Welcome to the first edition of The Ex-Panther Factor, where we track the goings on of Ex- Florida Panthers throughout the NHL. On a weekly basis I’ll be bringing you the lowdown of these former players that once played for our beloved franchise. Players that were either traded away, left via free agency, or were booted out of town in exchange for a six pack of Molson Canadien. If you’re looking for love and kisses each week, please don’t set yourself up for disappointment, as most of the time we will find that some of these players best years, were here in sunny South Florida, and even those weren’t that good. So take off your rose colored glasses, and put down the kool-aide.
Today we’ll look at three Ex-Panthers who all happen to play on the same team, the Calgary Flames.
First up is Niklas Hagman, who believe it or not is all of a sudden a 31 year old role player with the Calgary Flames. Hagman came to Florida as a third round draft pick in 1999, and has been very well traveled during his NHL career with stops in Dallas, Toronto, and now Calgary. His best season in Florida was in 2001-2002 when he had 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points on a very bad team. We did think at one point he had star potential as some people thought that he had the ability to score 25-30 goals consistently as a second line winger. Hagman found himself in Mike Keenan’s doghouse most of the time both because of his lack of consistent effort, and because Iron Mike typically wasn’t too fond of European players. Hagman was shipped off to Dallas for
a bag of pucks a seventh round draft pick, which goes to show how low his stock became. Hagman’s third season in Dallas was his best as he picked up 27 goals and 14 assists in a contract year, that later saw him sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent. Hagman had two more years of hitting 20 plus goals playing for the Leafs, before moving on to Calgary in the Dion Phaneuf trade in 2010. Hagman now resides mostly on the third and sometimes fourth line for Calgary, and if you never looked over there or watched their games, I’m sure you’d be asking “where is he”?
Olli Jokinen enjoyed the best years of his hockey life as a Florida Panther. During his time with the Panthers his career, came very close to being over, but was resurrected by (yes him) Mike Keenan, who saw something in the Finnish player. Keenan rode Olli, and he rode him hard. He made Jokinen not only the team captain, but a consistent point producer for the Panthers. Jokinen who you might recall was the third overall pick of the L.A. Kings in 1997, and came to us from the Island in the Roberto Luongo trade in 2000. Olli’s best season as a Panther was in 2006-2007 when he had 39 goals, 52 assists for 91 points while playing under the paint drying system of Jacques Martin. At one point during his career the Panthers had a line of Jokinen, Gary Roberts and Nathan Horton. Potential, experience, and grit written all over it. Uncle Jack found a way to screw that up, and Olli was never the same, and Gary at his age wanted to leave town and play for a winner, ended in Pittsburgh. The following season Olli had a horrible finish to the year point wise, and it was mostly due in my opinion to this untimely accident between he and Richard Zednik. Uncle Jack said Olli quit, Olli didn’t like playing for Martin, and unfortunately the player lost the battle.
Jokinen was traded in the off season of that year to the Phoenix Coyotes for Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton, and has been looking for his scoring touch ever since. Whether it’s because he’s never been given the role he played here in Florida as a top guy, or the fact that for some reason he was never the same after the Zednik accident, Olli has been under scrutiny everywhere he’s been. He has had moderate success with the Flames, but nowhere near the production he had here with the Panthers. Reunited with Keenan in 2008-2009 in Calgary at the trade deadline, Olli started off with a bang, but then quickly began to flame out (did you see what I did there?). He’s currently skating on a line with Jarome Iginla and Curtis Glencross, which on paper would seem to be a productive trio. Unfortunately Calgary is going through some rough times, and both Olli and Iggy need the puck to be productive.
Finally, Jay Bouwmeester who you heard me talk about in Rat Trick Radio episode number 7, was drafted by the Panthers as the number three overall pick in 2002. We actually traded down with Columbus so they could draft Rick Nash number one overall, and
Pittsburgh took Marc-Andre Fleury number tw Atlanta took Kari Lehtonen number two. Ahhhh, the mistakes we made! In any event, Jay was and still is a very gifted skater. Very smooth, effortless, and tireless. But as I watched him, I realized that’s where it stops. At 6′ 4″ Jay never plays to his size. He was never expected to be punishing, he just never seemed to be interested in applying his body to the opponent. Going down to block shots? Nope. Big guy, big slap shot? Nope. Sure he put up some points for us on some poor teams, scoring 15 goals two seasons in a row, but Jay felt that he was one of the top five defencemen in the league. I could never buy into that. I always wondered what did everyone see?
Finally after not being able to convince him to stay, Jay was traded to Calgary for a third round pick and the rights to Jordan Leopold. He wanted to be in the playoffs, and felt that if his career in Florida continued, he wasn’t sure he’d ever see them. Sure, be a part of the “problem”, but you don’t want to contribute to being part of the solution. Well, the last laugh is on the Flames as Jay is earning over $6 million dollars to be a very average blue liner. Oh, and did I mention he hasn’t played a playoff game yet? So what happened to Jay? I’ve heard many a commentator and analyst say the very same thing over and over. Big guy, great skater, with tons of potential. But, he’s not willing to bring it every night and every shift. While most people aren’t expecting him to play like Shea Weber, he continues to play like a very poor man’s Niklas Lidstrom. And in no way shape or form am I comparing the two other than Jay has some offensive skills that if he were to apply himself nightly, he just might have been at least in the same league as Nik. When it comes to Jay the perfect phrases are “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”, and “be careful what you wish for”. You wanted to play in a hockey hot bed with a boatload of media attention. You wanted to be on a playoff team and know what it’s like to play in the post season. Like the Meatloaf song goes, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”.
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