The Canucks, in their quest to outdo Tampa Bay in the headlines, have named former Panther Roberto Luongo as captain for the upcoming season.
Yes, former Panther goaltender Roberto Luongo.
I tried in vain to get my six year-old copy of MS Paint to muster up one more batch of magic, by firmly affixing an elementary school-grade "C" on the big guy's chest, ya know, like the WWL does after a baseball trade by placing Traded Dude's face under the hat of his new team, even though he's never been near his new city, but sadly, to no avail. Evidently I shared Hartford County with ESPN, and little else.
I have no particular problem with this. Heck, I've been president of the "Vokoun for Emperor" PAC for the past 10 months, or at least since his first locker room bout of "Let's play Vieques Island!" following a steamy, unsupported loss.
I'm a little disheartened that if they were going to nominate former Cats, Lukas Krajicek does not appear to have been in the running. Perhaps next year.
Greg at Puck Daddy has a pretty keen take on what must have been the issue with the existing two front-runners for the position:
"Maybe they could have given Henrik and Daniel Sedin one half of the 'C' each, so it looks like one of them is wearing an eyebrow and the other is wearing a ski slope. Or maybe not."
As Mirtle points out, the fun will be in seeing how the team skirts the inherent league rules on the subject of a goaltender captaincy.
If nothing else at this point in time for Panther fans, there is now at least one person with a legal South Florida residence who is captain of an NHL club.
"In Florida, The Palm Beach Post decided last week to discontinue staff coverage of the Florida Panthers. The Post's veteran beat writer, Brian Biggane, was assigned to the Miami Dolphins. None of the Panthers' home or away games will be staffed by the Post." (Emphasis mine.)
First off, I like Biggane. I've enjoyed his insights on the team, and wish him the best in his new assignment with the Dolphins. That said, the real crime here is that media presence (such as it was) is now non-existent in the northernmost portion of the Panthers' local market.
North of the South Florida (read Ft. Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel, no other newspaper covers the team. This essentially leaves all of Palm Beach, Martin, and St. Lucie counties without local coverage.
I'm aware of the current trend whereby financial cutbacks in many newsrooms are eliminating coverage of some sports in general, hockey in particular.
Combine this with Fox Sports Florida's decision to televise 65 of 82 games (down from 70), no local radio broadcasts of the preseason (not one!), and it becomes painfully obvious that we as fans are getting squeezed, and squeezed hard. Without the internet, would we know the team existed?
I don't remember hearing of any team-outreach festivities or player appearances in my area (northern Palm Beach County). Network TV affiliates and non-sports radio in this market seem to flat-out refuse giving 10 seconds of airtime for a game recap, much less a score.
This is all quite familiar to those of us down here struggling to follow our team, a team who has in recent months made better, stronger efforts to connect with the community.
I have attempted to contact several Panthers inner-office-types, as well as the Palm Beach Post for comment regarding the Post's decision, and will pass along whatever may be learned, on what is a disgusting - but unsurprising - bit of news.
You bring your expansion club into my house... MY HOUSE. What do you expect, Mr. Jacques Martin? Hmmm? You want some sort of easy night for your boys? A quick blast and scoot back down south for a week off? Like Confederate loyalists? After a paltry 6 straight nights of games? Me thinks I got it covered. Throw me your Hortons. Your Peltonens(!). Your Froliks. I will conquer them all with room to spare. You and your MSM compadres may argue the logic in trading away a talent like Cristobal...but I am the man now. I'm no Jim Carey, no Brent Johnson. Remember 1986? I don't. WHY CAN'T I WEAR 33? Everyone has us picked for Eastern Conference dominance. Kovy's getting grey up top? So what. Hamrlik played his first home game at Expo Hall? Chew on it. My backup is...wait...who IS my backup? Does not matter: I don't need no stinking backup. I'll play 82 games...plus 16...cuz that's all it will take. Come back next year, Mr. Martin. Just try to pull off your six games in six nights lunacy again. Did you seriously expect to walk away victorious? I will slam the door on your Matthias. Your Frolik. Your Horton. Your, um, Stewart. Yeah...that guy! At least next time. You take your prospect-strewn club back to Coral Springs. Make a team out of those kids. Enjoy the pizza and dogs at IncredibleICE. Good luck...I'll be here to prevent it! Haaa...ponder it: Here I sit, on top of the world, as goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, and you, YOU, send your "team" back to South Florida - where I will go for pedicures between Cups - and they will scrimmage. And they will practice. And they will question their allegiance. And sustain the usual contraction talk.
