Don't Panic...Two Locals Remain!

The lowly northern Palm Beach county hockey fan scours the southbound I-95 wasteland for MSM coverage of the Panthers. Hey...what's that on the horizon? Of course: The Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel! Oh wait...it's just another Stucky's.

Those "Captain" Kirk McLean Jokes are now a bit Hollow

After Canucks coach Alain Vigneault polls his players, it's clear, with a firmly raised arm, only one modest man has the captaincy firmly in mind. No secret ballots in Vancouver!

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.

Palm Beach Post bails on Panthers?

Saw the following just this morning by the Toronto Globe & Mail's William Houston dropping this bomb:

"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.


Awesome Picture of the Day

Still stinging from the lockout, players instinctively react to the sudden appearance of commissioner Gary Bettman in a luxury box at Prudential Center.

The Rigors of Travel

Following six games in six nights, and 14 billion miles, the Panthers returned home to Sunrise only to learn their charter had pierced a Langoliers-type wormhole, setting up a final preseason game against...themselves. Eight hours later, Horts and Weisser continue to battle for the puck in the opening faceoff.

Two Dozen Demoted

In a banner cost-cutting move to avoid excessive airport ramp fees, JM's newly-minted Amerks arrive in Rochester as the Cats' charter from Montreal continues south.

On the Glass - Monday: Another SO, Rochester Gets Fat

Four losses in a row? Big deal. The real season is that much closer. JM and PeDe made their cuts, ultimately sending 23 (at last count) to the Amerks, Everblades, or their junior clubs following the game in MTL. Actually, did anyone go to Estero? Now that the Cats have sole affilition with Rochester, I'm curious what kind of use we'll get out of the 'Blades, beyond a home for Tyler Plante.
On to the locals.
Nathan Horton got his first goal of the preseason, according to the Sun-Sentinel. But later in the shootout, Nate went for the humor.
"I didn't shoot where I wanted to because I didn't want to show (Price) where I was going during the season,"
A funny guy. Steve Gorten also reveals in his blog the players sent down last night.
The Miami Herald catches coach DeBoer, who agrees that it's time to go home.
"It was good to see these guys in game action. But I think everyone is ready to get home, sleep in their own bed and get some real work done at practice.''
I've got a question, or perhaps more a condemnation: Why in the name of Brian Skrudland does this team continue to use Peltonen in the shootout???


Carey Price: Postgame Comments

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 Day! Live Blog Options: Cats at Habs

