When any sports team signs, trades or drafts a player, that team feels like that specific person can help the franchise be successful. No professional team goes out and gets a player expecting mediocre work from them. The front office wants every player they sign to turn out and be a superstar. Now realistically, that will never happen. General Managers aren’t perfect and neither are their assistants or the scouts.
In the past, the Florida Panthers have been known for their poor play on the ice and their poor decision making when it came to putting players together. However, all of that has seemed to change now and hopefully we can put it all in the past. While the decision making both on the ice and off the ice has been dramatically improved, they’re still some players on this roster that must produce in the up and coming season if they want to continue to play here in South Florida. The list itself isn’t that big and only consists of a few players, but those few players could end up having bigger roles on this team if they can improve, which will help this team’s chances at being successful. Below I am going to make a list of the top three players that need to step up this up and coming season.
The number one player on this list that must improve his game is Jack Skille. The Panthers acquired Skille in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks in a five players deal that sent Michael Frolik and Alexander Salak to Chicago. When the Panthers traded for Skille, they were hoping that he could bring his highly rated skating ability and his offensive arsenal to Florida. Although he is a great skater and has great potential, he hasn’t had the best of luck with Florida. Last season wasn’t exactly a good one for Skille as it was cut short due to a shoulder injury. The injury, which happened in early March, was bad enough to put him on the shelf for both the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. Skille played a total of 46 games last season, scoring a below average total of 10 points (4 goals, 6 assist). I would love to see Skille stay with the Panthers for a long period of time. The young forward has the goods to be a real player on this team; however, he is injury prone and when he is healthy, his production just isn’t there. Hopefully the offseason has been good for Skille, as he is getting a substantial amount of recovery and practice time. If he continues to study the game in his off time and perfect his craft, he could be something special, but until then, he is one of the players on the bubble for the Florida Panthers.
You can call me crazy, but the second player on the list is Peter Mueller. Let’s face it; the Panthers are giving Mueller a great opportunity to revitalize his NHL career at a very very low cost. His base salary for the season is just under $2 million dollars and his contract is only for this season. Don’t get me wrong, Mueller is definitely the type of player you would want on your team. He’s young, he can score, and he’s inexpensive enough to dispose if needed to. When he first came into the league, he shined, scoring 54 points in rookie season. However, after his great first season in the league, things started to change. The following season he only played 71 games, then the season after that he played 54 games before requesting a trade. After being traded to Colorado he only played 15 games. Then last season he played 32 games. Do you see where I’m coming from, Mueller hasn’t played more than 75 games since his rookie season and that was in 2007 and why is that? Well Mueller has been plagued by the injury bug. However, when he is on the ice and healthy, he could still be a threat to score at any time. Unfortunately for him he just can’t stay healthy. The Panthers are definitely taking a chance with him, but since his contract is only for one year and at just under $2 million, the Panthers can easily get rid of him if needed to, which is why Peter Mueller needs to stay healthy and productive, or else he can possibly be giving the boot.
The last person(s) on my list that needs to step it up this season are Keaton Ellerby and Jerred Smithson. Yes, this list is top three players, but I just couldn’t help myself. Both of these guys are really on a short leash. Keaton Ellerby was drafted 10th overall by the Panthers in the 07 Draft and ever since then, he hasn’t exactly been worth it. It hurts me to put Keaton on this list because he is my favorite player in the league, however, I cannot ignore the fact that since he came into the league, he hasn’t really done much. Lucky for both Keaton and I, the Panthers gave him a new contract during the offseason, but just because he was given another opportunity, doesn’t mean he is safe. The contract shows that the Panthers don’t want to give up quite yet and although he will likely not make the top 6 defenders, when he is given the opportunity this season he must take full advantage of it. Okay, now for the real last person on the list, Jerred Smithson. Last season, the Panthers traded for Smithson, sending a 6th round pick to the Nashville Predators. The Panthers were hoping to gain another veteran leader with playoff experience and they got just that. The Panthers weren’t really expecting big things out of him, but in a total of 21 games with the cats, he scored just two points. Knowing that they were getting the leadership was good enough for Florida though. But now things are a little different. With everyone maturing another year and gaining more playoff experience, Smithson’s value to the team decreases. In his time in the NHL Smithson has never really been a scorer. He is more of the consistent player that you know will give it his all night in and night out and I applaud that. This season though Smithson might need to take a different approach. If his numbers fail to increase, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him either let go next offseason or be used as a leverage piece at the trade deadline if the Panthers are in contention to make a big move. No matter what the reason is, both of these guys are on the hot seat for the Panthers.
That does it, the top 3(4) players that are on the hot seat for the Florida Panthers. Although you might not agree with some, I hope you enjoyed the list. I would love to see who you guys think are on the hot seat coming into next season!
Thanks For Reading!
Want More Hockey News? Follow The Rat Pack on Twitter! Me: @justenrosenberg, Frank Rekas: @TheRatTrick Josh Luecht: @joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin: @PatrickRattrick, Scott Mullin: @GreatScottsman, David Rodriguez: @davidbub_2, Paige Lewis: @peejlewiz, Adam Reid: @AdamReid_, Gabby Kiger: @gabbykiger, Chrissy Parente: @Chrissaay44, and Amanda Land: @HockeyGirl2530. Also, please visit our Facebook Fan Page and like us! Share comments, photos, anything Panthers related!