And I'll be here, ruling over Mt. Stanley. More grapes, bitches!
The only thing in the way, JM, is their coach. And dammit, Mr. Maaartin, if you didn't grab a good one. Even I, starting goaltender for the Habs, if you weren't already aware, knows what this Pete guy is capable of. So I say to you now, JM, let him run his club, on the ice, the way it's supposed to be run. You're no threat to me, so this is a courtesy call. Stay out of it. I AM the Habs and no one needs to send my boys on crazy 14,000 mile treks to the wilderness. Or Edmonton. You may have your beaches, and Publix, and flip-flops to work, but I rule. And until you follow my lead, with apologies to his holiness Bob Gainey, you will falter. To paraphrase, "Let Your People Go...to Pete". On a similar subject, who's on your 3-Star list for this trip? Anthony Stewart (2 goals, and no chance of making the club), Ville Peltonen (for being in the shootout beyond all logic), and the Panther Laundry Guys (if I were on the team charter, this one's a no-brainer). Yikes.
No matter. I play in the center of the hockey universe. That town to the west of us be damned. I can shop for Youpi underoos - with a generous discount - at the same spot where Claude Lemieux shot high to the glove side of Mike Liut at 5:55 of overtime in game seven of the 1986 quarterfinals. And with a bit of name-dropping, I'll get an extra 5% off of that. There's this girl, you see, with a Russ Courtnall sweater...
So nice try tonight, Panthers of Florida. Looking forward to the next visit. Feel free to continue using Montreal as a stepping-stone for your juniors, as was the case tonight. Just don't tell anyone. You and me, JM. Making me look good. Tell you what, just to keep it fair, I'll let one slip for your boys in the Conference Final.
Game four of JM's "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" tribute tour suffered a severe flat tire Friday night, as his Cats were emasculated at the hands of - gulp - Mike Keenan and his suddenly fiery Flames.
Tied at 2 after twenty minutes, the primarily minor-league-staffed Panthers collapsed into a defenseless shell, ultimately surrendering 6 more markers to Calgary's top-tier summer acquisitions.
Is the travel beginning to catch up to them? The prospect of two more games in as many nights? The expected confusion resulting from a new coach, his new systems, a bunch of kids looking for ice time to prove their worthiness, a number of freshly-minted arrivals from other clubs? Perhaps all of the above. Or worse, perhaps a message sent via express mail to Martin, the architect of this "Cannonball Run"-style schedule.
As professionals, I cannot believe for more than a moment that anyone wearing the Florida uniform "gave up". But people - even highly compensated athletes as stereotypically humble as hockey players - have their limits.
On a night where Tomas Vokoun - in his first start of the preseason - must face over 40 shots, nothing appeared to have gone as expected. DeBoer must make the inevitable personnel cuts, releasing kids to their junior or minor league assignments, and pull his troops together. The time for experimentation has officially ended, in my mind.
The Calgary Sun has reason to gloat about their home team's performance. Also at the Sun, Bryan McCabe's new situation has garnered their attention.
A bit further to the southeast, the Palm Beach Post has nothing. Nothing. But we knew that.
The Miami Herald's George Richards looks at D Jassen Cullimore's attempt to reclaim his spot in the lineup, as well as a capsule summary of last night's disaster. What more can really be said?
"Peter DeBoer's first comment on Friday's 8-2 loss at Calgary: 'Burn the tape.' "
Can we love this guy even more?
