Hard To Be Positive.


So here we are 28 games into the season and instead of building on last year’s overall positive campaign, we are building on ways to lose games.  This team is suffering and don’t let the earlier winning streak and consecutive point game streak fool you.  There’s a ton of problems here and as I mentioned in my recap of Thursday night’s loss to the Caps, this thing needs to be blown to pieces.

I am going to take a page out of a former coaches press conference from a few years ago and make a statement or two that will put it all into perspective for you.

“This team does not have The Mental Capacity to play “playoff style hockey” when needed!  This statement said about 7 years ago by former coach Mike Keenan after Florida lost a very costly game to Carolina on home ice, is the exact problem that this team is suffering from again.  Regardless of whether you like or hate Keenan, as there is no middle ground, he was 100% right back then, and he would be 100% right now as well!

Undisciplined hockey shown by stupid penalties.  No toughness, as witnessed by all the standing around after forward David Booth was clobbered by the Flyers Mike Richards.  The gaffe by Keith Ballard of hitting Tomas Vokoun in the side of the head after a goal was scored.  The blown leads not only occur during the third period of games, but they also come during the last minute of play.  Twice in one week for that matter!  The inability to just once, get the puck out of their own end without chipping it off the glass, or wrapping it hard around the boards.  The total, and I mean total, lack of most anyone finishing their checks.  The powerless power play.  The ridiculous rush up the ice by a forward to either A) cross the blue line with the puck only to find that the rest of his mates are off on a line change, B) to cross the blue line, head to a corner and pass the puck BACK towards the blue line, only to have it picked off by the opposition, C) cross the blue line get past the defence and rip take a shot that hits the goaltender squarely in the chest, or have it end up in the club section.  Finally, no display whatsoever of any hockey sense at all, especially when it counts.  And one more thing,  the total unpreparedness of the team and their continuous slow starts to games where it takes 55 minutes for them to suddenly find their legs. 

And this is just about the players.

Another fine statment by Iron Mike, and he said this on a number of occasions is that “There are too many distractions here in Florida”.  Some of these players need to figure things out and prioritize their time off and their activities.  Could be 100% right again.  The Ocean, South Beach, The Intercoastal, The Hard Rock Cafe and Casino, year round golf and tennis.  You see there are a number of wonderful activities that we have here in our lovely state and that is why so many people end up coming here to retire.  I just wish that the sports agents never found out about it as they continually push the proverbial 34 year old journeyman forward down our throats, promising that there is still gas left in the tank.

Which brings up management.  Before I start on this, let me say that none of this is directed at the new majority onwers Stu Siegel and Cliff Viner since they have just recently taken over.  Now back to our regulalry scheduled  session:   The Panthers are not cheap.  They currently sit at slightly above 54 million in cap hit for the year and that’s pretty good.  But there are about seven or eight contracts that make no sense and no general manager in their right mind would have given them out.  Except JM the GM!  And the length of some of these deals.  Six year deals  for players Bryan Allen, Rusty Olesz, Keith Ballard.  I still think that signing Weiss and Horton to 6 year deals were premature as well.  3 years for an aging Cory Stillman? You get the idea. 

We spend, but we spend like a bunch of drunken sailors on furlough for the weekend.  Trades?  Well, I could spend hours on this one, but I’m only going to mention the Jay Bouwmeester deal, which netted us a journeyman defenceman in Jordan Leopold, and a 3rd round pick.  Yikes!  JM or as I affectionaltely refer to him as Uncle Jack, knew for eighteen months that Jay didn’t want to stay.  Yet offer after offer was turned away thinking that we could persuade him into staying if things got better.  Well, things got a little better and look what happened?  He’s still gone.  That was a disaster.  Oh yea, let’s not forget trading for Chad Kilger who ended up never reporting.

