“The Florida Panthers have won the Southeast Division and are on their way to the Stanley Cup Playoffs”, said one announcer during the game where the Florida Panthers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 on April 7th 2012. Not only was that one of the proudest moments for us fans, but for also long time Panther, Stephen Weiss. Over the past decade, Weiss has seen this team come close to making it to the playoffs and he’s also seen this team on the brink of disaster. Weiss’s NHL career has definitely been a roller coaster of a ride, as he has had great seasons and he also had seasons that didn’t exactly go his way. For Weiss, last season was most likely the high point of his professional career and he is hoping that the team could carry last year’s performance into this season.
Although last season wasn’t exactly Weiss’s best year on the ice, it was his best season as a professional as the former captain finally made it to the playoffs. After a long 637 career games, Weiss was finally able to make his playoff debut. In the seven game series, Weiss recorded three goals and two assist. Unfortunately for Weiss and the Panthers, their dreams of winning the Stanley Cup was shattered in a double overtime game seven. Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils scored the series clinching goal.
That was last year and if anyone on this team knows that it’s important to not live in the past, it’s Weiss. It is important that Weiss starts off the season hot, not just for his sake, but for the team’s sake. It is no secret that the Southeast Division will be tougher this year as the Hurricanes, Lightning, and Capitals all made strides to improve their team’s strength. While teams in the division were out making big time moves, the Panthers decided to stick with what they had and improve the team through the AHL.
For Weiss, he is entering the last year of his contract. When a player is in his contract year, they normally make sure they go out and give it their all every night in order to earn a new contract, Weiss does that on a daily basis, just look at his teeth. When you take a look at Weiss you see a true team leader. He is one of the guys in the locker room that can really motivate you and then he could go out on the ice and prove to you why he is where he is. This season will be no different. With the playoff monkey finally off of his back, a ton of weight has been lifted from his shoulder. You can guarantee that Weiss is hungrier now more than ever. With Weiss finally getting an opportunity to taste what the playoffs are like, he will come out motivated to make it back. Over the past few years, he has been the Panthers most consistent offensive player, being just over and under the 60 point mark three out of the past four years. Coming into this season he has all the right reasons to improve his point total, better play means higher chance of earning both another contract and more importantly, another shot at the cup. Weiss is one of the most important pieces that the Panthers possess and they need that piece to play better than ever if they want to have a shot at repeating. I am looking for Weiss to come into next season with his same offensively mentality, however, I am looking for him to finally take over this team and once again lead the Panthers in scoring.
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