Richards' blog looks ahead to PEI (which will NOT be live blogged. Serious jones.) and Montreal.
Steve Gorten at the Sun-Sentinel doesn't have a new story for today, but his blog recap from last evening tells the tale.
And so ends the nightmare. On to PEI.
"The players sit at the back, the senior management in the front, and the scouts, media, web and PR folk in the middle, in that order. You don’t want to be the last one on the bus or the plane. Quite embarrassing, I hear."
That's EXACTLY what happened to Chris Pronger. Tough crowd up there.
A neat read, with the notable exception of the aircraft type (being an aviation geek, these are things I must know). As a member of the Oilers staff, at least she didn't pull the typical media response when confronted with an airplane story: it's either a Piper Cub or Boeing 747.
A sense of excitement and anticipation over the new-look Cats, as well as a sort of "What do these guys stand for?" attitude is beginning to permeate the NHL's old-guard media in their approach to Florida's team. So far.
Coach DeBoer is certainly a hot topic in the MSM these days, as a boatload of recent articles makes clear.
The Calgary Sun reveals DeBoer's efforts in changing the course of a losing culture in Sunrise.
"We're going to be a hard-working, fast-paced, up-tempo kind of team."
Definitely sounded that way on the radio last evening.
From our friends at the Globe and Mail, Eric Duhatschek compiles a terrific dossier on DeBoer, immediately following last night's contest in Calgary.
"This is the 14th year for the franchise and it is up to DeBoer to change the culture, something that usually doesn't happen overnight."
Doesn't need to be overnight. Pencil it in for November.
Like we needed more information about that Shawn Matthias character...actually, I welcome it...here's a concise profile about the Canadian Michael Frolik (on that subject, what a show it's gonna be watching them grow up!!!).
"Matthias became a favourite of his teammates for his work ethic, leading to Panthers’ captain Olli Jokinen to say that Matthias, 'should have made the team,' coming out of (last year's) training camp."
That comment always stuck with me.
"Bouwmeester Done in Florida?" Or so read the headline yesterday in - you guessed it - The Globe and Mail.
"There were lots more changes this year, too, although Bouwmeester will be the top dog on a much-improved defence."
He proved it at the Saddledome 12 hours ago.
Defensive talk dominates the day at the Sun-Sentinel.
"Martin acquired Cullimore as a free agent last October and the 35-year-old finished the season with a team- and career-best plus-21 rating. He had three goals and 10 assists in 65 games. Yet he received little interest after becoming an unrestricted free agent in July."
They are stacked on "D", and a couple of good players - or more - will get squeezed. Cully really may want to soften his stance on that one-way deal obsession of his.
Lots to get to following last night's 3-2 comeback win over Calgary, so off we go.
Peter DeBoer is relishing his first - granted, meaningless - victory. Correction, "meaningless" is far from fair. As George Richards describes, it was meaningful for many reasons, foremost the club's ability to win, on the road, in the third period. But mostly to win. Mostly.
''For a guy used to riding buses for the last 12 years, I enjoyed the charter,'' said DeBoer.
Sing it, brother.
In Calgary, spirits remain high after the loss, falling just short despite Dustin Boyd's heroics.
"All (Boyd) did was draw two penalties in the night's opening 23 minutes . . . then pot a soft-handed beauty . . . then set up a power-play strike by Jarome Iginla."
If Jay Bouwmeester was looking for a perfect way to put himself on the front pages of Alberta newspapers, in addition to stoking the contract fires - he found it with his game-winner.
Also from the Herald (um...the Calgary Herald), a proper game summary, which is exactly what one would expect from a "traditional" hockey market. I guess that means north of Martin County.
"Craig Anderson won't want to see many shots like the Jamie Lundmark slapper that smacked the Florida netminder on the mask and left him momentarily dazed."
We haven't even seen Stillman, Horton, McCabe, Ballard, et al. On to Edmonton; more on that to come!
See you all tomorrow against the Oil...
