real number one center, a pure goal scorer, a nasty defenceman, and some physical presence, this team had no chance. They came close a few times, but reverted back to their old ways. Collectively they just didn’t have enough to get the job done. Goaltending is not the issue here…. Mr. Knowsnothing in section 116. Goaltending hasn’t been a problem since day one of the franchise. It’s scoring mostly. Until that’s fixed we will be sadly disappointed every year. We need to be bigger too. I was glad to hear Assistant GM Mike Santos say after the second period of Saturday nights game that the plan is to get bigger.
Since the trade deadline however, we have been on a downward spiral. New faces trying to get adjusted to each other. Injuries that have finally caught up, and new one’s that have developed have all contributed to the current eight game tailspin. I’m not making excuses, just stating facts.
Also since the deadline there have been many fans saying that losing is the best recipe for the balance of the year. Getting the top pick is better than getting someone at 6th or 7th. Maybe. Maybe not. Your drafting kids. 18 year old athlete’s who have to be pretty special to play in the NHL right out of the draft. There aren’t many that can do that. You also have to surround those players with veterans and skilled players to help the development of the player. Both on and off the ice. throw in there the distractions of South Florida, and you have another set of issues. The thing is that for every Jeff Skinner, there’s always a Denis Shvidki. You pass on Jarome Iginla and you take Radek Dvorak. NO slight against Radek, as he was a very serviceable player. It’s just such an unknown.
Getting or wishing to finish in the basement is something I can’t condone. If it happens because we are beaten by better teams, fine. I don’t wish losing games upon this organEYEzation however. Years and years of losing is taxing. Playing in front of a half empty arena is depressing. I don’t have fun when we lose. I can’t. Same can be said for Little Miss Rat Trick who has turned into quite the hockey fan herself. Who said losing was supposed to be fun? Can you really walk out of the arena and say “well at least I had fun” after your team loses a game?
The basement which is a place this team looks like they’ll end up in, is a dark, damp, cold and lonely place. Some people think that there’s a diamond in the rough down there. Really? Well if you feel that we get the chance via the “lotto” to draft one of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Sean Couturier, remember, if he turns out like Denis Shvidki, you’ll be wishing you stayed at the top of the stairs with me. If you are going down there I suggest you bring your flashlight!
NOTE: THE RAT TRICK GANG (RAT PACK) IS PLANNING A PRE-GAME GET TOGETHER AT THE BASEMENT BUD LITE TERRACE ON SATURDAY APRIL 9TH. The last home and regular season game of the year. Meeting time is 6:00 P.M. We’d love to see you, meet you and thank you for being with us here all season long. Stop on by!
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