Welcome to another edition of The Ex-Panther Factor, where I talk about former members of the Florida Panthers. As Josh put it a couple weeks back during one of our podcasts, I seem to be able to change the lives and destinations of players since I began this weekly feature. In the past I’ve written about Niklas Hagman, Jay Bouwmeester, Olli Jokinen, Rostislav Olesz and Keith Ballard. Hagman and Olesz were each promptly put on waivers and cleared. Hagman was ultimately picked up by the Anaheim Ducks and Olesz is in Rockford of the AHL. Keith Ballard missed a few games with a back injury and is now potential trade with the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve really impressed myself!
Today we’ll look at a player that for some reason I was always pulling for while he was a member of the Florida Panthers, Anthony Stewart. Stewie as he was often called had a tough go of it here in Florida after being drafted in the first round (number 25) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. His size which now is listed as 6’3” and 230 lbs would let you believe that he could have been the power forward that the Panthers were looking for back then. His goal scoring ability in the OHL while playing for the Kingston Frontenacs was pretty solid as he had years of 19, 32, 35 and 32 goals. Anthony’s story however would unfortunately not translate very well to the NHL during his time here in Florida.
The son of a poor family who was born in Lasalle, Quebec, Anthony fought very hard during his youth and teenage years to get to the draft and the NHL. His parents both worked multiple jobs so they could afford his equipment, and make sure he could get to games as a youngster. His brother is Chris Stewart now a member of the St. Louis Blues after spending time in Colorado, seems to be on his way to a solid NHL career. Anthony on the other hand seems to be struggling to make either a name for himself, or to find a place in the game. His best season as a Florida Panther was in 2008-2009 when he played in 59 games and had two goals and five assists for seven points playing mostly on the fourth line. Kind of difficult to score when you only get five minutes or less per game, and when you’re placed with players whose skill is about as good as mine on skates.
Anthony didn’t do himself any favors though as he showed up at training camp a couple times overweight and out of shape. He admitted prior to 2008 that he may not have taken the game seriously enough. It also didn’t help that the two coach’s he played for Jacques Martin and Peter DeBoer barely trusted him enough to play him more than they did. I always wonder though if Anthony had been given a real opportunity to play for a consistent amount of time either on the second or third line would his fate have been different. I’m not here to say I know any better than the coaches and staff at the time, but maybe let me just say that during his time here, both sides may have made some mistakes in how this turned out.
In the summer of 2009 the Atlanta Thrashers signed Anthony as a free agent and he spent the entire season with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL where he scored 12 goals and had 19 assists in 77 games. The following season, Anthony earned a full time job with the Thrashers and scored 14 times with 25 helpers as he put up 39 points in 80 games, mostly playing on the second line. A decent turnaround for sure, however the Thrashers would not resign him and Stewie became a free agent.
The Carolina Hurricanes signed him this summer to a two year deal at $900,000 per season, and the struggles seem to have returned. In 22 games Anthony has four goals and no assists, and has only taken 15 shots. I didn’t get to watch Tuesday night’s game, therefore I’m unable to comment on his play and who he’s paired up with. Carolina is struggling all the way around, and maybe new coach Kirk Muller’s system will be better suited for Anthony provided he gets a chance to prove himself. At 26 he’s heading into his prime, but for some reason I get this bad feeling that if he doesn’t become a consistent player, he’ll be a career minor leaguer. For all the Ex-Panthers that I give a hard time to, this is one I’d like to see have some success in the NHL.
I’m sure you’re all waiting for Roberto 7uongo to appear here. Don’t worry. His time will come soon enough.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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