In the absence of another live video feed, at least so far, TLB will be hanging out at On Frozen Pond for all the goods from GR, and listening to the Montreal radio feed courtesy of CJAD (the Big Jad).
Anyone finds a few other choices I'll be happy to post them, and pay 'em a visit.
Never thought I'd say this, but here we are for game six on day six. Better be a heck of an upside to such an unorthodox bunch of travel plans.
Looks to be another roll of the rookie dice tonight, as many of the big guns are sitting; see GR's link above for the roster.
On that note, I'm not concerned with the absence - due to powdered-over "injuries" - of the McCabes, Allens, etc. It still really is early.
On another track, today is the anniversary of the host nation's Canada Cup victory over the Soviets. Read a bit about it, and what time has done to some of the major players. A virtual Independence Day for Canadians, the Cup tournament's seminal moment - Paul Henderson's series winning goal - is timeless.
First Period: Stewart scores unassisted. 1-0 Cats.
Second Period: Horton scores - on the PP! - to take a 2-0 lead.
Second Period: (my apologies...been on the horn with my bro in DC, talking Caps, Cats and Thrash...don't ask) Montreal scores twice to end the period knotted at 2.
On to the third...
Third Period: No new action to report. Cats going on the PP with 5:41 remaining.
And on to Overtime!
It's all Price so far. Shots: 38-32, Cats.
OT is OVer...the skills competition commences...
Gotta hand this game to Carey Price, Habs goalie, so far. Been on time the whole way.
Away we go: Horts shoots first...and gets robbed. 0-0.
Habs miss, TVo with the save. Didn't hear the name. Sorry. 0-0.
Frolik misses. 0-0.
Kostitsyn misses. 0-0.
Price stops someone...couldn't hear that name either. 0-0.
Kovy shoots, scores, wins it. Final, 3-2 comeback victory for the Habs.
3 stars:
3: ??? (unintelligible)
2: Horton (big boos)
1: Kostitsyn (cheers, but where's the love for Price?)
BRING. ON. THE. CUTS. Let's see the big team. Wanna bet there will be a hellacious amount of power play drills this week at IncredibleICE?
TLB unsolicited opinion:
A spirited affair, with a bit of hope supplied by the likes of Frolik and Matthias. Anyone else catch the duo on the same line late in the contest?
Vokoun supplied what we expect, keeping the Cats in the game. Carey Price was the difference here, and a BIG difference. You know those games where One Guy simply takes over? This was his night. The Habs are in good hands for the near future.
We've seen (er, heard) a lot of hockey in the past six nights. Been a lot of fun, but after four straight losses, even the most ardent Cats fan is ready for a break.
Wow, for a serious - The Serious? - hockey town, I'm not too impressed by the phone calls during the post-game program on CJED. "I'm really glad they won." "Makes me feel good." "They were down by two and came back to win." "Wellah, icing appen when de puck come down, bang, before de udder guy..."
DeBoer's got some serious work to do, at least regarding the club the way it's currently constituted. Of course, it's gonna look a whole lot different in twelve hours.
Most pleased a good number of the kids have had a chance to play in the bigs, but the good stuff is yet to come. No one is predicting doom; who remembers the preseason stats?
A week off for us. Sweet.

On the Glass - Sunday: Cats fall to Isles, Notes

It's still the preseason, right?
Good thing, too. Otherwise we, the Illustrious Twelve, might be looking a bit confused, as in "Is this 2005, 2006, or 2007 all over again?"
Fear not, loyalists. Just workin' out the kinks. Behold the third kink in a row, last night's neutral-site game against the Isles in PEI. A 4-2 loss. Not much good can be taken away from this one. Collectively, the Cats have netted 6 goals in the past three contests, while giving up 15. At least yesterday they were only down by two at the final buzzer. Craig Anderson took the loss. Oh well. Today holds game 6 of 6 straight. In Montreal. I don't know whether this Panther club is composed of heroes or fools. We'll see.
Anyway, for a local gander at the loss, The Guardian provides a bit of insight.
"The first-ever NHL pre-season game on Prince Edward Island attracted 3,129 fans to the 3,500-seat Credit Union Place."
Back in South Florida, The Miami Herald looks at Bryan McCabe's whirlwind first few weeks with the Cats.
"McCabe said one of the reasons he wanted to play for the Panthers was that he liked what he saw in the Panthers' young core. Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss and Rostislav Olesz are locked in long-term, and McCabe has talked about Florida finally making that next step and getting into the playoffs."
The Palm Beach Post has crickets.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel offers up an interesting article covering not only the game, but the welcoming party which came before it.
"We got off our flight [Friday], spent over nine hours traveling here and to have people show up like that is exciting," (Gregory) Campbell said. "For us to have a warm welcome like that after a long day is pretty special."
As for the game itself:
"Three Islanders goals were on the power play, including two on 5-on-3s. New York outshot the Panthers 29-20."
Not so welcoming. Is it discipline, or a lack thereof? How many years have we watched this club take bad penalties? Granted, some nights it's injuries. On others it's the officials. Still others display a lack of skill or competition with the rival team. A bad omen, especially against a - sorry, Isles fans - beatable New York squad. C'mon Pete...get 'em into game shape. Year after year we hear the blather about getting off to a quick, successful start. And every year it fizzles. Cut the kids, assemble an NHL lineup tonight against the Habs and rock their world.