- CATS WIN 3-2 come-from-behind victory. DeBoer gets first win. Three stars: (3) CGY - Lundmark (2) FLA - Bouwmeester (1) CGY - Boyd.
- PANTHERS: Bouwmeester from Dvorak at 16:33 of the third. Sweeter. Cats up 3-2.
- PANTHERS: Olesz from Stewart and Kreps at 10:14 of the third. Sweeeet. Game tied 2-2.
- Decent quickie hallway interview with Keaton Ellerby covering fitness, strength, etc.
- FLAMES: Iginla from Boyd and Aucoin on the PP late in the second. The worst kind. Flames up, 2-1. Good night for Boyd so far.
- FLAMES: Dustin Boyd, past Anderson, at 13:02 of the second from Moss and Lundmark. Game tied, 1-1.
- PANTHERS: David Booth from Frolik at 1:19 of the second. 1-0 Panthers.
Florida (well, half of them) takes on Iron Mike's scrappy bunch at the Saddledome tonight, 9:00 pm. Check it out on radio with the Cats' local broadcaster:
Oh wait. That's right. They're not carrying it. The Marlins are battling for...nothing, so catch all the, um, baseball, at "The Ticket."
For those who want a little action and life in their sports, travel the supine byways of the internet, heading north to Calgary.
Remember, 9:00 pm.
Defenseman Colby Robak was reassigned to Brandon of the WHL. He's apparently got some fans there, too.
GR reports from the Red Mile on all things Cat.
"On Tuesday night, the Panthers kick off an ambitious Canadian preseason schedule, with Florida playing six exhibition games in six nights. Florida visits Calgary, Alberta, on Tuesday, then goes north for two games in Edmonton, Alberta, on Wednesday and Thursday."
Got all that?
Steve Gorten profiles the paths of Michael Frolik and Shaun Matthias, two kids we're going to hear a Whole. Lot. About.
"'I'm going to do everything to make the team,' Frolik said."
Don't forget Michal Repik...the same Repik who completely obliterated goaltender Chris Beckford-Tseu on Saturday. The future's bright...if we can hold on to our assets. Bravo JM for not giving in to knee-jerk deals at the deadline.
"The real question mark here is Olesz. Rusty made great strides were last season, resulting in 26 points (14 goals). This kid has the speed, the shot, the character. Will losing his mentor (Stumpel) constrain or release him?"
The Pensblog, for the unfamiliar, is more or less the unofficial melting pot for hockey fans on the web. A take-no-prisoners attitude, combined with some of the funniest photoshops you'll ever see as a fan, keep it fresh and definitely unique. Oh, and they really, really like the Penguins. Before they moved to Tampa. Thanks again guys!
I've decided to run the post here as well, so without further ado - and minus pictures (you're not missing anything there):
Here's the preview that millions have awaited, nations have fought over, and promises change we can ALL believe in.
Presumably, very few in the hockey world are unfamiliar with the history of the Florida Panthers (whether they wish to be or not..!)
- Set a record for most points by a first-year NHL team in their inaugural season of 1993-94.
- An unlikely trip to the SC finals two years later, only to be swept by the powerhouse troika of the Roy/Forsberg/Sakic-led Avalanche.
- Scott Mellanby's warm relationship with the ASPCA
- Gave up Stu Barnes for Chris Wells. Ouch.
- Grabbed Pavel Bure - and later his brother - in what appeared to be a masterstroke.
- Lost Bure - and later his brother - not long after.
- Hired and fired Mike Keenan - twice. Inexcusable.
- Stole the pants off of Islanders GM Mike Milbury by acquiring Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen. In the same deal. Did Oleg Kvasha really have that much upside? Ask the Isles.
- Promoted a power struggle versus Luongo by taking him to arbitration in 2005, leading to a long and drawn-out divorce. For the record, neither side appears to have been innocent.
- Bertuzzi. Nuff said.
- Sent longtime Cat Jokinen packing, a deal which many - through ignorance of the return? - still criticize.
