The Litter Box gets supercharged; behold: Litter Box Cats

I'm thrilled to announce the launch of The Litter Box, version 2.0:

(But we can still call it The Box, at night on dark street corners, if need be.)

Thanks to the good folks at SB Nation, and especially the efforts of one James Mirtle, you will now find Whale4ever's ignorant Florida Panthers critiques and unfunny photo captions at my new home.

SB Nation comprises some of the best of the blogging world (with the exception of your humble servant) from all facets of the sporting universe. This is a dynamic network with remarkable resources and an impressive lineup of bloggers. One-stop-shopping for all your blogging needs. If you've read Mirtle's From the Rink (and based upon his numbers, you have) then you know the hockey section is under tremendously competent management.

Get on over there, and don't cheat yourself: check out all of the hockey blogs. Superior stuff. And if you like other sports as well, look up your favorite teams. If your club is not yet represented, don't begin scratching yourself uncontrollably. Its' blog is coming. The hockey portion should be filled out soon.

Thank you to everyone who has plugged in (or just plugged) The Litter Box, whether by choice, by accident, or simply to help you sleep at night. I've had fantastic fun here at Blogger, gotten to know a wonderful bunch of people, and hope you've had an okay time as well. It's a brave new world ahead at SB Nation. And hopefully for the Cats.

Oh yeah: vote Anderson, Ballard, Booth!

"Pick-your-for-real-worthy-Panther All-Star" update for 12/01/08

Poor Tomas Vokoun. Things just aren't working out for the Panthers #1 goaltender lately. Try as he might on the ice, the guy's got an issue with consistency. Now he can't even get playing time. But fear not...he's still on the All-Star ballot for the Eastern Conference. No offense to the man - he'll find his groove eventually - but "what have you done for me lately" comes to mind. Let's keep the momentum going and get Andy The Deserved into that game.
Vote for these three. You've got to write 'em in, so it'll require an IQ above 40 to do it. But do it. Again. And Again.
David Booth (23GP, 12G-2A-14P): 359, up from 295 (386670 behind Kovalev)
Keith Ballard (23GP, 2G-8A-10P): 505, up from 455 (432787 behind Markov)
Craig Anderson (10GP, 4W-1L-3OTL, 1.87 - 3rd in NHL, .948 - 2nd in NHL) 199, up from 156 (421973 behind Price). This one's an outrage...vote for this man at all costs.


Despair in New York

Coach Tom Renney (far left, with hat) orders his troops down for the night. Questioned by New York media on the play of Florida's Craig Anderson, Renney responded in kind: "He's a sockdologizing old man-trap".

Cats Pummel Rangers 4-0

In a strange yet fulfilling turn of events, the Panthers piled it on this afternoon in New York, leaving the home team gasping for air after allowing four goals. Craig Anderson earned the shutout.

TLB has a couple of things to attend to at the moment, but we'd be remiss in not turning your attention to the game highlights, particularly Michael Frolik's second goal - a sweet backhander - of the season. It's a thing of beauty. Nicely done, Cats. No Horton. No Zednik. No Stillman. No problem.

Are the Panthers "there" yet? Remains to be seen, but the past three games have gone a long way toward changing a few attitudes.

AccuScore Prediction: Rangers 2.5, Panthers 2

This should be an interesting game, considering what went down two days ago in Sunrise, with the Cats coming back in a big way but ultimately falling in the skills competition. Not that anyone is question Pete DeBoer's shootout decision making abilities (subtle hint: Boot_). As long as Florida doesn't spot their opponent two goals right from the start, it should be competitive, like the last matchup was, after the first three minutes. Keep in mind, this is a 1 pm start, so get the popcorn and beer early, cozy up to the big-screen, and...turn on the radio. No TV for us schlubs down here. No television. For the away game at Madison Square Garden. Pathetic.

Game Day! Cats at Rangers

"Two periods and a fight later, and my Arrid Extra Dry still has me covered!"

Say it ain't so: a real-live Panthers' "goalie controversy"?