Reg Retires to the Palm Isle

I just learned of this a moment ago. Two disciplines have lost an icon: Hollywood, and (though he never meant it) hockey. Paul Newman has passed.
Not entirely a surprise, but nevertheless a shock to all of us who grew up as fans of the Chiefs.
Nothing here to say that is new. There's little that's pretty about Slap Shot. It is hysterically funny, offensive, riotous, edgy, timeless (despite the wardrobe), engrossing, and about a dozen other wonderful things.
As a community, we know all the dialog. The sets and locations. We know why the dog statue sits elevated in the park. We learned the word "bounty" long before it was necessary. We found out what hockey wives do - at least in Charlestown - when the boys are away. We know Ned Braden is a college graduate. We know what "is icing". That Jim Carr wears a rag. That Dickey Dunn's children have foul mouths. That Anita is garbage for letting the team go down the drain. That Lilly is a decent item. That the Bradens' van has a suspension installed by God Himself. That there are a lot of shyksters in Florida. And on and on and on...
My own memories of Slap Shot and the legend of player-coach Reggie Dunlop' efforts to turn around a floundering franchise began in the early eightees, when VCRs began their rule.
Along with usual fare featuring Star Wars, Trek, and a few others ("Alligator", anyone?), Newman's Slap Shot was on constant rental watch. My brother and I may have been Whalers nuts in heart and soul, but if we had to pick a second allegiance, it would have been fictional Charlestown.
I can honestly say not a day goes by where I don't reference Slap Shot in at least one way, shape or form. Paul Newman's portrayal - in a movie chock full of realistic, gritty portrayals - was as strong as any he'd ever performed, and that's quite a list.
We always knew we lucky to have been recipients of the finest sports movie yet made (argue me on that one), and now time has claimed the coach. The coach we entrusted, the coach who babysat us at the tv. The coach we've all quoted a thousand times. And will quote a thousand more.
Bless you, Paul, for so. many. hours. of entertainment - and growing the game we all love.
For testimonies and an overall love-fest from our friends across the 'net regarding Newman and his impact on well, us, see the links list on the right side of this page. Good reading.

It's not the Years, it's the Mileage

Coach Peter DeBoer (left, in white) marches his weary Panthers split-squad eastward to Prince Edward Island following a stinging defeat Friday in Calgary. Florida plays its' fifth game is five days Saturday evening against the Islanders.

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.


On the Glass - Friday: Oil Up in SO,

It definitely was spirited, as expected, but the Cats, after falling behind by two goals, rallied to tie late. After enduring the five minute OT, fate had Edmonton favored on this night which saw the Panthers play their third game in as many nights. 3-2 Oil. Nice scheduling.
Work is pretty crazy this morning so I'll have to phone in the morning post.
Lots to read at the Sun-Sentinel, as Steve Gorten recaps the game, and interviews former first-rounder Keaton Ellerby.
The Palm Beach Post apparently hasn't made it to Edmonton any more than Calgary. The Associated Press did make it, however, and here's their admittedly bite-sized coverage.
GR showed up at Rexall, and filed this.
Really pressed for time, but we'll make up for it later. Can't wait for this week to end.


Gamenight: Cats at Oilers, Round Two

Even in Edmonton, Coach DeBoer's amazingly widespread appeal brings in the ladies.

Should be quite the battle between these two, given the animosity following yesterday's PIM-fest.

Wanna catch the contest on radio? Check out Edmonton's 630 CHED (The Big Ched); the pregame (yeah, they have those in hockey) is running at this moment. The Oil just cut 15 players, so intensity among the kids remaining is certain to be sweet.

Gonna be doing a little live posting along with a few other Florida die-hards (ahhh...the Illustrious Twelve) at the suddenly lively On Frozen Pond. George, the site is looking fantastic. Amazing what a coat of paint and new drapes'll do.

Live updates, stats, ice time, attendance, restroom capacity, peanut vendor contract disputes, and any other bit of info on tonight's Cats game can be found at NHL.com's real-time scoreboard. Lots of cool widgets to explore during the game. And get your fill of the site's new look.

In other Florida news, defenseman Noah Welch loses his head...well, not all of it yet. A noble kid with extraordinary character.