- Made world news - and YouTube immortality - for the most unfortunate of reasons: Richard Zednik.
- Seven years out of the postseason, early-year struggles, late-year comebacks, injuries, changes in management, the kids never pan out, J-Bo is G-Bye, yada yada.
On the precipice of yet another new season, and naysayers are simply going through their annual motions, sharpening the knives and ready to pull the plug yet again on the forever 11th of 12th or 13th place Cats, will past history finally make way for a bright future?A few items of note are important when discussing this year's Florida Panthers, version 15:
Managing owner Alan Cohen has been in place for seven years. Agreed, no playoffs, and LOTS of turnover in mangement, but perhaps his decision to hold on to Jacques Martin as GM, after firing him as coach, was his signature move, if not the most highly divisive. Stuck by Jokinen as a staunch ally, finally giving permission to deal him once the writing was on the wall. Some semblence of familiarity by management, for the players, fans, league, can only be a good thing at this point. He has steadfastly commited to the future of the club in Sunrise, and allowed his front office team to do their bidding, without his meddling - at least publicly.
Olli Jokinen is now a former Panther. All signs point to his having a productive and prolific year - if not career - in Phoenix, and there is not a Cat fan anywhere who doesn't bow to his loyalty and commitment to the community. He was not, however, an effective leader in Florida, all too often remaining what appeared to be passive when the heat was on. Often-criticized buddy-buddy relationships with a few subordinates - impressionable Nate Horton comes immediately to mind - did not assist his status as captain. He was just too nice. An apparently negative relationship with coach Martin ("We don't go out to dinner" is but one of the loaded quotes in their time together), though probably mutual, went far in sealing his fate. Jokinen's days in Sunrise were effectively over following that fateful night in February, inadvertantly horribly injuring teammate Zednik. He was a lost soul after that game in Buffalo, never to recover, which fortunately allowed several others, including the rapid emergence of David Booth - The Dood himself - to ascend to higher spots on the roster. The captaincy remains up for grabs, though many believe the short list includes Stephen Weiss, Cory Stillman, and Bryan McCabe.
JM is "just" the GM now. Martin completes his third full summer in charge of the club, and no one can argue his accomplishments (Vokoun, Ballard, "The Beach" Boynton, Stillman, coach DeBoer, morphing Bertuzzi into Matthias and Roberts into Welch, the Rochester situation)...basically undoing - and hopefully stting right - the Keenan era. Tough times as coach reached a breaking point with captain Jokinen, to the tune of no turning back. Cries of misery were unleashed following JM's retention of the general manger's spot, many of those cries having a solid basis: too cozy with the owner, not enough positive change in the building, a "boring", defensively-based on-ice philosophy. The guy will never have a Bryan Burke personality, but his soft-spoken demeaner seems to have worked well upstairs, if not in the dressing room. Freed of the day-to-day constraints which shackled him as a Head Coach/GM, Martin should - should - find the creative and strategic juices he'll need to create a winner, if he can divorce himself completely from the coaching side of the game. Did he install a puppet in Peter DeBoer? A fine scouting department, along with assistant GM Randy Sexton, complement his lack of experience in the office, and let's be honest: anyone who attempts to undue an Iron Mike legacy in a market such as this is worthy of at least an honest shot. You've gotta admire his spunk. Give him three more years to get his design to the promised land.
On to the roster. We'll shake it up up a bit and begin with the tenders.
Carryovers: Tomas Vokoun (starter), Craig Anderson (backup).Newbs: None.Lost: None.On the farm: Tyler Plante, David Shantz, Tyler Beckford-Tseu.
