Welcome to another edition of the Sunday Conversation. Today’s topic concerns the Florida Panthers and an area of their game that’s been lacking for the past few seasons. As everyone who’s a fan of this club (and yes we have fans) knows, toughness hasn’t been part of the scheme. Previous coach’s Uncle Jack (Jacques Martin) and Pete DeBoer both seemed to have an aversion to having an enforcer type on the team. We have seen the likes of Wade Belak, who is truly a stand up guy, Steve MacIntyre and to some degree Gregory Campbell and Mike Duco be placed in those roles. While Belak was probably the most qualified player not only to be the enforcer, but a decent enough guy to play more than 3 minutes per night, the Panthers basically avoided this element.
The opposition in the past has basically run us over (Mike Richards vs. David Booth, Jaroslav Spacek vs. David Booth), with nary a response. While also being a long time fan of the Chicago Blackhawks, I will tell you that last season they lacked toughness, which turned out to be one of the glaring reasons that they had an early exit in the playoffs. However, they addressed that this offseason with a few key free agent signings. The Hawks will not only be skilled, but will be tough to play against, and no one is going to run over Kane and Toews without having to respond to someone.
This is one area about Florida that concerns me slightly this season. Yes, we added some real characters, and I don’t mean in a funny way (Kris Versteeg). No doubt the team has players now that if they live up to their expectations, they will make us harder to play against. However, when I look up and down the roster is there a player that will make the opponents tough guy say, “I better watch my back”? Matt Bradley is probably the closest thing we have to that, and while he’ll drop the gloves whenever necessary, I don’t think he puts that fear, or second guessing into the likes of a Dan Carcillo, or a Matt Cooke should they have to be dealt with. Even Patrick Kaleta from Buffalo wouldn’t be wary of our roster. However as I look up and down the remaining free agent list, there really isn’t anyone left that would provide what we’re looking for in this area.
So my question today is “Are We Tough Enough”? Follow that up with does it really matter, and if so, how will we address it?
My closing comments are that the Panthers needed to address a number of areas this offseason, and they certainly did the best they could by acquiring the players that they did. Even youngster Erik Gudbranson brings an edge to his youthful spirit, but I don’t want my prized possession being our tough guy at 19 years old. If he’s taking Little Miss Rat Trick to prom, his face needs to be perfect. (shameless plug)
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