The music for today is Fader by Temper Trap.
Eleven players. New personalities that need to mesh with remaining players who may be either long time veterans, first or second year youngsters, or guys that are on contracts that will expire soon. Fighting for jobs, for for ice time, and fighting to validate their worth. One goal, one objective however is this. TO WIN.
For the first time since a guy by the name of Pavel Bure skated circles around the NHL for just shy of 140 goals in two plus seasons, this Florida Panther organization has created a buzz in the city that’s been missing for too long. A 10 year playoff drought, which we all don’t need to be reminded of, is an NHL record. Countless front office and coaching changes, bad trades and poor free agent signings had doomed this club. All of these factors contributed to what had become the laughing stock of the NHL, the doormat of the league. The team that outsiders think that no one cares about. The team that people think will end up in Quebec, Hamilton, or Siberia.
As a long time season ticket holder of this team (14 years), I don’t need to be reminded of all this as I have watched it evolve, and have had my share of letdowns, frustrations, and feeling of numbness at times. Yes I admit to you I there were times I didn’t care. There were games I would go to the rink and think in the back of my head, I don’t care if they lose tonight….there’s no other way for this turnaround to happen unless they get beat and people wake up. Those thoughts are long gone, as is my sarcastic opinion about the way things have been going. For once it appears that the country club atmosphere, the lazy non caring attitude, and nonchalant approach is history. And what is being talked about by the media and the pontificators? Team chemistry. You would think that people thought we were mixing oil and gasoline for godsakes. Is it me or has no other team had a major roster shakeup recently? Is it me or has a team that made absolutely no changes at all to their club won the Stanley Cup? Jealousy.
The Montreal Canadiens are one team that has gone through a maze of players over the past two seasons, and if not for the paint drying system of Jacques Martin, could have ended up advancing further in the playoffs than they have. However they’ve made the playoffs and have been able to have some success. But I digress. Sure 11 new players is a complete roster overhaul, but after not making the playoffs for 10 seasons, and having to spend over 24 million dollars to get to the salary cap floor, what were we supposed to do? People complain about the money we handed out. Sure some of it was overpayment, I completely agree. We had to so that we could compete with other teams to get these players signed. I suppose it would have been better to give these players less money, and sign more free agents, or give less players even more money than we’ve given them. To the bashers and jealous folks out there, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
With all this yakety yack of chemistry, and questions about will they get along, and will they be able to play with each other, you’d think that Dale Tallon just signed Matt Cooke, Sean Avery, Alexander Semin, Nikolai Zherdev and Ales Kotalik. All players that are either malcontents at times, or do and say things on and off the ice that get them in trouble. Dale has signed or acquired nothing of the sort. There isn’t one troublemaker in the bunch. He’s too smart for that. The players that he’s acquired all have strong character, all work hard, all want to be here. And all want to win. They not only have playoff experience, but a few of them Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky also are Stanley Cup champions. Players who know what it takes to win. Take a look at how Kris Versteeg responded in Friday’s press conference:
Question: With your old club making the moves they did, did you sense something might happen and did you have any idea that this was a team that would be interested in you?
Versteeg: Given myself and my track record I think you should expect anything can happen (laughs) but with Dale here, I knew if I was going to go anywhere, it was probably here. He’s been a guy that’s masterminded a Stanley Cup victory in Chicago. He’s a guy who brought me in when I was 20 years old. He’s someone I believe in and I couldn’t have been happier to come anywhere than here. Especially with guys like Soup who I’ve played with before and Kopy, who I played against since I was 16 in the WHL. It’s going to be a lot of fun and we’re all looking forward to it.
No one is proclaiming a Stanley Cup championship this coming season, we’re not getting carried away with that. And to you Craig Button who claims that we aren’t any better than last season, I ask what the hell kind of medication are you on? Compare last years roster to this one right now. There is no way we aren’t a better team. As for the chemistry part of it, while I have never played professional hockey, I have played as well as coached a variety of other sports at different levels, team chemistry is an important part of any team. I get that. But unless you have a bunch of thugs, and malcontents, and goofballs, it’s not going to be as big of an issue that people are making it out to be. It’s time to move on from the past mistakes. Maybe we didn’t get the return that we wanted on certain deals, but so what. I’m no longer agitated that we hung on to Jay Bouwmeester too long and got virtually nothing in return. It never bothered me that we traded Bobby Lose because of his contract demands which went beyond money…. and this is where his spoiled brat behavior started. Hate Mike Keenan all you want, but at the time, Bobby was letting in the same soft goals you see him letting in now. Only we don’t have to pay 10 million dollars for it.
There are times when addition comes by subtraction, and for a year that’s what the Panthers did. We have all talked about getting rid of the dead wood, and it appears that finally we have. Will all these players mesh? Will there be cliques? Will players not get along everyday? Hopefully, maybe, and probably. The negativity that continues to surround this franchise by outsiders should once and for all be changed for happiness and good wishes.
As I have always said, it’s easy to point out the problems, it’s another to find the solutions. Some people are only happy when they have something to complain about. Well guess what, there aren’t any complaints here. Now go pour some beer on your cereal.
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