As we approach the start of training camp, we can expect to see more and more people/publications offering their predictions of how the 2011-12 is going to shake out. Fans of the Florida Panthers didn’t have to wait long to find out what The Hockey News thinks of their team’s chances. Tuesday, the magazine revealed through its website that it thinks the changes made by Dale Tallon will only result in the team finishing 14th in the Eastern Conference.
And surprisingly, I don’t have a problem with that. Now, don’t worry, I don’t actually think they’ll finish there, but I don’t have a problem with anyone picking the Panthers there. There’s a wealth of unknowns involved with this team that makes forecasting it difficult. In addition that a totally revamped roster, there’s a first-time head coach behind the bench in Kevin Dineen, who is also working with assistants he’s never worked with before.
Probably the biggest reason people will doubt the Cats prospects of breaking a decade long playoff drought is between the pipes. There hasn’t been, nor will there probably be, much positive thoughts with regards to Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen replacing Tomas Vokoun. It will be up to the revamped defensive corps to help make up for any talent drop off from Vokoun. But if Theodore can replicate the way he’s played for much of the past four seasons, there won’t be much of a drop off. If you read this site regularly, you know that we have some confidence that he’ll play quite well here.
Also, looking at the Conference, it’s tough to gauge as to which teams are in for a drop off from last year’s finish. Of the playoff teams from the East last season, I think it would be fair to say to that Philadelphia and Montreal may not be as good as they were last season, but will either of them drop out of the top eight? Are the New Jersey Devils going to miss the playoffs a second consecutive season? Do the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes have enough to contend for the playoffs?
Those are a lot of questions that need answering, and let’s face it, the Florida Panthers are NOT going to get the benefit of the doubt from anyone. And, let’s be honest, that’s probably pretty fair after the last ten seasons. But don’t worry Panther fans, these are just predictions. Let them have their say. What is being said right now has no bearing once this team takes the ice on October 8th in Long Island. And in my mind, negative press clippings aren’t necessarily a bad thing for a new coach to have in his motivational trick bag. In 53 days, this is team begins its journey of reversing the fortunes of the franchise.
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