AirOil Welcomes you Aboard

A very cool log entry from Jen Sharpe of the Edmonton Oilers describes the interior amenities and services offered onboard the team's jet.

"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.

On the Glass: Stillman and DeBoer

The acquisition of Cory Stillman, a kind of Public Enemy Number One around these here parts, was a masterstroke by JM the GM. As I've said previously, just getting the guy out of the division was Priority Job Two, behind Priority Job One (hiring the ridiculous Panthers' Energy Squad, of course. Say, whatever happened to that idea?).

Not having to face him a multitude of nights per season is Christmas in October. And November. And so on. For a little more depth on #61, Steve Gorten steps up:

"Of playing with Horton, Stillman said, 'The more we play together, the better we are.' "

Yet another profile of Pete DeBoer, this time a bit higher profile, from the desk of Wes Goldstein at SportsLine:

"I don't want any baggage from the past so when we started (training camp), you could see the guys were excited to be back, excited about our direction and about the changes."

Shootout Hero: Bryan McCabe?! Cats Cap Oil in EDM

First off, I've got to admit that I missed the first, second, and 15 minutes of the third period last night. Not to worry, I was having a grand evening. Upon arriving home and locating - with a bit of difficulty - the appropriate sports radio station in Edmonton (excellent broadcast but they may want to consider hyping the game a bit on the website), I discovered the Panthers and Oilers to be locked in a 2-all battle.
After last night's victory in Calgary, I half expected reality to come crashing down, the Cats sinking into the Third Period Psychosis which has plagued them for so long. It'll happen; they'll settle back, get defense, on their heels, take a bad penalty, and play scared...somehow knowing the shoe is going to drop. Ask any Florida fan about it. It lives. It breathes. It should have it's own sweater with a number on it - probably 666. But...
...they didn't lay back. Their heels never dug in. The wafting ghosts of JM the Coach and Olli the Captain never appeared. There was a certain...confidence? Yeah, I guess that's what it's called.
C'mon...it'll happen in the OT. Nope.
Five minutes later, we're on to the shootout. Ok...here's where we excel: dropping it in the SO. How many points has this squad surrendered in the shootout over three years? Countless. Somehow, they stayed cool. You could feel the calm, the steadiness. Coach DeBoer had his troops mentally prepped. For the first time in a decade, one got the impression that the Cats wouldn't be rattled.
Goals by Nathan Horton, Cory Stillman, and Bryan Freaking McCabe(!) put the Cats over the top against a more or less split squad of Oilers in the shootout. Florida rookie goaltender Chris Beckford-Tseu (referred to consistently by Oiler broadcasters as "BeckMAN-Tseu") absolutely shined in the fight-dominated 3-2 win (Tanner Glass is gonna feel this one for awhile).
Preseason, yes. But nice nonetheless.
It's a rematch tonight, as the Panthers set up for exhibition game three.
And on to the newsies:
NHL.com's News, Notes, and Numbers from the night.
TSN reproduces a Canadian Press summary of the game.
The Miami Herald's George Richards saw a bit more of the game than I did.
"Chris Beckford-Tseu started in net for the Panthers in their preseason game at Edmonton, surrendering two goals in regulation but saving his best in the end. Beckford-Tseu gave up two goals in the shootout, but stopped Edmonton on its final three shots for the winner."
The Sun-Sentinel's Steve Gorten gives his view of the action.
"The Panthers had two power plays in overtime, but came up empty and are now 0-for-14 on power plays in two preseason games." Scary, but not disastrous yet.
The Palm Beach Post has this.
More to come later today, kids, as we prep for another night of Alberta action.


Rochester Camp Dates

The Amerks' have released their 2008 training camp schedule. Opening Tuesday, September 30th and running through Tuesday, October 7th, the Americans prepare to open their 53rd season.
See the official site for more info.

Wednesday Primer: Suddenly, There's Interest...and More DeBoer!

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.

Wednesday Primer: A Win at the 'Dome

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!


Cats - Flames...Live Scoring

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.

