It is time now to provide some answers to questions we will all be asking. The Florida Panthers will play 82 games to see if I will be right, wrong or completely out of my mind. I won’t pretend to have psychic powers or be an actual soothsayer, but I will attempt to predict as his excellency himself, Carnac The Magnificent would, the future, before it happens. Don’t know Carnac? Well in honor of Friday Flashback, here he is. While some know that the Panthers are growing but not quite ready for the center stage, I’m predicting Big (G) things. In a mostly serious, but partially just guessing mode, here’s what the I see:
Team Leader In Goals:
There are a few players to choose from here, but I have a hunch that Kris Versteeg, Steeger, VERSTEEG, VerBeauty, Verglesies (please let’s pick one) will be the team leader in goals with a nice round number of 33. I know, he’s never scored that many before, but he’s also never seen consistent time on the first line either. VERSTEEG is so happy to be here, he’s been singing about it.
Team Leader In Points:
This one might surprise you, but if this guy is healthy, Flash is going to pile up 72 points and lead the Panthers in this category. Based on scoring 24 goals and dishing the puck 48 times, Flash will more than earn his keep, and be everything we could have asked for.
Team Leader In PIMs (that would be penalties in minutes):
Matt Bradley. Brought here for his toughness and his willingness to stick up for his teammates, Matt will finally end the pushing and shoving without responding that you’ve grown weary of watching. Total? 127.
A statistic to some that means a lot, while others can’t figure out how to calculate it, the plus/minus leader will be Brian Campbell with a plus of 18. To have a Florida Panther with a positive plus minus in double digits will be quiet the achievement for a club that has a history of struggling to score more goals than they give up. Not this year!
Ranking The Special Teams:
The power play can’t get any worse than last season, but with all the balanced scoring we have it has to get better, or someone better get fired! The addition of Brian Campbell (there’s his name again) finally gives the Panthers a quarterback with hockey sense and experience. A perfect combination. After finishing last in the entire league last season, this year’s unit will vault all the way up to 16th. That has got to equate to more wins. As for the penalty kill, last year the Panthers finished 6th overall. With assistant coach Gord Murphy as the driving force behind the unit’s success, they will climb one slot to 5th due to the better overall play of each player who wears a Panther’s sweater.
This Guy Will Have a Huge Year:
Erik Gudbranson will challenge for rookie of the year, which would be quite a feat for a defenceman if he won it. His play will be consistent, and heavy. Meaning he’ll use his body to muscle players out of the crease, finish his checks in the corners, and drop the mitts on occasion if needed. Playing along side Ed Jovanovski, BigG will be allowed to take some offensive chances at times, and his booming slap shot should create big scoring chances leading to big wins. Big!
The Biggest Disappointment:
You have your projection and I have mine, but I don’t think that Keaton Ellerby will be as good as some think he is. Sorry Dave as I know how much you like him, but for some reason it’s taken Ellerby a long time to develop and be NHL ready. I’m not saying he’s going to be bad, but I am saying he’ll be below average. I want to be wrong, but…….
If This coach Doesn’t Win It All He’s Out:
I bet you’re all thinking I’m going to say Jacques Martin, but no it’s not him. Alain Vigneault and the Vancouver Canucks have a ton of pressure on them to win. The only thing that stands in the way of a Canuck championship is the Chicago Blackhawks. And of course Roberto 7uongo.
How many points will we have:
Enough to finish in the 8th spot. I have no clue what that will be. 93, 95, 89? I have no idea. I do know that if everything goes right, we stay healthy, we’ll have enough points to finish 8th. This is the year fans that you set the bar high and you stick to it. Don’t accept anything less. Since I predicted Washington to finish first, that sets up a Panthers-Captials first round playoff. At this point my good friend (sarcasm) Mr. Knowsnothing in section 119 can complain about Tomas Vokoun all he wants.
Final score on opening night:
2-1 Florida Panthers. Jose Theodore gets the win making 28 saves.
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