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Turn Out the Lights: Florida Panthers Eliminated

Laptop As you all know by now, the Panthers season is over. The Panthers needed a regulation loss by Montreal and some sort of loss by the Rangers to stay alive.

Neither happened.

Below is the raw copy of my gamer from tonight. Here is the link for the edited copy.

Above is a picture of Steve Eminger (forefront) and general manager Jacques Martin watching the end of the Boston game from my laptop.

Luckily I had purchased NHL center ice on my laptop because for some reason Laptop2 the Philips Arena in-house feed couldn't get that one game. Anyway, more later...

On right, Nathan Horton and Rostislav Olesz watch the end of the Bruins/Canadiens game on the laptop.

BY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

ATLANTA – All the Montreal Canadiens had to do was get one point and the Florida Panthers would be out of the playoffs.

The Panthers had just beat Atlanta 3-2 to keep their playoff hopes alive. One by one the players moved into a hallway outside their locker room to watch the Canadiens-Boston game on a laptop computer. As the seconds ticked away in the tie game, the Panthers knew they were done.

Brett McLean cursed, then headed to the showers. Radek Dvorak, clad only in a white towel, continued to stare at the computer's screen as if he couldn't believe it. Nathan Horton shook his head and headed to the bus. General manager Jacques Martin wasn't far behind him.

Montreal lost to Boston in overtime, but the final score means nothing to the Panthers. With Montreal getting one point and the New York Rangers beating Philadelphia, the Panthers were eliminated from the postseason once more. Florida has now missed the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the league and second longest all-time.

''We left it up to other teams to lose,'' said Jay Bouwmeester. ''When you do that, it's never a good situation. We lost some pretty key games down the stretch. When teams were struggling, we didn't take advantage. We have no one to blame but ourselves. At the end, it really doesn't matter.''

Coach Pete DeBoer said before Thursday's game that he was confidence ''someone would drop the ball,'' meaning either Montreal or New York would falter in the final two games of the season. But the Rangers, who only needed a win to edge out the Panthers, jumped to a 2-0 lead over the Flyers and goalie Henrik Lundqvist held on for the 2-1 win.

Florida knew soon after its win over the Thrashers that New York had won. The Panthers only chance was a Montreal loss in regulation. The Philips Arena in-house system had every other game in the league going but couldn't pull in the only one the Panthers cared about. So, the team was forced to gather in front of a sports writer's computer to see their fate unfold.

''It's disappointing,'' DeBoer said. ''The goal from Day 1 was to get into the playoffs. I'm proud of our group. I couldn't ask for a better group of professionals to work with as a first year coach. We created an identity. We had some deficiencies in some areas that became obvious as the season went on, but it was never for lack of effort or commitment to the game plan.''

Florida didn't look like it was keeping to its plan early Thursday, the Panthers looking slow against the Thrashers team with nothing to lose. Atlanta flew by the Panthers, and took a 1-0 lead in the first when rookie Zach Bogosian scored his first of the night. Bogosian's goal came on a power play, not long after the Panthers were able to kill off a 5-on-3 disadvantage for two full minutes when Richard Zednik and David Booth each took penalties on the same play.

The Panthers tied the score in the second, Nathan Horton knocking in a puck that originally wasn't ruled a goal. Horton's shot went across the line, hit the back of the cage and came back out into play. Cory Stillman continued to play the puck, but when play stopped, NHL Central in Toronto reviewed the play and it was obviously a goal.

Atlanta took a 2-1 lead in the third when Bogosian scored again, but 50 seconds later, Stillman deflected a long shot from Gregory Campbell and knocked it through to tie the score. With 4:25 left, David Booth knocked in a shot to give Florida its first lead of the night. ''We gave it a chance,'' Booth said. It was a big one because it lasted, Tomas Vokoun making 23 saves for the win.

''After the first 10 minutes, we played really well,'' Vokoun said. ''It was tough playing a team with nothing to lose, especially because we had so much. I'm proud of the guys. We battled hard and won the game. That's all we could do.''

The Panthers have won five of their past seven games, but a rough stretch in March obviously cost them a trip to the postseason. Despite not making the playoffs again, the Panthers say they are excited about the future. The team has a pretty solid core group and made terrific strides. Thursday's win was Florida's 19th on the road this season, one shy of last year's franchise record.

