We continue with our staff predictions for the upcoming season with part 2 of our preview of the Florida Panthers. In case you missed part one, it’s right here. Following with the word “unacceptable” we continue on with our expectations. The of the season. The bar has been raised here in South Florida. Competing will be expected on a nightly basis. Winning will be expected on a consistent basis. Anything less is well….unacceptable.
While many websites and publications predict the Florida Panthers to finish 13th or worse, I really feel that over the course of the next 82 games, this team will fare far better than that. With the talent, scoring, and character added, I feel that this team is capable of finishing between 8-10. With that prediction, yes, I’m saying that it is very possible that Panthers can break the longest playoff drought in league history and make it to the postseason. It’s going to take many things going in their favor, but hopefully, this team has earned a break after a decade of frustration.
The talent level in Sunrise has been raised greatly with all the action of management during the summer. The result is the ability to throw four quality lines at opponents. While there is no ‘dominant’ line with a 35+ goal scorer, there are four lines each with measure of ability to put the puck in the net. The defense also got a boost with the addition of Brian Campbell to go with a defensive corps that was already pretty good last season. Campbell will also help quarterback a power play that was,well, awful last season. The D also gets a shot of old and new in the return of Ed Jovanovski and the expectation that Erik Gudbranson will make this year’s team. Both bring that touch of nasty that’s been needed by this team.
Ironically, the biggest question on this team is goaltending. After a rough couple of outings in the preseason, Jose Theodore hasn’t exactly earned the trust of fans and coaches. Coupled with the surgery on Scott Clemmensen, who will be out for about a month, and the position that has been so solid for years is now a bit of a question. Perhaps I’m just being optimistic, but I have faith that Theodore will rebound once the games start for real. He may not be Tomas Vokoun, but with the improvements elsewhere on the team, he won’t have to be for this team to be successful.
New coach Kevin Dineen has a challenge in front of him, as he now has a dressing room full of veterans but his reputation as a player (that Jovanovski can easily recount to those that don’t know, as they played against each other). He’ll have help as Gord Murphy stays in-house to take care of the penalty kill, an area of strength last season. Brought in to cure the power play, Craig Ramsey has an uphill climb as he tries to fashion together two units from a pool of players who don’t have much experience playing together. But it’s a solid staff that should help Dineen as me makes the transition from coaching in the minors to coaching an NHL team.
I won’t come out and boldly predict playoffs, but maybe. Just maybe.
Josh has been spending an enormous amount of time producing our new podcast Rat Trick Radio. We hope that you are enjoying our shows and without putting Josh and the rest of us on the spot, you can look forward to these weekly. I was able to pull Josh away from production for his comments on the upcoming season.
The Florida Panthers bring a new show to a town that is desperate for something to watch, that in itself is an indicator of how the Panther’s culture is changing, and how the Panther’s locker room needs to respond with a playoff push. When Brian Campbell says something like “It’s unacceptable to not make the playoffs” it gets me going because we have been waiting a long time for a player of his caliber who can back up his words to lead this team into the postseason.
Are there obstacles to this process? Yes, goaltending isn’t necessarily ideal, there is no 40-50 goal scorer on the team, and there is new coaching that will take time to gel. But do the Panthers have the tools they need to succeed? Yes, they do.
My prediction? The Panthers will make the playoffs for the first time after an NHL record setting 11 consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance. They will play hard every night, they will score more, they will be better…and Tallon’s plan will come together nicely.
There hasn’t been this much excitement for a Florida Panthers season to begin since the lockout ended in 2005. The anticipation and excitement that has been generated by the offseason moves and signings has the town of Sunrise, and the Florida Panther faithful buzzing. Or should I say growling? While many pundits feel and predict that this Panther team will be no better than last year, I am here to state that they will be wrong. Whether you look at the roster the Panthers started the season with last season, or the roster the Panthers ended with, you can’t actually believe that this year’s version won’t be better. Delusional if you can’t see the improvement.
Eleven new players that have either been signed or traded for have joined our organEYEzation. Two years in a row of solid drafting have yielded us promising players like Erik Gudbranson, and Jonathan Huberdeau, who both could be in the opening night lineup against the New York Islanders. New faces, new slogans (We See Red), new home sweaters (red), and a completely new attitude, along with new head coach Kevin Dineen have contributed to us anxiously awaiting the start of the season. Also the competition for roster spots hasn’t been at this level in years. Coach Dineen has indicated more than once that no job is guaranteed and no one’s job is going to be safe. The depth of the organization hasn’t been this deep since forever.
Offensively while we didn’t acquire that 40 goal scorer we’ve desperately been screaming for, we now have at least six forwards that have the ability to score 20 or more goals. New faces such as Kris Versteeg (VERSTEEG!), Tomas Fleischmann (Flash), and Scottie Upshall will add a level of skill and playmaking that you haven’t seen on this team in years. Character guys like Marcel Goc, Tomas Kopecky, and Matt Bradley will add the grit and sandpaper that’s been sorely missing as well. Sean Bergenheim a player that had a fantastic playoff performance with Tampa Bay, could be the sleeper in all this, as he is just one of the many new players acquired that is entering his prime. With the new uptempo (thank god) offensive style that Coach Dineen will utilize, the goal scoring and power play success will improve by leaps and bounds. The scheme of watching paint dry offensively by previous head coaches has been removed. Finally, once and for all.
On defence the addition of Brian (Soupy) Campbell will finally give the Panthers a puck moving defenceman who will improve the power play, and allow the Panthers to get out of their zone without taking 7 passes to do so. Ed Jovanovski returns home for a few reasons. To provide veteran leadership along with Soupy, and to mentor the young defenceman like Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov. I also have a hunch he’s our new captain.
There is one area that fans might be concerned about, and that is in goal. Tomas Vokoun could not be retained and the Panthers had to act quickly, and signed veteran Jose Theodore to a two year deal. Jose hasn’t had the best of training camps and he knows it. Goalies take time, and can often start out slow. He’ll be ready. Remember, and this means you too Mr. Knowsnothing in section 119, he doesn’t have to be brilliant. We have a team now that can win games 4-3 instead of trying to hang on to 2-1 leads.
With all the improvements and changes that have taken place, many are concerned about the chemistry of the club. How long will that take to gel is the big question. Many of these players have already played together. You think Dale Tallon didn’t know that? It will take some time to click I agree, but with the level of experience, skill and work ethic that was brought in, I’m pretty sure that a playoff spot is within reach. A lot has to go right, and I believe that it will. So should you.
Let’s drop the puck already!
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