Coming off a convincing win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night, the Florida Panthers look like they are clicking on all cylinders in all facets of the game. They finally got scoring from the bottom lines, Jose Theodore was a brick wall in goal, and the team finally developed that killer instinct to keep the Leafs down. It was a very convincing performance, but there was one thing in the back of many people’s heads all night.
For a third consecutive game, head coach Kevin Dineen made the decision to list Erik Gudbranson as a healthy scratch. Even though this move wasn’t exactly controversial after the first game, the three straight games with no action has a few people a little worried. Fans can’t resist to ask themselves questions about this scenario. Is this just an issue of Dineen wanting to get him to watch NHL hockey from another perspective? Is it because Gudbranson hasn’t scored a point yet? Is there a mystery injury that is nagging him? And the worst of all of these, is Erik in Kevin’s doghouse?
Well, maybe there are some other things at play here, but Erik is in no way in Dineen’s doghouse. In a quote to Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel, Dineen said, “He’s engaged, he’s enthused, and he’s working hard, and that’s certainly what you want to see as a coach. We’re going to need a lot of players during the course of the year and he’s doing a good job for us.” That doesn’t sound much like talk from a coach that is disappointed in his player. At this point, any thoughts of Erik being in trouble is purely rumor, and it doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
The only problem for Erik is that ice time could be scarce in front of him. As Gudbranson is a -6 on the year with no points to show for his effort. His replacement, Keaton Ellerby, has been solid, if nothing. In fact, in the game against the Maple Leafs, Ellerby finished a +4 and threw in an assist. It was maybe his best game as a Panther.
If I had things my way, I would do my best to get both Ellerby and Gudbranson on the ice at the same time. I like what I’ve seen from both players, but unless Dineen decides to scratch a veteran, they both won’t be dressed at the same time.
Erik told the Rat Trick “Yeah, It is what it is, but I think it’s great that we have this inner competition throughout our team.We have so many skilled players…I want to get back out there.”
This will have to serve as a tough love lesson for Gudbranson in his rookie year. In the NHL, you have to produce night in and night out. Gudbranson does get it…Let’s see if he can apply that lesson next time he plays.
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Topics: Erik Gudbranson