Welcome to part one of The Rat Trick’s Florida Panther 2011-2012 season preview. All of us here have collaborated to make our own, unbiased and unseen predictions for the upcoming season. We have to do this in two parts due to the length of our answers. The title comes from a comment made by Brian Campbell. That alone signifies the new attitude. Without further delay let’s get into it.
First up is Scott Mullin:
I don’t know about anybody else, but I’ve got one of those warm, tingly feelings when I think of the Panthers for this year. The team has so much depth at all positions, and I don’t see any serious flaw in the lineup. Versteeg, Kopecky, Campbell, Goc, Fleischmann, and Jovo are just a few parts of the incoming talent. When you factor in the prospects coming up, the roster will have more talent than ever before. Patches have been filled, we have a new coach, and our playing style has proven to be more wide open and electrifying. There really is nothing not to like about the roster. For once in a long time, the Panthers’ have a solid NHL roster.
If there was an issue I have with the team right now, it might be that our goalie situation has not quite settled. Jose Theodore hasn’t been all that impressive in the preseason so far, but he’s a veteran. He’ll find his game and be a solid goaltender for Florida. He’s just too experienced and talented to implode.
If I were to guess about where the Panthers will stand after eighty-two games, I’m guessing the Panthers sneak into an eighth seed. There is plenty of talent on the teams in front of us, but Florida is not the worst team in the conference at all anymore. If the Panthers can score more, if Theodore can stop pucks consistently, and if a few other teams tank, there is no reason to believe that the Panthers won’t end their eleven-year streak of missing the playoffs.
What can the Panthers bring to the table here in 2011-2012? I believe the key to the Panthers success this season is in their goaltending, I think that if Jose Theodore and Jacob Markstrom can play well in net we will be in the playoffs, without a doubt. Because when you look at the teams in the Eastern Conference, I do think we are better than the New York Rangers, and better than the Habs. I think that this Panther team will be the seventh seed in the East this season. If we can stay injury free and our goaltending can hold up, this Panthers team will surprise a lot of people.
A few players that can help their success this season in getting into the playoffs are David Booth for one, being that I think, this season will be his breakout year. In the past, David hasn’t been surrounded by good Panther teams, and had still has been able to get 50 to 60 points out of some of those seasons. Now, the team is full of talent, and is most likely the best Panthers team Booth has ever played on. I’m predicting that he will have an explosive season. Another player to look out for this season, is new Panther Kris Versteeg. I believe he has a chance to have stability in his career and make South Florida his home for a long time. I’m looking for Versteeg to have one of the best seasons of his career.
Those are just two of the Panther players to watch out for this season. If I were to write about all the other Players that can bring greatness to this team, I would have written ten paragraphs, and that is one of the many reasons I think this Panther team can shoot right into the 2011-1012 playoffs and shock the entire NHL world.
From what I have seen with the Florida Panthers beginning with from free agency to the preseason games that they’ve played, I think the Panthers have the chance to finish 8th overall, and qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons. I say this is because the new talent that has been acquired by general manager Dale Tallon. He’s brought in some exciting players like Kris Versteeg, Scottie Upshall and Brian Campbell. I know that many people are concerned about the goalie status, but I believe Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen have got what it takes to be solid goaltenders for our club. While Clemmensen is hurt, Jacob Markstrom will get a chance as Theodore’s backup and could show us why he’s so highly praised.
We have a tremendously improved defense which will help our goalies. We don’t have to win 2-1 or 3-2 any more because we know we have players that can score. The players that we now have are all character guys and want to win, and they want to be here. With the combination of speed, skill, and the new attitude and determination, I can’t see why we won’t make the playoffs this season.
The Florida Panthers will make the playoffs this year, but it won’t be easy. They might have to face one of the top seeds in the first round of the playoffs. If the Panthers choose to start off the year with the goal of making the playoffs, which I believe has been the goal, they have the talent on and behind the bench to do it. A great example is this season’s Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball. On September 23rd, the Diamondbacks clinched the NL West after finishing the previous season in last place. It was former player, now coach, Kirk Gibson who was at the helm. In the past, the Panthers have not had enough heart. Some of the players cared, but the team as a whole usually just gave in when faced with a struggle. Some of this had to do with a lack of talent. Most of this had to due with a lack of motivation/coaching. Kevin Dineen brings an attitude to this organization that many fans have wanted here for a long time.
Before Andrew Jackson was President of the United States, he was a judge for a small village in Tennessee. A man was arrested for cutting the ears off of his infant child, in what had been described as a “drunken frolic.” This man was brought to court, where he cursed everyone in the room (including Jackson), and then just left; walking out into the street. Jackson demanded that the Sheriff retrieve him, but the Sheriff didn’t want to do it. The man had a pistol and threatened anyone who would corral him. Jackson called a ten minute recess and proceeded out into the street. There he encountered the man still threatening to shoot anyone who would dare touch him. Jackson looked him in the eye and raised pistols in each hand and proclaimed, “surrender, you infernal villain, this very instant, or I’ll blow you through.” The man gave up his arms and surrendered.
Later, when he was asked why he gave up to Jackson after multiple attempts by many others. He said that he looked Jackson in the eye, and all he saw was “shoot,” and he didn’t see “shoot” in anyone else’s eyes. That’s the kind of passion that should flow through this hockey team. Opposing teams should fear facing the Panthers, because they will be a team that will play hard every night. This team should come out for every game, starting with the first one against the Islanders, the same way they would come out for game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. Confidence is key.
Confidence is what many young Panthers players have shown throughout the camps and the preseason. Erik Gudbranson and Jonathan Huberdeau are going to be very exciting players for this team. GM Dale Tallon has said that he doesn’t want to rush any prospects, which is a good idea, but I don’t think it is rushing them if they are ready. It would be a waste to not give them at least a rookie tryout. The new veterans bring depth and grit. During the preseason game against the Dallas Stars, the first Panthers goal was scored by Tomas Fleischmann from Tomas Kopecky and Kris Versteeg. No one could have called that on June 30th. Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski bring solid skating ability and defensive skills to complement the new offensive threats. What is very exciting about the upcoming season, are the players that have been here. Players like Stephen Weiss and David Booth are going to have a great year, thanks to the wealth of players that may now complement them. There are so many things to be excited about, that if you love the sport of hockey, you will want to follow the Panthers now, more than ever.
1. Washington Captials (~106 pts) 2nd in East
2. Florida Panthers (~96 pts) 7th in East
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (~93 pts) 8th in East
4. Carolina Hurricanes (~86 pts)
5. Winnipeg Jets (~80 pts)
Part two of our Panther Preview will post later today. Please make sure you come back for that.
As always thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
Please visit our NHL main page: Too Many Men On The Site.
Follow the Rat Pack on Twitter: me @TheRatTrick , David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Josh Luecht @joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin @patrckmclaughln , Scott Mullin @ScottFMullin, Cameron Tahernia @Lord_Panther, and Yuri Peralta @FlaPanthersGirl. Also, please join our Facebook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and make some comments.