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NHL.Com: Is This the Panthers Year? ... Changes in Coverage

KoolaidUpon taking a break from writing football preview stories, I noticed a new story on floridapanthers.com regarding the Panthers chances for next season.

It's a story that doesn't break any news or anything, but it does bring up Florida's long postseason drought -- and suggests this might be the year the Panthers finally jump into the playoffs.

This comes just a few days after The Hockey News predicted the Cats would finish last in the Eastern Conference.

My take is this: I think the Panthers are going to be an interesting bunch, but if they make it to the postseason, Pete DeBoer is not only the coach of the year, but perhaps the decade. I just don't see this team scoring many goals and there are way too many question marks throughout the lineup.

The current lineup isn't very imposing, and that's even if it stays healthy. Once guys start getting hurt and DeBoer is forced to start mixing and matching, well, that's not going to be fun.

And does anyone really think the Panthers are better than they were last year? I think Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Carolina are better than they were last year. The Southeast Division has really improved. That's not going to help the Panthers.

I think with Tomas Vokoun, the Panthers have a chance to be in every game. Maybe they steal a few here or there. I could actually see the Panthers finally get off to a good start and create a feel-good buzz. Maybe they sustain that, like some other surprising teams (Colorado, Phoenix) did last year. If the Panthers are in the playoff mix, it's going to be real hard for GM Dale Tallon to wheel off UFAs Vokoun, Bryan McCabe and Cory Stillman at the deadline. 

But that's a whole lot of maybes.

Anyway, training camp is about a month away (rookie camp opens in less than a month in Coral Springs) and players are starting to trickle back to our little corner of the world. I'll be heading to the rink a few times a week to see who I find. Check back here for reports.

-- Also, congrats to my old pal Steve X. who is moving from the Panthers to the Miami Hurricanes beat. We spent the past five seasons fighting, laughing and competing for stories. We traveled countless miles together covering this team and I must say it was a pretty good time. Hopefully when the Panthers make it to the playoffs, he'll come back and help out.

That said, I would like to officially welcome Harvey to the beat. He's helped Steve out the past few years and has even been on a few road trips with me. He's no rookie. I'm sure will have our share of fun as well -- but I will not drive from Washington D.C. to Atlanta ever again.

And for those who hoped I would join Steve down in the Gables, too bad. You're stuck with me.


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Sounds like you're going to be jumping aboard the failboat this season GR and joining the tank brigade. Problem with that is having the worst record is no guarantee of getting the first pick and even if you win the lottery the best available player by far is a defenseman. Can't see the benefit of drafting blueliners with your first pick four years in a row when you can't score. While I wouldn't bet on it, it wouldn't surprise me to see us being this season's Colorado or Phoenix finding success with less mature talent than last season but with a much better attitude fostered from the top by Tallon.

I will be pleasantly suprised. Booth will be a marked man and he is the only goal scorer.

I would be pleasantly surprised if we made the playoffs. Actually, I would be shocked if we did. Every move made by Tallon was clearly to build for our future. Trading Ballard and Horton, arguably our top people in their respective positions and not going after any big name free agents is a clear message. They do have talent in net and a decent defensive core, but both the defense and offense is weaker than last year, and we know what happened last year.

A decent start, avoiding a long losing stretch and getting some chemistry with a bunch of new faces will hopefully give us a chance but I'm not betting the farm on it.

Btw, classy shout out to Steve.

If your going to lose, you might as well lose with a lesser payroll. That is clearly what they have done. Last year on contracts for Vokoun and McCabe, gee even less payroll next year. We can build our franchise with young and cheap players. Problem is when this team is finally winning they will be known as the Winnipeg whatevers. The building is half empty now--imagine what it will be like watching a boring no scoring losing defensive team for the few years.

I thought they solved the attendance problem by removing a good chunk of seats. In a couple of years, they'll sell-out every game, after they remove even more seats.

As Espo has said many times, with Vokoun in net the Panthers should have a much better record it really tells you that they have nothing in front of him.

