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Posts Tagged ‘Florida Panthers’

Because I’m a Very Busy and Lazy Person

In Hockey on October 23, 2013 at 11:58 pm

AbeSooo yeah. I didn’t exactly meet the opening bell when it came to getting my season previews done. Work and life get in the way, so deal with it.

But I am not about to deny my loyal reader(s) the remainder of these previews. Here they are in fast forward, unchanged from the start of the season, beginning where I left off.

Metropolitan Division

Washington Capitals – 3rd Place
Lots of offense, not alot of defense, but this team is going back to the playoffs.

Atlantic Division

Detroit Red Wings
The move East helps this old roster earn their first divison crown as members of the East.

Boston Bruins
Still a physical and nasty group, the Bruins will contend for the division title but just miss out after playing lots of hockey over an 18-month span.

Ottawa Senators
Maybe the most fun team in the league to watch, but with a few of their top forwards prone to injury, the team lacks depth to contend for the top spot. Still a playoff team though.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Defensive issues and possession numbers don’t favor the Leafs as they aim for a second straight playoff berth. Adding Jonathan Bernier means there’s no easy night for opposing shooters.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Suspect defense and a lack of consistent goaltending spells trouble for the Bolts this season.

Buffalo Sabres
They’re not good and the most entertaining thing about this team will be the Ryan Miller/Thomas Vanek trade watch.

Florida Panthers
Still a young group trying to find their way. Adding Tim Thomas helps, but these guys are a long way away from contending for anything other than a lottery pick.

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks
Loaded at every position, the Blackhawks won’t run over everyone like they did last year but they’re still the class of the NHL.

St. Louis Blues
Great on defense and solid in goal, the Blues are one still one dynamic scorer away from challenging for the top spot in the Central. But man will it suck to play against these guys every night.

/laughs knowing the Sharks pounded the Blues early this year

Minnesota Wild
Still a year or two away from being a serious threat. But this team showed great strides last year and I expect that to continue this year.

Dallas Stars
They’d be higher on this list if I knew Kari Lehtonen wasn’t one play away from falling apart. Still a really good group of young forwards and veterans and a sneaky good defense.

Nashville Predators
They won’t run away with many games this year, but defense and goaltending will keep the Preds in most games this year. Plus, they have American Hero Seth Jones on the rosters, which is awesome.

Colorado Avalanche
A fast and skilled group of forwards makes the Avs a fun team to watch. A shaky defense and spotty goaltending do them in. But man will Patrick Roy be fun to watch as a coach.

Winnipeg Jets
They couldn’t win the worst division in hockey the last two years. That’s bad news as they transition to the West. Ondrej Pavelec is not a franchise goaltender. