Feb 28, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Florida Panthers center Mike Santorelli (13) celebrates his goal with right wing Jack Skille (12) against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

What Will The Offensive Lines For The Florida Panthers Look Like?

Dec. 13, 2011: Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Kris Versteeg (center) celebrates his first period goal with center Stephen Weiss (right) and left wing Tomas Fleischmann (left) against the New Jersey Devils at the BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Every year teams enter the season with a new look. Whether it’s a new coach, new players or new executives, there is always something different about a team every season. We all know that Florida doesn’t really need a new coach and by the contract extension that was given to Dale Tallon, they definitely weren’t in search of a general manager. The biggest thing that has changed with the Panthers this offseason is the new players that were brought in and players that left in free agency.

When it comes to players leaving, Jason Garrison was our biggest lost. Garrison left the Panthers and decided to sign a six year deal with the Vancouver Canucks. His replacement? Filip Kuba. Kuba is an experienced vet in the league, playing with the Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The past thirteen seasons, Kuba has been on the ice giving it his all for the team that he was under contract with. Although he has yet to make an All-Star appearance, Kuba has been a really good player for a long time.

This up and coming season is going to see a lot of new faces in Panther jerseys. In the past couple of months, the Panthers have signed and traded for a few new players. Excluding Kuba, the Panthers also went out a recently traded for center Casey Wellman, from the New York Rangers. The Panthers also took a risk on former highly rated prospect, Peter Mueller.

What once was a roster full of players that no one exactly wanted on their team, has turned into a team that has players that everyone wished they gambled on.

Last year, the Panthers top line consisted of Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, and Tomas Fleischmann. This starting lineup of forwards worked out perfectly for the Panthers, as they were able to put up points on a constant basis. The three of them were easily one of the top lineups in the Southeast Division. Weiss, Versteeg, and Fleischmann, were able to score a combined 172 points. One of the top lines not only in the division but also the league, helped bring the Panthers back to prominence. It is no surprise to anyone that these three led the Panthers in scoring. Head coach, Kevin Dineen is a start man, with him getting the results he wanted out of these three last year, barring injury; this is the most likely lineup that fans will get to see October 13th, on opening night.

With the first line basically set, the second, third, and fourth are the three lines that are going to be different from last year.

Apr 21, 2012; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Scottie Upshall (19) celebrates his goal against the New Jersey Devils during the third period in game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

The second line is just as important as the first. In fact, it is important that players in every line, whether it’s the first or the fourth have chemistry with each other. Coming into this season, the second line looks a little bit different from last year. If it was up to me, the line would look like this; Marcel Goc at center, Sean Bergenheim at left wing, and at right wing, Scottie Upshall. Last year, Goc improved his numbers from the season before. Although it was not his best season as a pro, he provided the Panthers with consistent offensive production. Before last season, writers across America thought that Bergenheim was just a one hit wonder in the playoffs. However, he proved himself to the world as his quickness and speed helped him blow by the defenders and gave him the ability to score at a great rate. Unfortunately for Scottie Upshall, he didn’t really have a big factor in the Panthers making the playoffs, but once they were in, he put it all on the line. During the series against the Devils, Upshall was throwing his body around and provided a great spark for the team offensively. In the seven games that Florida played in the playoffs, Upshall scored three points. The way he played last season in the postseason has definitely earned him a spot on the second line. In his years as a pro he showed what he could do while he is healthy and with the potential being there, giving Upshall an opportunity is just something the cats cannot pass up.

The third line is a bit of a risk. With Shawn Matthias at center, he provides the line with great youth and potential. If Jack Skille gets the start at left wing, he will also give this line more youth. The new addition to the team, Peter Mueller should get the spot as the right wing. While this line has potential to be special, there is also a big risk with this line. Skille and Mueller both have had their own history. Not a good history either. Mueller has been known as a player with massive amounts of potential, but he just cannot stay healthy. In his past two seasons with Colorado, he has been battling both a groin injury and concussion symptoms. Head injuries are a big red flag in sports; so hopefully, Mueller can get back to his old self and play at a top level. Throughout his time in both college and professional hockey, Skille has been constantly injured. Although Skille hasn’t faced many injuries, the ones that he did suffered had been serious ones. In his sophomore year of college he was sidelined for the year due to injury and he recently hurt his shoulder and was forced to undergo surgery.  This line is either going to be a homerun or a big swing and a miss. If everyone on this line could stay healthy, this line has the possibility to be a really big score for the Panthers.

When the season kicks off I believe that if he is on the Panthers, Jonathan Huberdeau will be on the fourth line. I could be wrong though. However, if he does start the season off on the fourth line, he wouldn’t be there for long. Coach Dineen normally likes to slowly build his players. If the Panthers do decide to bring Huberdeau up, it could begin what has the potential to be a really good NHL career. After Huberdeau, you would have to think that it would be Mike Santorelli, but there are a lot of possibilities at center for the fourth line, including Huberdeau. George Parros will be the likely starter at right winger. No matter what the lineup is, the fourth line always gets brief ice time. The players that will be on the line are obviously not the biggest scoring threats in the league, but if you fall asleep on this line, players like Mike Santorelli, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Tomas Kopecky could sneak a goal or two by the goalie. There really are many possibilities for the fourth line. There are players that I didn’t even name. The players that I didn’t include in the starting lineup for the fourth line, Tomas Kopecky, Jerred Smithson, and Casey Wellman. Even though the fourth line isn’t always the best line, the fourth liners shouldn’t be looked over.

Thanks For Reading!

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Tags: Casey Wellman Dale Tallon Florida Panthers George Parros Hockey Jack Skille Jerred Smithson Jonathan Huberdeau Kris Versteeg Marcel Goc Mike Santorelli Nhl Peter Mueller Scottie Upshall Sean Bergenheim Shawn Matthias Stephen Weiss Tomas Fleischmann Tomas Kopecky

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