Game Night from Calgary

Jerome Iginla will be joining new teammate Todd Bertuzzi tonight in exhibition match number one between the Panthers and Flames.
Not to be upstaged by Iron Mike, Cats coach Pete DeBoer lines up a semi-familiar forward combo of David Booth, Stephen Weiss and...Michael Frolik? Based on the flashes of ability I saw from the kid on Saturday, this could be a trio that sticks.
In fact, Calgary radio Fan960 is talking up that line right now. Sounds electric. In fact Weiss and afterward JM the GM will be appearing in the next few moments. Awesome.
Our local boys have been checking in regularly, so let's get to Calgary without delay.
In a fascinating scientific experiment, the Sentinel's Steve Gorten morphs into Jay Bouwmeester in order to sort out the young defenseman's thoughts on the present...and the future.
"Anyhow, I tried to put myself in Bouwmeester's shoes to understand what this contract situation is like for him. I figured since I'm in his shoes, I might also hop inside his head. So hear's what his inner thoughts might sound like..."
Definitely read on. And for an update from earlier in the day, Gorten gives us a few nuggets of info to hold us over.
A little line talk from On Frozen Pond highlights George Richards' morning post.
"Richard Zednik, originally slated to play tonight, was not at skate."
Wouldn't read too much into that one.
Fan960 is interviewing Mike Keenan now. Talking Bertuzzi. "Focused individual". There's a real scoop.

Game Day! Cats at Flames

The exhibition season begins in several hours and the excitement is palpable. I still can't believe we've reached the tail end of summer. And a long one as always.

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.


Monday Primer II: Camp Notes

The news and notes are increasing from the road, and destination number one is Cargary. Special thanks to The Big Three's Cat Pack for continuing to provide the good stuff.
The Palm Beach Post's Brian Biggane sums up the coming deluge of (non-televised, duh) preseason games.
"That schedule may seem exhausting, but coach Peter DeBoer has split his roster into two 25-man groups, each of which will play three games."
I can't see it happening any other way. Gonna kill 'em otherwise.
Biggane also alerts us to a new poll at XM Radio: Who will be the most successful of the new coaches in the NHL this year? Care to hazard a guess as to the leader?
"Listeners were asked which of the league’s four first-year coaches they expected to do the best job this season. DeBoer finished first with nearly 38 percent of the vote, followed by San Jose’s Todd McClellan with 30 percent, the New York Islanders’ Scott Gordon with 20 and Atlanta’s John Anderson with 12."
Tuesday night marks the beginning of the exhibition season. You probably were aware of that. It really hit me a few hours ago when the scoreboard popped up on MyYahoo! Hadn't seen that since June. Go Cats.

I Knew There Was a Reason I Still Felt 27

Now, I'm aware that many out there are unfamiliar with Cat coach Peter DeBoer.

I'm also aware he's got a phenomenally successful coaching record in the OHL, and the hockey press is well versed in it.

That being said, Gambling911.com seems to be stuck in 1998. Either that or the LA Kings will be sending a strongly worded communique to Jacques Martin very very soon.

"Florida Panthers: Terry Murray - Terry Murray is now Jacque Martin's man in Florida, as Murray has a winning record of 360-288-83-6 in 737 games coached. The Panthers are getting an experience NHL coach, but I think the game has changed too much for a veteran guy like Murray. His Brother Bryan is the GM in Ottawa. +5000 odds to win the 2009 Stanley Cup"

"The game has changed too much for a veteran guy like Murray?" Ok, here's a suggestion: how about tabbing a dude like, oh just picking a name out of a hat...PETER DeBOER?

How high are these guys? I'm not a gambler, and now I know why. Who's taking these clowns seriously?

Terry freaking Murray? Who's coaching Rochester...Roger Neilson? Get it together, losers.