Vokoun (30-29-8, .919, 2.25, 4 SO) has been hailed around the hockey media from "elite" to "servicible" (no, I don't get that one either.) He has proven himself to be a number one in the west, having routinely fended off the likes of Detroit and San Jose, and among Southeast netminders (where the wins matter most) he is arguably at the top of the division. 2007-08, his first with the Cats, placed high expectations squarely on his shoulders, and unfairly so, given the fluctuating status of the defensive squad in front of him. With a solid - SOLID - core before him in J-Bo, Allen, Ballard, The Beach, Murphy, McCabe, etc, T-Vo's stats will edge upward. If the offense takes flight, the wins will grow as well. To most of the more insightful Cat fans, Vokoun was in essence the captain of this club last year. His outspoken demeanor and Mike Liut-style comments reflected his desire to win at all costs, even basically naming names when fewer than the entire roster showed up on any given night. A refreshing change, and a welcome show of emotion for fans who have grown way too accustomed to insightful bromides from Jokinen, such as "we've got to play as a team". A few more nights off wouldn't hurt.
Anderson, who made headlines as the first goaltender - starter or otherwise - in league history to record back-to-back shutouts on the road (90+ saves!), returns as the undisputed secondary netminder. Toward the latter half of the year, Martin played him with more frequency, and given his increasing success during each start, this was a wise move. Vokoun was beaten up, and Andy (8-6-1, .935, 2.25, 2 SO) deserved the opportunity, paving the way for more starts under coach DeBoer this season. Also known for an uncanny ability to spot janitorial talent. Yeah, I used it again.
Carryovers: Bryan Allen, Cory Murphy, Jay Bouwmeester, Karlis Skrastins, Noah Welch, Wade Belak (F/D), Rory Fitzpatrick (yeah, THAT Rory Fitzpatrick), Jassen Cullimore (on a tryout)
Newbs: Keith Ballard, Bryan McCabe, Nick Boynton
Lost: Mike Van Ryn, Magnus Johansson, Steve Montador, Branislav Mezei
On the farm: Keaton Ellerby, Luke Beaverson, Mike Caruso
"Formidable" is not an exaggeration when perusing a defensive roster containing names such as Ballard, McCabe, Allen, The Beach, J-Bo (for now, at least), Murphy, and Skrastins. Consider the potential of Ellerby, the 10th overall pick in 2007, and the loss of Mezei is somewhat reduced in importance. Sarcasm, peeps.Montador was, before his departure, a favorite for the captaincy, and he certainly embodied all the right attributes. A popular and versatile d-man who could play forward in a pinch, he was oftentimes the only experienced enforcer on the club, and not a heavyweight at that.Tomas Vokoun has to be sleeping much more soundly these days, knowing a more-than-competent group of soldiers will be minding the zone in front of him. A major problem last year, given Murphy, Van Ryn, and Welch's long-term health troubles, a full-bore turnover of talent hopes to ignite the ranks of defensemen. McCabe brings a big-league shot, Ballard can hit anything open-ice, and few if any want to tangle with The Beach. Skrastis is much more consistent and "safer" than Salei, and Murphy is a proven second-line PP quarterback.
The future of Bouwmeester and his recently-minted one-year deal will, of course, always figure in to any discussion of Florida's blueline. Many pundits have already deemed him gone, and that may well be the case. A popular theory is that he and his agent are in a holding pattern of sorts, waiting to see whether the new DeBoer regime, along with summer pickups, can translate to a winning atmosphere on the ice, before deciding to hit the trail. If he chooses to depart, the Cats will score and score big at the trade deadline in filling holes. We're way ahead of Jokinen here, and JM is no Keenan. Either way, he doesn't walk come UFA day.
Ellerby will most likely wind up in Rochester for at least the next season after a progressive (23 points in 53 games, 81 PIM) campaign with Moose Jaw of the WHL. Former Rochester defenseman Fitzpatrick was simply an experienced roster spot fill-in for the Amerks, and is probably eyed for the captaincy. A solid PR move by Martin for the now-sole Panthers American League affiliate.