Florida has 91 points, its most since the 1999-2000 Panthers earned 98. A win Saturday in the season finale against Washington would bring 93 points – the second-most points in franchise history. Last year's team ended with 85.

''There's a good foundation here,'' DeBoer said. ''The key is to keep it and add some pieces. I think we're real close.''



California/Cleveland/Minnesota 1970-79

Colorado/New Jersey 1978-1987



Boston 1959-67

Washington 1975-82


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Ok check it..Martin needs to be held responsible. He' has made a few good moves. His greatest was brining in DeBoer. Ballard and McCabe were good pick ups.

But be realistic...If your getting rid of a great player like Jokinen...you have to be an idiot to not get at least 1 good player back! He should of gotten More!

With McCabe...he only had 2 teams he was willing to go to! He practically fell in Martins lap! Toronto wanted to shed salary and were willing to take a chance with Van Ryn!

With Deboer...there wasn't alot of big time coaches available...San Jose, Atlanta both hired first time coaches...and after the success with Washingtons coach last year...how easy is it to follow the trend and go after one of the best coachs not in the NHL?

Anyone with an idea of the game of hockey, could of made these moves!

Dave Nonis getting Luongo from us...thats a smart GM.

Look at ALMOST any move Brian Burke makes...thats a Smart GM.

C'mon George at least you gotta agree with me!

I'm so disappointed right now it's hard to describe, we were in the top 8 for so long this year.. to throw away all that good work in the last month is just so depressing.

Can't imagine how I'm going to try and get myself excited again next year, even if we get off to a good start I'll be thinking back to how it can all go wrong. A whole season to try and get back to where we were coming into March... I guess we could be in an even better position next time but I doubt it unless there are major changes.

I love the Panthers but they just completely choked when they needed to show some character, dig in and secure a spot. Even if we'd have got swept by the Bruins it would have been awesome to just be there.

I really hope Bouw stays but I can't see it happening now. I only think there was a tiny chance of that happening if we went a couple of rounds into the playoffs. He was partly to blame for the collapse as he was awful between the trade deadline and last week, but he's a superb player and it will be a big blow to lose him.

I can't blame him for wanting to leave, this team seems cursed for an eternity of mediocrity in the bottom half of the East. On a good team with better teammates I'm sure he'll be even more impressive. It's easy now to say we should have traded him, but the way things were looking at the deadline I agreed that it was the right decision to keep him, assuming we just didn't get any good enough offers.

We need some talented forwards desperately. GM did a great job fixing up the D last summer and hiring PdB but why couldn't he have sorted out the forwards too? Without an all-star scorer I can't see this team going anywhere. And the PP was summed up in tonight's game, it completely sucks.

Worst part is I think this bunch of guys pretty much gave it their best shot this season, doesn't feel like there's much more to be squeezed out.. We can't blame injuries or bad luck, they did this to themselves and in the end they just didn't deserve to get in.

There is a deeply embedded losing mentality at this club and I am sick and tired of the '96 cup run being mentioned. It's pathetic that we've done nothing for 13 years.

Go around the league...and point out a playoff team WITHOUT a go-to guy who at the start of every season is expected to lead the team in goals or points?

Your not gonna Find them.

The Panthers had him in Jokinen and they traded him. Say what you will...but he was a 30 goal scorer and was above a 70 point player. My problem wasn't that he got traded...it's that he wasn't replaced.

The Panthers have a good team, but they lack the Lecaviler/Gaborik/zetterberg type player. Horton is a 30 goal scorer AT BEST. David Booth was a PLEASANT SUPRISE. Of course the team scored goals, because they are not bad players. They are 2nd line players but...there are a couple that are capable of riding shotgun to a 1st line player.

DeBoer did a great job...but he can only help the players show their full potential, he can't creat potential.

We need a Great Gaborik/Jeff Carter/Zetterburg/ go-to-guy...end of story.

um, no we don't. i mean, yes, to contend, we need that. to get the dance, no. and that's the goal. the team had some hiccups, bottom line - they were too easily discouraged in many games and got away from their forecheck after failing to capitalize early in games and giving up goals. then later, once in the top 8, they seemed to get a little cocky and got comfortable with these "track meet" games, games which we don't really have the skill to pull out most nights.

clearly, that's an area that needs more work and that's certainly going to be a focus. and yes, the odd snipe could've netted us another few points but... the same could be said for those games when the boys got away from what they were being taught.

so JAM, jam it up... well, you know how it goes.

oh, and **** joker. they guy's a loser. getting him out of here was first step in retooling this roster.

