It’s now officially set in. The 2011-2012 Florida Panthers season is over. I still find myself asking people if they’re going to watch the Panthers game tonight. Then I realize that for now those days are over. Even though it’s still tough to watch playoff hockey because of the fact that my favorite team is no longer eliminated. Despite being knocked off, the team had an overall fantastic year that was full of surprises, comebacks and excitement.
Players like Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, and Tomas Fleischmann helped the Cats earn a playoff spot and a division championship. It wasn’t only the play from these three that helped propel the Panthers to the top of the division, but also everyone else involved with the team, from the coaches, all the players, GM Dale Tallon, and the fans. Hockey is a team game and without everyone serving their roles correctly, this amazing season wouldn’t have been possible. Below I am going to voice my opinion on which the top three Panthers were this season. This is definitely not an easy task to do as all of the players deserve their own spot on this list; however, the list is only the top three.
Number Three: Kevin Dineen
He’s not the leading scorer. He doesn’t have the most assist on the team. He isn’t even a good defender. In fact, Kevin Dineen isn’t even a player; he is the head coach of this division winning team. This list wasn’t just for players, it was also for coaches. I had to put Dineen in this list because he has been left out enough. From coach of the year nominations, to having his name left out of talks of the upper tier coaches in the league. For me it would be hard to leave him out of this. I believe that Dineen is a great coach and held a large part in the Cats success this year. At the beginning of the season he was given the task to coach a team that wasn’t used to success and recognition from the national media. Even though the team went through a roster update in the offseason and brought in experienced players with previous success with other teams, Dineen still had to make sure the team was managed correctly. In hockey, coaches are always underrated. The average hockey fan believes that the coach is just there for looks. Just to send the players out and tell em to play. However it takes a special man to manage a group of 27 grown men and guide them to be successful. Without Dineen’s leadership, there we have no idea where this team would be at. Whether they would be successful or not is a question that could be brought up. However for the Panthers organization and fans, we are just glad that we finally found our coach for not only the present, but also the future, Kevin Dineen.
Number Two: Tomas Fleischmann
This by far was the most difficult decision for me to make. Not because of Fleischmann’s ability to play, but because of the fact that there are other players who could easily hold the number two spot. With that being said, the number two spot will go to Tomas Fleischmann. In this past offseason the Florida Panthers signed Fleischmann to a four year deal worth $18 million. With the Panthers expecting to get their money’s worth, Fleischmann had high expectations coming into the season and he played even better than expected. During his career Fleischmann had his good seasons and his bad seasons. In Florida, he certainly had one of his better years. Not only was he able to lead the team in goals and total points, he also brought an intimidating presence that has been unseen in Florida since Pavel Bure. Flesichmann’s NHL experience definitely helped the team get where they went. With Tomas being under contract for three more seasons, all Panther fans are hoping that he can carry his high level of play into the next season and also finish off his career as a Florida Panther.
Number One: Brian Campbell
During the 2011 NHL Draft, the Florida Panthers traded winger Rostislav Olesz for Blackhawks defencemen Brian Campbell. This trade might go down as one of the best trades in the history of the Florida Panthers. The Cats gave up and up and down wingman for an experienced, but still young defender who has the potential to be a stud in this league. With the potential being there, Campbell needed to have a strong 2011-2012 season and he did just that. Campbell led the Panthers in assist as he used his ability to precisely pass the puck to players who were ready to fire the puck at the opposing goalie. Not only did Campbell show his great ability to create goal scoring opportunities, but he also had only six minutes in the penalty box all season. He also led the league in most time on the ice. With his great awareness for the game, Campbell helped the team score goal after goal. The Panthers definitely got the most out of the trade for Campbell as Olesz played only six games for Chicago, and spent most of the season with the Rockford Icehogs which is the Blackhawks AHL team. It is no secret that in the past season Campbell was the most efficient player for us. With the future looking bright for not only Campbell but the Florida Panthers, Brian must continue his success as the team continues to grow into one of the top teams in the east.
Unfortunately, I could not put everyone on this list. Players like Jose Theodore, Kris Versteeg, and longtime Panther Stephen Weiss all having terrific seasons, it was hard to put together a list of only three Panthers. If I was able to place all the Panther players in here I would. However it was only the top three and in my opinion, those are my top three Panthers during the 2011-2012 season.
With the offseason for us now underway, the team is looking to be able to add a couple of more pieces to this growing puzzles as we are all highly anticipating next season, as we should come back better than this year!!!!
Thanks For Reading!
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