Several hours from now the Cats will take on the Rangers at MSG during the backend of a home-and-home, and presumably we still don't know who will get the start in net. During the best of circumstances this is not necessarily a bad thing; having a stable of two guys who have hit their stride at the same moment can be a blessing, if only they can keep their egos in check. In Florida's case, the long-anointed number 1 - and monster-contract-holder, Tomas Vokoun, has yet to display his true talents this season. It took a while last year as well, but the period of adjustment to a new club, coaches, systems, and defenses is far in the past. "Backup" Craig Anderson appears to be the go-to netminder, and considering his penchance for pulling out miracles following a softie or two (he finished with over 40 saves Friday), who wouldn't play him right now? This is a difficult position for Coach Pete: Vokoun is an extraordinarily expensive benchwarmer (can't be making management too happy), not to mention Anderson is in a contract year and likely playing the best hockey we're going to see out of him. Both are gamers and leaders for their club. The underlying problem really is Vokoun. He must work out of his funk. Or the skaters must work out of their collective funk playing in front of him. Don't know which it is, but it is certainly one of the two. Either way, this is a coaching dilemma.


Bettman: "The league is healthy". Reality: "Not so much".

"The dark side of the Commissioner's Office is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural."

We're not going to delve into the mind-numbing details and theories behind expansion and contraction...again. But a new column by The Globe & Mail's Eric Duhatschek takes a close look at the current health of the league as told from those outside the commissioner's office.

"The Tampa Bay Lightning's new owners reportedly needed help from previous owner, Bill Davidson, to complete their purchase.
The Florida Panthers are papering the house with ticket promotions and giveaways: present a Florida driver's licence, get a free ticket.
The New Jersey Devils moved to a new facility in Newark two years ago, but it has not been a cure-all for their economic struggles either. At the moment, as one of 17 teams experiencing attendance downturns in the first quarter of the season, the club is fighting the city and contractors over who should pay utility bills - and it's hard to make ice without water and electricity.
Against this mounting evidence, amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, commissioner Gary Bettman recently reported a sunny forecast for the gate-driven National Hockey League, buffeted by increased attendance in October and brisk ticket sales in many markets.
Looking forward, the picture isn't so cheery."
A most interesting read, and for us locals it's stunning and rather positive in that the Panthers are not the focus of the piece. Lots of insight on the situation in Phoenix...kinda grim.


Southeast Summary at Illegal Curve

Grab a cocktail, kick back, and relive those crazy days of yesterweeks...

Richard at Illegal Curve - a several-times daily roundup of all the news in the NHL, and I do mean ALL of it - was kind enough to ask TLB to contribute to his newest feature: a round-up of the NHL's divisions; in my case focusing on the Cats (and keep in mind this was written several days ago).

Here's the link to this week's Southeast Division summary (you can find our piece on the Panthers right where you might expect them: at the bottom).

If you haven't been to Illegal Curve yet, I highly recommend getting over there at least once per day for a listing of everything going on in the league. In fact, bookmark it. A work of genuine love of the game (and I'm glad it's them, not me!).

Lacerated foot injury to Nathan Horton: No timetable for return as yet

"That is a very deep cuuuut." - Anonymous Panthers' medical staffer going by the name of "Mo". He can be reached at The Palm Isle motel.

Game Night! Rangers at Panthers

Newly-acquired forward Nick Tarnasky humbly introduces himself to the Panther Faithful.

"Pick-Your-For-Real-Worthy-Panther All Star" Update - 11/28/08

He just voted for our boys. Have YOU?

Gather 'round the fire, kids: it's time to check the NHL All Star Game vote totals on our trio of Deserving Panthers.
David Booth (11G-2A-13P): 295, up from 261 (or 359,234 behind Kovalev's 5G-11A-16P).
Keith Ballard (2G-8A-10P): 455, from 432 (or 401,026 behind Markov's 2G-14A-16P).
Andy (3-1-2, 2.01, .942): 156, from 148 (or 391,099 behind Price's 10-4-3, 2.33, .923).
For the record, the Cats' "legitimate" candidates (no forwards, BTW) are:
Jay Bouwmeester (1G-9A-10P): 32,958 (none of these votes actually originated in Florida).
Tomas Vokoun (5-10, 3.01, .911): 6,459.
And just for fun:
Nathan Horton (6G-7A-13P...and back w/Booth & Weiss on that horribly-named line): 166.
Shawn Matthias (1GP, 0G-0A-0P): 6. He's played one game, peeps.
Michael Frolik (18GP, 1G-1A-2P): 24. That gives him 4 times the popularity of Matthias!
Keep pumping those votes...