Free Agents:  Ville Koistinenenenen.  Two years for $2.4 million.  He’s now in the AHL after 15 games.  Martin Skoula is playing in Pittsburgh, yes the defending Stanley Cup Champs for less than $800k, but he wasn’t good enough for us.   We missed out on Maxim Afinogenov and took Dominic Moore.  Max has 25 points and scored the game winner this past monday night.  As for Moore, what the hell is that cage still doing on his head?  Rich Peverley picked up on waivers by Atlanta last year is among their leading point getters.  We picked up or rather kept Brett McLean.  

It was thought that the team needed toughness, and they do.  We go and get Wade Belak last year.  One of the better tough guys in the NHL and a really great guy in the dressing room.  What happens?  Somehow he pisses off DeBoer and we trade him after 15 games and replace him with Nick Tarnasky who is missing in action from orbital surgery.  Speaking of pissing off DeBoer, Nick Boynton a real hard ass defenceman has an alleged shouting match with him, gets sent home from a road trip and spends the balance of the year trying to get out of the doghouse.  The one guy on the team who stuck up for his teammates every single game.

Drafts:  Too many to list.  Just remember that Weiss has been here eight years.  The same amount of time the Panthers have missed the playoffs.  We could have drafted Rick Nash one year.  We traded our number one pick down to the third spot to take Nathan Horton and missed Eric Staal.  Here’s one that’s going to send you for a loop:  In 1995 Florida had the 10th pick in the draft.  The Panthers selected Radek Dvorak.  Guess who was taken at 11th, the very next pick? Forward Jarome Iginla!!!!!  How different would our fortunes have turned out if we took him instead?  That same year in the 4th round we selected Daniel Tjarnqvist a defenceman.  Three spots lower Marc Savard was taken by the Rangers.   So you see our fortunes have also been derailed by our crackpot scouting staff.

Coaching:  Since the lockout, we have had Uncle Jack, a defensive minded boar who pissed off players and general manager Mike Keenan, as he refused to realize that the game had changed and the “Trap” was out of style.  He then proceeded to somehow convince the organEYEzation that if you fire me as coach, you can keep me as GM.  And we did!  Now we have Peter DeBoer.  Very succcessful in Juniors, but no NHL experience.  He was the toast of the league last year and deservedly so as he did a great job getting blood out of a turnip.  This year, he could be toast if he doesn’t get a hold of his team.  He’s been hitting the panic button lately with some of his decisions and has no one to guide him through these tough times.  His quick hook work with Scott Clemmensen has me flabergasted, yet he leaves him in for a seven goal barrage against Washington.  Stephen Weiss has a hat trick the other night and the game goes to a shootout and Weiss is the fifth shooter?  DeBoer could be overmatched.  Also, with all the games bunched together he continues to shorten the bench and tire out his top 9. 

It’s very easy to second guess every one of these moves and to make critical statements of how the team plays, but it’s so frustrating to continue to see the same mistakes made over and over again by different people.  How does that happen?  By not having the right people pushing the buttons and making the moves.

All I know is that the current roster makeup is doomed for failure.  We aren’t going to the playoffs and we have done ZERO to replace injured David Booth and his potential 35 goals.  New ownership needs to do something right now.  Don’t wait till after Christmas.  It will be too late .  We need offensive help desperately, even after Booth comes back.   The defensive system needs to be fixed.  Can’t get out of our zone, out of position, and give up too many shots.  Leadership is desperately needed and it’s not on this roster so go out and get it.  Put a package together and make it happen.  Weiss is hot (for him), move him and someone else for a real goal scorer.  He’s not Steve Yzerman as Bill Lindsey referred to him as the other night.

So in the end, and I guess this goes out to the new ownerhip group.  We need to do something.  We can’t be afraid of public opinion and be gunshy about making moves to improve the club.  Case in point, the Philadelphia Flyers just fired their coach as the team isn’t happy with the way things are going.  I’m not calling for DeBoer’s head, but I am calling for action.

Hard work, dedicated players, smart players and players with grit and one’s who have experienced success.  That’s what we need.  Not the slop that we’ve been watching.

Remember, I love the game and I want a winner, but I can’t sugarcoat what’s plainly obvious.

Save the season.

“Whatever it takes”.

Thanks for reading .