Carryovers: Stephen Weiss, David Booth, Nathan Horton, Richard Zednik, Rostislav Olesz, Gregory Campbell, Ville Peltonen, Radek Dvorak, Wade Belak (F/D), Kamil Kreps, Brett McLean
Newbs: Cory Stillman
Lost: Olli Jokinen, Jozef Stumpel
On the farm: Shawn Matthias, Anthony Stewart, Michael Frolik, Drew Larman, Janis Sprukts (again...)
Much has been made of the loss of former captain Olli Jokinen, but the departure must be split into two discussions. One was covered above, that of the leadership question. The other is obvious: just how does JM replace those 34 goals (and -19...yikes!)?Cory Stillman was a wise choice. He's been generally consistent (602 points in 839 games, 20 goals-plus in eight seasons), if a bit injury-prone. In the 2006 playoffs, he posted 26 points in 25 games, and two Stanley Cup etchings certainly don't detract from his pedigree. At 34, is he ready to do it all again? He's unquestionably good for 20 goals, but does the right set-up man reside here? DeBoer had better find a center for him, and fast. No time for experimentation here. The big upside? Florida doesn't have to play against him. Goals taken away are goals scored.
(Eternally) Potential power-forward Nathan Horton (drafted 3rd overall in 2003, directly behind Carolina's Eric Staal) continues to be an enigma. Oozing with talent, he has yet to deliver on the promise (27-35-62, +15, 85 PIM...most of which came after moving off of Olli's line). This is no surprise to anyone following the Cats. In fact, bring up any of Florida's recent first rounders with NHL experience (Weiss, Bouwmeester, and Olesz stand high) and "low return" comes to mind. Is this the year for Nate? Perhaps the long-rumored switch to center will seal it.
David Booth had a phenomenal (22-18-40, +13) second year, which only improved once matched with the horrifically-named "Sunrise Express" line partnering him with Horton and Weiss. It's easy to imagine The Dood overachieving, to the tune of 35 goals, but this is most likely entirely unrealistic on a club constructed such as this. Bank on 25 and be happy.Stephen Weiss: first-line or second-line? Therein lies the question. Another question: captain or not?
Richard Zednik is skating and all signs point to him being in the opening night lineup. If he stays there, look for 15 goals if he gets comfy on the right line.The real question mark here is Olesz. Rusty made great strides were last season, resulting in 26 points (14 goals). This kid has the speed, the shot, the character. Will losing his mentor (Stumpel) constrain or release him?We all know about Belak and his pugillistic skills. Brett McLean is the definitive "energy" forward.
The underlying excitement for this year comes in the form of Shawn Matthias. Acquired from the Wings in return for rental Todd Bertuzzi (the most glaring of very few black marks on Detroit GM Ken Holland's resume), Matthias has dazzled with Belleville of the OHL (56 gp, 32-47-79!, +21) while banging out 2 goals in four games for the Cats last year due to an emergency call-up. Kudos to JM for not pushing a good thing, keeping him here and wearing him out.Frolik likely will see a full season in Rochester, while Stewart, ever the dilemma, could wind up anywhere. One thing is for certain: it's his last chance to avoid the title of "draft bust".
DeBoer (l), and JM the GM
Former Kitchener Rangers coach Peter DeBoer takes the helm of his first non-juniors position. An unusual ascension, but generally considered around the NHL to have been in high demand; the Senators had him in their sights. P-De promises a far more up-tempo, fire-wagon attacking game, as opposed to JM's slower (boring?) defensive approach. Considering the blue-line guns at his disposal, this will result in an exciting, crash-the-net type of offense, sorely missing in Sunrise, well, forever, minus the one-man highlight reel of Pavel Bure. Just recently 40, DeBoer will be under the microscope of many this year, especially those clubs that passed on him. If he can resist the temptation of consulting his general manager for coaching decisions, he'll be fun to watch. The contests against Tampa's offense and Florida's defense should be classic.
What is the sum of these parts? Sounds like a cop-out, but who really knows? There are so many new variables in place, not to mention a division whose character is constantly changing...obvious answers are impossible.One thing is certain: this is a Cats club that is - for better or worse - like no other.