Big News!

It's a wild day at the BAC, with heavily-discounted tickets, free food, cheap swag, and open practices for BOTH the Cats and Rangers. I'd be there if I weren't working. Then again, they just cut my pay, so perhaps I'll cough up a lung and head south...

Oh yeah, there's a game tonight as well.

AccuScore Prediction: Panthers(!) 2.6 over Rangers' 2.4

Now I'm worried. Take cover, bring in the kids, lock the doors. Even after the loss of Nathan Horton, the Cats are projected to outscore the Rangahs, according to AccuScore. Must be the addition of center Nick Tarnasky that puts 'em over the top.
By the way, so far, Tarnasky should be playing tonight, and it will be fascinating to see where he's placed. Rumor has it that C Shawn Matthias is going to be called up. Horton is out, as are Richard Zednik and Cory Stillman. Question: Outside of David Booth (11G), does that troika represent all of Florida's hopes?
New York is seeking their third consecutive win, while Florida (4-3-1 in the past eight) looks to, well, get points any way they can. It's that desperate.
One of the finest Rangers-themed sites on the net, Scotty Hockey is the only place to go for coverage of the New York side of the ice.


TRADED: Wade Belak for Nashville's Nick Tarnasky

JM dropped the hammer on a deal today - yes, American Thanksgiving Day - and sent a popular but relatively unused guy he recently signed for two years, fisherman extraordinaire Wade Belak, to the Predators for evolving-journeyman forward Nick Tarnasky (10GP, 1A). The Herald covers it briefly here.
TLB is way too stuffed to present an honest, non-biased op/ed on this deal until tomorrow at the very least, so let's put it on the back burner until that time.
We don't know what to make of this quite yet, other than Belak's relationship with Coach DeBoer was probably beyond repair. A shame that Wade didn't fit into Florida's ever-fluid future...the players and fanbase really liked him.
Tarnasky? Don't know much. Only played ten games. Lots more to come.


Happy Thanksgiving! Panthers lose, but steal a point

The Cats didn't give fans much to cheer for throughout yesterday's pre-Thanksgiving matchup against the Devils, but made up for it in the closing minutes of the third period, breathing life into a dead offense, with David Booth banging home a goal with seven seconds remaining to tie the score at 2. Hadn't seen that kind of excitement in the team, or the building, in a long while. The loss was only delayed, finally sealed in OT, but the final ten minutes of the last period were definitely something to build upon. That one point the team scrambled for was as impressive as they come. Nice job against a hot New Jersey squad. Showed some real heart.
Stephen Weiss: 2G,
David Booth: 1G, 1A
Jay Bouwmeester: 1G, 1A
Bryan McCabe: 7(!)SH
Thanks, Illegal Curve.


Doing our part to kill the New Jersey-is-Cheesy stereotype

Ahhh...Shoulda saved it for a Nashville or Carolina game

Look who we found...

Guess he's simply preparing for the playoffs.

Pick-Your-For-Real-Worthy-Panther All-Star Update - 11/26/08

It's time again to see who's been paying attention. Off to NHL's All-Star Game homepage to see how our three-headed American monster is performing in polls.
David Booth: 261 (339733 behind Kovalev)
Keith Ballard: 432 (378,931 behind Markov)
Craig Anderson: 148 (366,310 behind Price)
C'mon folks...keep voting and close that gap. We're only a million or so submissions and a playoff appearance away from respectibility.

Game Day! AccuScore Prediction: Devils 2.6 - 2.4; My HD freak-out concludes

On tap tonight at the BAC: our friends in red from Newark. We can only hope they're still laughing at the outcome of last week's debacle; time to catch someone off guard. Oh, and still no Brodeur. As for tonight's starters, I'm going with Anderson and former Cat Kevin Weekes, though Scott Clemmenson is on a bit of a tear. Pure speculation.