Demise of One of the Greats

Jes Golbez's Hockey Rants has always been a tough blog to pin down...and I mean that in the most kind way. I've enjoyed it thoroughly for quite a while, yet one never knew what they'd be treated to upon clicking in to it. Primarily Canuck-related content, interspersed with league-wide news and opinion. Apparently Jes has decided to hang 'em up:

"I look back at some of my older posts, and I realize that my content is not nearly as good as it used to be. The posts on this site used to be either funnier, contain more detailed analysis, and/or a lot of Czech/Slovak content, the latter of which I'm the most proud to have brought to the blogosphere.

Like Trevor Linden, I just don't have "it" any longer. I'm tired, worn down, and my abilities have been eroded over time. I know I'm capable of writing some good material, but it would take a lot of time and effort that I'm just not able to handle.

When I think about the memorable posts I've written, most of it has not been writing over the past 6-8 months.That is why I've decided to retire from regular hockey blogging and close the Hockey Rants chapter of my life, as well as stop writing for AOL FanHouse."

Whatever his reasons, we all respect his move and share in the thought that the hockey blogosphere is weaker without Hockey Rants. No question was the site an inspiration for TLB. We'll miss ya, Jes.

Cats Season Preview: Mine!

Well, the world finally gets MY preview of the upcoming Cats season. Many, many thanks to the good folks at the Pensblog - who gave me a lot of space.

"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.

Monday Primer: Vokoun, Camp Day Two, Zeds

Autumn is a mere one hour away, or at least it was when I began banging out this post, which reminds me that I should have had today's morning submission completed many hours ago. This whole "employment" thing is really getting in the way. On to more interesting matters...

Steve Gorten profiles Richard Zednik's return to action in an upbeat article from the Sun-Sentinel.

"General Manager Jacques Martin described Zednik, 32, as "anxious" to pick up where he left off last season. The streaky scorer posted six goals and three assists in the four games before Feb. 10."

Sick numbers during an impressive run.

On the same path, the Columbus Dispatch looks at the NHL's - and specifically, the Blue Jackets' - on-ice emergency procedures in the wake of Zednik's Bad Day. A number of various scenarios are played out in an effort to increase efficiency during an unforseen event.

"'My vote is, leave the helmet on, barring any type of facial trauma,' said Dr. Joseph Ruane, team doctor and a sports-medicine physician."

Interesting stuff.

George Richards details T-Vo's increased comfort level over last season.

"''Last year was a year of transition for me,' said Vokoun, a member of the Eastern Conference All-Star team in 2008."

Forgetting the obvious but lame reasons why goalies can't be captains, I REALLY wish DeBoer would break with tradition and name T-Vo as commander-in-chief. His passion and frustration with losing made him an early fan favorite around these environs. He reminds me a bit of Mike Liut and his canned rage. Now that's passion.

A change of scenery will work to Bryan McCabe's advantage, says David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail.

"He got through the whole situation without getting down," Belak said. "I don't know how anyone could have handled it as well as he did."

"...He brings a lot of leadership to this team, which is what we need. Last year's team was a little quiet. It was kind of divided in the locker room."

You don't say?


Cats Season Preview: Hockey's Future (focusing on rookies)

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.

Camp Day One: Pictures! Part I

The lovely and talented CLG - my inspiration for the entire Litter Box empire - brings us some great shots of yesterday's fest. More to follow soon.






Horton (in red)



Sunday Primer: Camp Day One Fallout and (what else) Contraction


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.


From the Desk of Jacques Martin

It wasn't easy keeping up with all the high numbers. After Rusty, I get a bit queasy.
And as I stated earlier, McArdle looked phenomenal.
BTW: Belak was present. Number 33. Offense? Defense? He'll be running the show by November.

Training Camp Day One: First (poor) Pictures

I was expecting a bit more, um, performance out of my Razr cameraphone, but I digress. LOTS of good shots from a much better platform are on their way.

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.

Guys ready for the pass during practice.

Hey look! That's Nathan Horton in the red! I promise.

Stanley C. just before he shut off my phone. Forcibly. Apparently he's not a fan of speaking without Teleprompters. Hmmm.

Zeds is back! And yes, his speed is there as well.

More guys looking for work.

This guy's not looking for work. Tomas Vo-something was his name...

No support here. Off to Hamilton.

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.