Ladies and gentlemen I am proud to induce you to the Florida Panthers leading scorer (dramatic pause). The one, the only Scottie Upshall!!!! ……(crickets)…..
Wait, what?? Scottie Upshall leads the Panthers in points this season??
Yes, he does. Through 27 games this season, he is the Panthers leading scorer with 14 points (6 goals 8 assists). Thats right, the guy that scored 10 total points in his first two seasons with the Panthers has suddenly become one of the team’s hottest players. It should be noted that he is not blowing the rest of the team out of the water; Brad Boyes and Brian Campbell have 13 points each while Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Fleischmann each have 12.
Upon presenting this news to you, the reader, I am unsure if I should be happy for Upshall or depressed for the Panthers. I say that because Upshall’s 14 points represents the league’s lowest total for a team’s top scorer. So while it is nice to see Upshall turning his Panther tenure around, it would also be nice to see someone emerge as a bonafide top scorer (I’m looking your way Jonathan Huberdeau).
We have all season to be bummed about the Panthers shortcomings so lets take a minute to talk about Upshall and more specifically what is responsible for his sudden change? It does not take a genius to realize that Upshall’s struggles suddenly ended when the Panthers replaced head coach Kevin Dineen with Peter Horachek.
In two-plus seasons with Dineen at the helm, Upshall struggled through injuries and only managed fifteen points in 66 games. On the previous coaching regime, Upshall told the Miami Herald, “For some reasons, injuries were used against me. I felt like my passion was questioned, my effort was questioned.”
With Peter Horachek in charge, Upshall has seen a re-birth of sorts. The biggest noticeable difference that has come with the coaching change is Upshall’s playing time. In 13 games under Dineen this season Upshall registered five points while averaging 13:41 per game. In the 11 games since Horachek took over, Upshall has tallied nine points and has averaged 18:16 per game. Horachek, who is familiar with Upshall from their time with the Nashville Predators, seems to have given Upshall something he was never given with Dineen as head coach, a chance.
I do not think the coaching change is entirely responsible for the turnaround in Upshall’s game. Health has also played a major role. In his first two seasons in Florida, Upshall missed 77 out of 130 regular season games. When you miss that much time it is hard to establish any sort of consistency no matter who the coach is. This season, Upshall has played in 24 of the team’s 27 games and that clean bill of heath combined with a fresh start under a familiar coach has resulted in Upshall finally looking like the player the Panthers gave a four-year $14 million contract to back in 2011.