The player the Panthers should try and get is Johan Franzen. He will be an UFA, he is a center and a goal scorer. If Boumeester doesn't want to sign, JM should see if Detroit is interested in a trade prior to the draft and trade the rights of Boumeester for Franzen, provided the players would agree to sign with the respective teams. Panthers need two things, a center and a goal scorer and Franzen is both.

zeroG....you're an idiot.

the only reason this team made it as far as they did is because they played such a picture-perfect system game that they would hang around in games where they were clearly the lesser skilled squad. you can't play a perfect hockey all the time, in all 82 games.. all teams go through periods where they get away from what brings them success. the sharks slumped. the red wings slumped, the sharks even slumped for decent periods of time.

the difference is those teams, when they do play their game, win far, FAR, more often than they lose. when the panthers play their game, they still come up short a fair amount of the time simply because they are not "good" enough. they're not skilled enough. it's unfair to compare a building team to an elite team....but even teams who didn't play a system game (and in turn, got their coaches fired) for half a season like carolina, new york and montreal still snuck into the playoffs. why? better players.

your head is too far up jacques martin's ass to realize any of this, of course. but it's blatantly obvious to anyone with any idea of the sport. he did a good job of solidifying the goaltending, and a decent job with the defensemen. but the forwards are such an absolute albatross that not even an emaculate job of coaching by deboer could propel this team into the playoffs.

get a clue.

One question zeroG - Why would a team (or its fans) be content with aiming for getting to the dance rather than trying to be a contender?

And actually, that mentality is exactly the problem. The organization isn't interested in having a contender. They just want to attend the dance and earn the extra playoff money, not to mention have a marketing tool with which to draw season ticket sales. No successful sports organization wants to only get to the dance. Successful organizations strive to win it all.

I'm so disappointed right now. I honestly thought this was the year we would break out of the mold. I am very happy with the team's direction, though.

But Jacques has to bring in scoring. That's the bottom line. The pieces are there. Even losing Bouwmeester isn't such a great loss because I expect Keaton Ellerby will be ready next year (I am not underplaying Bouw's loss either, he's been my favorite hockey player since he was with the Medicine Hat Tigers). There is an identity with this team finally. And it harkens back to the early days of this franchise.

I really do believe that if there can be a legit scorer brought in by Martin, this team can take the next step. Especially with growth by Frolik and the amount of potential we have in our system (Matthias, Repik, etc.). It's just so frustrating right now, since we were as high as 5th in the conference. What's worse is that we'll end up with more points than some teams in the western conference playoffs if we win on Saturday!

Thanks for the great blog, George. I look forward to your continuing coverage of this teams and all things south Florida. It's a damn shame that this team can't seal the deal with the playoffs.

dear alex -

unfortunately for you, i do have a clue. i coach. i play. i train. all very seriously. my apartment is littered with drill books, coaching books, diagrams sketched on napkins and notebook paper, etc. in short, i live this game, every day. at the rink. i can talk detail at any level you are comfortable with.

i know we have deficiencies. and yes, on a nightly basis, we have very little margin for error. and yes, there are going to be games and stretches, where we don't get bounces and don't get the finish we need to win. but this team still could have made the playoffs. and you know what? THAT was the goal. it's not the end goal (wait-a-minute), it's a necessary step. if you'd listened to coach, you'd know that while applauding the effort, he has admitted that the players had "gotten off the path" several times this year. unfortunately, it was enough to erase our small margin.

so while, in the end, you could say that ny and montreal skated in on the backs of a few talented players that won them a few extra shootouts and perhaps finished a chance or two more, i say that does not invalidate the approach JM and PDB took this year. we knew it was going to be close and we were right there until the end. i would not trade rosters or prospect pools with either of those teams (or several other teams above us in the east for that matter). the team made some large strides, they played important games in april. they got 40 wins.

look, i'm as disappointed as anyone. i'm just looking at the long view. the reality is that, despite the bitterness of elimination, this team is clearly on the ascent.

is this team on the right path, no!!!!!!!!!