AccuScore has this one razor-tight, but since the Panthers are the Panthers, New Jersey gets the nod. Be nice to see a bit o' bad blood spill over from last week.

UPDATE: Clemmenson starts for the Devils. So much for my speculation.

Following my mature, well-reasoned (!) rant the other night re: FSN/Comcast switching from the Panthers HD pregame broadcast to the Miami Heat HD broadcast, Fox Sports contacted me soon after. Attend:

Hi Don, Thanks for the email. We double checked with our producer and lastnight's Panthers game telecast was indeed offered in HD as you mentioned. Who is your cable or satellite provider? We can follow up with them, or you might want to, to see if there were any technical problems last night but we did not receive other emails so perhaps this was an isolated issue. Below is a link to our website along with a list of all the SouthFlorida cable and satellite systems who are offering FOX SportsFlorida's Panther games in HD. And by the way - approximately half of the Panther and HEAT games are offered in HD - one is not favored over the other.

A list of all of FSN's standard and high-definition channels was included, you know, in case I wasn't familiar, being a fan and all. No other emails were received probably because I was the only Cats' fan in West Palm Beach, which is precisely one more than the Heat have up here. Whatever. At least they bothered enough to send me a "Dear John" letter with my name on it, and appreciate their effort, at least to that extent. I'll never get anywhere with Comcast, so Creek - Paddle = Me. Case closed. Spoiled, I was.

Terrific blogsite covering the Devils: In Lou We Trust, over at Mirtle's SBNation. Don't miss it.


Another forward lost to injury, and what is this team all about anyway?

Wins don't come cheap - or often - for the Panthers, and last night's victory was no exception: winger Richard Zednik will be out several weeks with an arm/elbow injury. Any chance JM's been looking for a forward? Now he'll need two.
On a similar note, and it may sound blasphemous, but I worry that last night's win against Carolina might actually hurt the club in the long run. One victory, though huge, troubles me in the sense that the Cats were rock bottom bad, looking up at the entire league above them in the standings. They're against a wall, players waived, threats made, and they scratch out a hard-fought and solid "W". What will we see tomorrow? Do they revert to the same-old same-old against the Devils, now that they've gotten a win to carry them for the next three weeks, while potential roster moves - read: trades - favor the Panthers less as each day moves forward?
Or have they finally gotten the message? All too many times we've seen this pattern: the Cats lose a string of games, season's slipping away, the hope is lost, and then we get a night that stirs the soul and the imagination. You come away from it, jaw on the floor, saying "They've figured it out." The next night, Vokoun (or Auld, or Belfour, or Luongo) is left for dead. There's never any progress. It's like the wins are accidents (and the players need to understand: we've been watching this a lot longer than they've been playing here). Last night was a tremendous game for any hockey fan to watch; close, tense, very few penalties (none, in fact, for Carolina), a divisional match you dream of. The Panthers earned every bit of that win. Who will show up tomorrow?


Cats Win 3-2

Nice game. Off to bed. Official TLB coin-minting in the morning. Still miffed about FSN. Go Cats.

Fox Sports Florida Sucks It

I'm watching a hockey game that's been continuously advertised as being broadcast in high definition, but the channel it would normally be on (401 on Comcast West Palm Beach) is showing some basketball team from Overtown Miami. So here I sit, digesting the Panthers from a normal-definition standpoint.

Want more proof? Here. And the nine-year-old's rebuttal? Here. Who wins? The basketball thing. Cuz we don't matter. Note to Gary Bettman: After all has been said and done about high-def broadcasts of hockey games, you've lost. Forget the fans...you know...those few of us who still bother to pay attention outside of Detroit and Toronto. We buy the products, go to the games, preach the gospel, and continually get shat upon. And screw you too, Florida Panthers, for not being on top of this. A curse upon you all.

It's obviously not enough that I can get an upstanding citizen or two to watch a hockey game based on their hearing about how awesome it is in HD. These citizens have given up.

What do you want me to do, Fox? It's difficult enough trying to draw folks into a sport with the type of stigma which the NHL has surrounding it. However, you advertise an HD broadcast and decide "Nah...".