The phenomenal Hockey's Future - home of the world famous, or even infamous, HF Boards - brings us their two admittedly well-researched cents on possible openings for our baby Cats.
"A year ago, Noah Welch seemed to be a lock to take a spot on the blue line until an injury forced him to undergo season-ending surgery. Now Welch will have to press through the team’s new-found glut of depth which resulted from multiple offseason adjustments."
Usually a considerable gap in time between postings, but their scouting information is top-notch.
All's well in Pantherland heading into Camp, Day Two. Not much on the radar since yesterday, so we'll get right into the locals, and a few other tidbits.
On Frozen Pond covers yesterday's action, plus the (intended) destruction of former Cat den Miami Arena, and Bouwmeester's contract status.
“I've been here five years and haven't played in a playoff game. It's not fun for anyone. Hey, I'm partly to blame for that. I know that."
(A good portion of the press conference, as well as many other wild interviews from yesterday, can be found at the official site. Kudos to their staff.)
The Sun-Sentinel's Steve Gorten has more J-Bo talk, and a great summary of yesterday's events at IncredibleICE as well.
"The scrimmage is underway and Noah Welch just laid out Radek Dvorak with a hit near the boards. Just as in games, we're hearing "Boooooooth" whenever David Booth has the puck."
It really was otherworldly to hear the "Booooth" cry in such a small area. Truly kewl. Sitting just behind Zednik was neat, yet at the same time one could feel the angst he must be going through...every time he returned to the bench his eyes met cameras directly before him. And the season hasn't even begun.
Inside the Panthers has a terrific blog from Day One.
"Fans were so excited about the scrimmage they actually applauded when the officials took the ice. How often do you see that?"
Brian Biggane wasn't kidding when he wrote that. Almost surreal, and it happened a couple of times. Everyone looked around and decided, "OK, it's time to let 'em hear it". Lots of energy in the building. And tremendous anticipation.
Just to prove we're not alone in the world, the Rocky Mountain News ran a short AP article announcing the event. Nice.
It's been several hours since league contraction has been discussed, so here's today's fill:
"So say goodbye to these seven: Anaheim, Nashville, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida and Phoenix. The southern experiment hasn't worked, and won't. See ya later y'all."
Blah blah blah. As long as the Maple Leafs are safe and sound, screw everyone else. Another original thought from the capital of the hockey universe. Send your gratitude to Brad Fay at Sportsnet.ca.
A wonderful day had by all. Many thanks to the Florida Panthers organization for a fantastic event. Happy faces all around.
What was later estimated to be over 1,000 - in a facility built for FAR less - crowded into standing-room-only areas at IncredibleICE (you've already got the link, kids) to see Day One of the Peter DeBoer Era begin. Upon his arrival, a thunderous applause rang out. No, really.
Got a whole bunch to do - I just arrived at The Litter Box World Headquarters in breezy North Palm Beach - so I'll simply release the lousy teaser pictures from my phone. The good stuff will be here tomorrow after the standard vetting process is undertaken by loyal TLB staffers. BTW, staffers: no overtime. Yeah, again.
Squint hard folks...no HD here.
PeDe lays it down during Day One.
Much more to follow tomorrow, including commentary and (really good) pictures.
As for TLB's pick for Panther-of-the-Day-Camp-Edition (excluding veterans), hands-down today's winner is a no-brainer...ask anyone in attendance: Kenndal McArdle. Bar-none, the hardest worker - among VERY hard workers, just ask Horton while he was doubled-over on the far end - was the Panthers' 20th pick in '05. BAR. NONE. Nice freaking job, KM. Most impressive.
Again, lots more to sort out come tomorrow. While the TLB newshole rapidly condenses stories from around the globe regarding today's event, we'd like to send a special hello to Phillip(sp?) and Stephanie from South Miami. Loyal members of TeamLitterBox and a pleasure to talk - intelligent - puck with. Totally agree with their comments on Anthony Stewart.
Tune in tomorrow...Same Cat time, same Cat station.