Florida Panthers: Derek MacKenzie Still Has Importance to this Roster

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: Derek MacKenzie
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: Derek MacKenzie /

From the organization to the fan base, there’s been a debate on if forward Derek MacKenzie still has importance to the roster. There are many essential aspects that MacKenzie brings on and off the ice that the Florida Panthers still need.

Starting in the 2014-2015 season, center Derek MacKenzie had become one of the newest members of the Florida Panthers. Even though he wasn’t a star in the league, he had proven to be a contributing teammate both on and off the ice. His aid came not mainly on the score sheet, but in other aspects of the game like work, dedication, and leadership. The Cats ended in sixth place in the Atlantic Division that year, but MacKenzie brought more than just one mediocre season.

What MacKenzie brings to the table, as he always has in his career, is something rare in most young lineups, hard work. Aside from Panthers star forward Aleksander Barkov and a few more youngsters in the National Hockey League, hard work is hard to find with how gifted players are now. MacKenzie has brought this throughout his entire career, stealing fourth-line roster spots through the years. With this dedication to the game, he continues to show the league that talent is just a portion of what is needed to become a successful professional hockey player.

Throughout his career, especially as a member of the Cats, D-Mac has shown how important grit is to a roster in many different ways. One way he does this is how he takes control in the defensive zone, especially on the penalty kill. To start, MacKenzie has proven to be a reliable player for in the faceoff dot. According to Puckbase.com, he’s had at least a 50% winning rate in the dot in every season since the 2008-09 season. Then, once the puck is dropped, he releases his inner animal on the ice, jumping from line to line, point to point, faceoff dot to faceoff dot, always following the puck or the man he’s guarding, ready to take one for the team.

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Aside from the daily grind he brings, another way MacKenzie proves himself to be essential is his leadership. Even before receiving his captaincy from the Florida Panthers right before the 2016-17 season, the Canadian forward had always displayed exemplary qualities showing that he can lead a team on and off the ice on a consistent basis. He provides locker room enthusiasm, lessons to younger players to help develop their game, and many more contributions to make him a successful leader, which is exactly what teams are looking for.

This Florida Panthers team is an anxious, young team that’s taking its baby steps into the playoff picture, sitting at the bottom of the league when talking average age. They cannot take this big step alone as young, inexperienced players, so they need some of the older veterans of the league to lead the way. These types of leaders can include future hall of fame goaltender Roberto Luongo, but arguably the most important leader is the man who wears the ‘C’ for the Cats: Derek MacKenzie.

These qualities of the 36-year-old forward furthermore establish his significance to the Florida Panthers organization. Last but not least, is a quality possessed by a true warrior: sacrifice. Sacrifice has always been an aspect of humanity, but in MacKenzie’s case, the subject of matter does not call for human sacrifice. This type of on ice sacrifice I’m referring to is the ability for D-Mac to fight, grind, and do anything for his team to help them earn a victory.

Sacrifice on the ice can refer to many actions, but what MacKenzie does consists of bringing momentum, pumping adrenaline, and spreading confidence throughout a lineup. He dives to be a wall for pucks to hit, he sticks up for his teammates against goons he doesn’t match up against, he goes outside his comfort zone to emphasize that he’ll even risk a possible injury to get his teammates to understand how much he cares not only about his performance, but also his dedication to the game.

As fictional movie character/hockey enforcer Doug Glatt once said in the Canadian sports comedy movie Goon: “I’ll do whatever my team needs me to do.” This quote exemplifies not only how MacKenzie plays, but also what he plays for.

Next: Florida Panthers Need to Find a Replacement for Roberto Luongo Soon

As the debate over his play continues, many individuals have signaled that Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie is losing his significance to the roster. Even with his age growing by the day, he still has many qualities that continue to prove that he is an essential piece to the team (on and off the ice).