Hope everyone out there is enjoying their Labor Day weekend. Hopefully, you weren’t too busy to realize that this was our last hockey-less weekend until late May, early June! We’ve made it, my friends! Beginning this Saturday, Florida Panthers hockey is back for its most anticipated season in recent memory.
Finally, we can finally start getting some answers to the questions we’ve been wondering since the draft and free agent signing period.
- How will this off-season’s acquisitions mesh with the holdovers from last year’s team? Is this team any better than it was a season ago?
- How will those players respond to the coaching of new coach Kevin Dineen?
- Which rookies are in prime pouncing position to force a management to make a tough decision to keep them in Sunrise?
- Has management done enough to get more fans to come out the Bank Atlantic Center?
Well, since I asked them, let me throw a few preliminary answers:
- How this team will mesh is the biggest question. Most of the players brought in as free agents all seem to have the physicality and desired toughness to go with the scoring. The greatest hope is that energy is embraced and copied by the guys still here. I think that happens, but how quickly they do it will go a long way into how this season ends up. And despite those in the media, this team will definitely be better. That may or not translate into significantly more wins but I think those that follow this team will do far less hand-wringing at this team’s effort and execution most nights. We’re on step one here.
- As for Kevin Dineen, I think he many factors in his favor that will ensure success. He has a great staff around him with assistants Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay. He also had a long, solid career in the NHL and just happened to play against one Ed Jovanovski. So they’ll be at least one guy in the dressing room who knows how he played as a player and give them some further insight as to what he expects as a coach.
- As for rookies, we already know of three: Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden. My predictions are that Gudbranson and Howden make it with Huberdeau going back to juniors. Dineen is already on record with his praise for Howden and Gudbranson is ready to be an NHL defensemen. But is there anyone else ready? It’s going to take an impressive camp performance. Luckily, we only have to wait until Saturday to find out if anyone is up to the task.
- As for attendance, the team couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. While weekends here belong to football to those who aren’t already hockey fans, the weeknights remain there for the taking since it looks like I have a better chance of winning the Mr Universe contest than the NBA starting on time. A strong start and the local sports media will be looking for something to fill the newscast with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James not playing. Early success will get positive press. After that, it’s up the fans to come back or for new fans to give the game a try.
See you guys at camp on Saturday! The Rat Trick will be out in force so, if you recognize us from our twitter pictures, please say hello!
Thanks for reading! Any and all comments are appreciated!
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