As zeroG says you start in goal. Lets start with Vokoun who is an above average goalie.
His career record is 216-211 (the goal is to win). He has a history of giving up the soft goal. (Even Goldie and Denis said during the game that Vokoun gives up too many soft goals)

Just a couple of points is the difference between making the playoffs and missing the playoffs, you need a goalie who can steal some points. A perfect example would be the last two games that the flyers had. Vokoun gives up a soft goal and loses. Lundqvist makes the big save and wins. The Rangers scored less goals then the panthers. Vokoun is 2 games over 500 for the season Lundqvist is 12 games.

This league is extremely balanced, there is not much difference between teams ranked 5 to 20.

The difference between this season and other seasons is that Coach DeBoer has brought accountability for most of the players. He says we are short on skill and that is why we lose so many shootouts.

With the balance of the league attitude is extremely important. You can see the difference between DeBoer and Martin by their statements. DeBoer we didn't make the playoffs so season is not a success.

Martin on FSN paraphrasing: the season was a success, we have a great core of guys....

If you accept average then yes the season was a success.

Our roster will be turning over as I suspect the following will not be back:

Dvorak, McLean, Zednik, Stewart, Boynton, Cullimore, Bouwmeester, Anderson

That would be a 40% turnover.

Are we heading in the right direction, too early to tell. We do not have the core forwards needed to win, we are losing our best defensemen for nothing, we are losing our back up goalie and our starting goalie is average to slightly above average.

The hockey news rates our young players as average as well.

Would I trade the panther roster for montreal or nyr no, but if I was Montreal or NYR I wouldn't trade my roster for the panthers either.

Every team has strengths and weaknesses, the panthers strength this season was the hard work and the system, their weaknesses are:

too small at center, not enough skill, slightly above average goaltending.

Martin has been at the helm long enough for a team to still be below average (but if your goal is average then he has done a good job).

The key for improving the team will be:

1. Cohen willing to spend the money to improve the team scouting and minor league system (only Springfield has a record worse then Rochester)

2. Get fowards with skill that are big enough and fast enough to play DeBoer's system.

3. Spend the money that you would of spent on Bouwmeester on players

4. Get a goalie that can steal a few games

I for one do not want to sit here and have a goal of making the playoffs, I want to have a goal of challenging for the Stanley Cup.

As I said a couple of days ago, I blamed ownership for this debacle. How is it possible the teams like Washington and Chicago, they were worst than us and they are on the playoffs, it is due to one reason only picking the right players in the draft. All the number one picks we have had for years, we are still waiting for their potential (Horton, Weiss, etc). We need to get scorer to make it far. With this players we will not get anywhere.







Well after the failure of not making the playoffs again, will the organization finally realize that players like Horton, Weiss, McLean, Olesz etc. are not players to build around?

I am sick and tired of being told these guys are good enough and that they are the future.
Horton and Weiss have been here for 5 years or more and have not matured enough to deliver consistently and that's the key. Consistency.
In addition, they don't appear to have much hockey sense.

Unfortunately, we cannot be satisfied with this. I agree with whoever said it earlier here, you can't build a team just to make the playoffs, you have to build a team to contend for the cup!

Horton 2nd line player
Weiss 2nd line player
Booth 2nd line player
Olesz 3rd line player
Bouwmeester top line Dman (will not return)
Stewart Minor league player at best
McArdle Minor league player at best
Frolik 2nd line player at best

Those are our 1st round picks in the 2000's that are still with the team.

Where is the guy that can carry us? Not on the team yet! This team stinks at drafting players and its killing our future. Bouwmeester is gone so there goes our best pick in years. This team does not have a talented player who can change the game in a second. Every team has that guy but us. Even ATL and TB have guys that can win the game on their own. We on the other hand have a GROUP of players that need to be on to win a game and that isn't always the case.

F this organization. They spend money on the wrong players. 3.25 for Olesz? wow I would rather have just signed Ryder for that money cuz we would get so much more production from him than that waste OLESZ.

i will not watch anymore , this front office is a huge dissapointment.....Luongo , Jokinen !
Give credit to the players, they tried theyre best.
This team wont be here much longer

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