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Time for Some Change

Loonies I've been known to watch movies I really enjoy -- you know, classics like Animal House, Caddyshack, Fletch, and my new fave, Superbad -- over and over. I'm even guilty of giving movies I don't like a second or third chance once they come on HBO.

That said, it isn't much fun to watch the same nonsense with a certain hockey team night after night. If not for the writer's strike, this Florida Panthers show would have been canceled weeks ago.

Seriously, how can this team pull the same stunts night after night? Are they this bad? These are the same questions that have been asked the past three years. No answers come to mind.

This is by no means a Stanley Cup contender, the Panthers not a team of All-Stars.

It is a group with some talent, only little drive. They have a problem with their collective heart. How else does one describe how they come out and give the effort they do night after night. If they only came out flat every once in a while, that would be forgivable. This team just doesn't seem to care. About anything.

The truth is, if this continues, this group is probably going to cost their coach -- and perhaps some of the assistants -- their jobs.

For a good many of them, that doesn't bother them either.

Knowing your lack of heart, lack of effort, lack of professionalism cost hard-working guys their job should hurt a little bit. Should be a just a bit embarrassing. But nothing seems to sting this collective bunch.

And that's why it's time for some changes.

Jacques Martin needs to go on the offensive. Now. It's obvious there are guys on this team that don't care. Two of the perceived problems missed Saturday's game with injuries, so they can't shoulder that much blame.

The Panthers should be embarrassed about Saturday's performance, as they should their five game losing streak at home, their nine losses in 11 games at home. How do you lose nine of 11 at home? We're talking losses to average Boston, Toronto, Washington, Montreal teams, not to mention road dogs like the Lightning.

But are they embarrassed? Some, yes. Most, no.

Olli Jokinen talked this summer about players having to be accountable, but that has not been the case this year. No one on this team seems to take accountability for anything, although Bryan Allen and Stephen Weiss come close, those two being very critical of themselves, sometimes too much so. Tomas Vokoun, too.

Yet nothing ever changes. They win a game, they move on. They lose, they workout, show up the next day and move on.

From what I've surmised, Martin is not on the hot seat just yet, although there is a thought he may be asked to give up one of his two jobs. He shouldn't be surprised. This is a result-based business, and the Panthers have not delivered the goods.

Martin cannot wash his hands and say this is a mess not of his doing, either. The players he didn't like from the Keenan era are gone. This is his team. And it's not one to be proud of right now.

Injuries, obviously, have robbed the Panthers of some offensive play and a little grit. Ville Peltonen should be back soon, and that'll help but his absence is not why Florida's offensive numbers sit lower than a chopped 1976 El Camino. Cory Murphy could be back, but who knows what's up with that. 

I've never been one to advocate panic, but a good little shake up can't be all bad.

Does anyone disagree that something needs to be done? If so, it needs to be done now.

The only thing keeping the Panthers afloat right now is their crummy division, one the Panthers realistically should be not only leading, but running away with. Yes, I said it. The Panthers should have overtaken the very-average Hurricanes weeks ago and begun distancing themselves. 

But they didn't. Instead, you see more of the same. Win two, lose four. Win three, lose two. It's a maddening cycle that has to be driving the few people who care mad. This team seems afraid to be successful. They were a lousy two points out of first place not long ago, then deflated like an old Mylar balloon trapped in the rafters of a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

I think Martin can afford to gamble and make a few moves to shake things up right now if only because the Southeast Division isn't getting any better.

The five teams within the division stink. The winner gets the third seed in the playoffs, and a fate very much like the Thrashers last year. Only the Panthers need the playoff money, so two home losses -- and the gates they'll bring -- is better than none.

Martin shouldn't mortgage the future of the franchise by making crazy deals a la Atlanta last season. The Thrashers gave up way too much for too little of a return. Shawn Matthias, Michael Frolik, Michal Repik, etc., are off limits. Ownership should make sure Martin knows this. Even if the Panthers make a run and make the playoffs, does anyone think they're going to do anything in them? Don't give away future stars for a few playoff dates.

No, I just think Martin needs to make a few deals to turn things around. Wake this bunch up. You like playing in Florida, wearing shorts and sandals to practice every day? Your wife enjoys the South Florida lifestyle? Oh, I'm sorry. You've just been traded to Edmonton. Bundle up, Chico.

Martin also needs to make nice with old friend Mike Keenan. See what players -- aside from Jokinen -- the Flames want. See if a deal could be made. Heck, put a player or two on waivers. See what happens. What's the worst thing that can happen? Someone actually pick the player up? That might be a good thing.

This ship is sinking and there aren't enough guys bailing water. The ones that are doing the heavy lifting are getting ticked watching others not do anything. It's time to make some changes before Washington and Tampa overtakes this bunch. I know the fans understand, but do the players here understand the opportunity these Panthers are squandering?

They are the only game in town right now, the only pro team worth watching.

Yet last night, if given the choice, I would have watched the Miami Heat.

It's one thing to lose. It's another to be so nonchalant about it.

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