This year we will have less than nothing in front of him.

It will be very interesting to see which system works better Tallon or Stevie Y.

Tampa got an owner who changed both the hockey operations and the business side, and by the way the owner is from Weston.

We just rotate owners from the same group and not change the business side.

My guess is that when it is time to put up the money Tallon will be let go and we will have 10 more years of no playoffs.

Yormark only looks at the bottom line and doesn't care about anything else, his bush league marketing and over advertising and the refusal to budget scouting has killed this franchise. On the business side he is making the owners money and that is why he stays, the arena will be a priority as long as he keeps making them money.

Making money and not winning is the goal of this organization. As their new marketing theme says we came to play (everyone comes to play but we want a team that comes to win and works hard)

"Panthers are going to be an interesting bunch"
True. They should be in the bottom of the conference. That said we don't know what we got in Grabner. The belief of many in Vancouver is he could be a scoring ace but was never able to get the ice time in Vancouver. Does he breakout in Florida or is he another Olesz? Ballard will be missed but Wideman with his righthand shot on the PP could really make a difference. A healthy Booth and Stillman. Drafting 3 players in the first round will be a big help in a few years but will one make the team this year and contribute enough in scoring? There is a very longshot chance Panthers do better than expected but the team doesn't have the depth to fill in for injuries. That was the problem last year. When guys went down with injury nobody that was brought up that made a difference. The only positive of the AHL players was Garrison who was brought up as replacement for Seidenberg. So yes "Panthers are going to be an interesting bunch," to watch.

I'll say it again....this is going to be a loooooooong season for Panthers fans.

Why do I put myself through this misery year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year.

10 years and still counting!

Another ho hum offseason for the Panthers, along with a ho hum regular season about to start. Same old Panthers. No free agent signings for scoring or enforcers in this offseason.

At least, there are no ridiculous expectations set by maangement for a team without a #1 Center or scorer.

I fully expect to take it on the chin this year, and also fully expect The Panthers to be drafting in pretty much the same slot as this past draft(depending on which way the ping-pong balls bounce).

Look, I'd love for this team to make the playoffs, I REALLY would, but does anyone out there realize how many factors have to go off without a hitch for that to happen for this group? At least 6 players on the current roster would have to have career years, IMO, and Grabner would have to be everything that The Canucks thought he would be, and more.

I just think, as GR said, that as soon as the injuries start to mount for this club...and they will...it'll snowball pretty quickly.

Also, keep in mind that Voukoun WILL be moved before the deadline, so it'll fall on Clemmensen and whomever they sign or bring up later in the year to man the goal.

It's gonna be a looooooooong season, peeps, prepare for it, just try and keep things in perspective.

To EJ --we root for the Jersey....and what's been in them for the past 10 years has been a disgrace. I was happy that we brought in an expierenced NHL GM and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but, what have we seen so far....traded two of our better players for draft picks, and we hope so players, plus lowered payroll(with more to come). Counting on draft picks in a few years is surely an IFFY proposition at best.

My expectations are very low, but the panther fan in me thinks there is a possibility we see a very good young team and the reason is the following:

1) Weiss should be paired up with Bernier, a natural winger, and Booth, another natural winger. If there's any kind of success for this team, I'd suspect those 3 will have a big year...high expectations for a kid thats only played a handful of games, a center who's more of a solid 2nd line center, and a guy coming off 2 concussions

2) Frolik has been great at times, and disappears for other stretches. Its all up to him to lock down the 2nd line, and if he does, he's a very capable 30+ goal scorer (he had 21 goals last yr)

3) Its time to give Matthias a real shot at the pros, by letting him man the 3rd line. I know he played 55 games, but the kid averaged very little ice time.

All in all, there is a possibility for this team to score more goals than last yr, mainly because we can't get much worse at scoring goals, but also cause there is a whole lot of youth. I don't expect much to happen, but if I am going to be surprised this year, I'm guessing it'd have to be because the bernier/grabner trade was a steal and booth stays healthy the whole year.

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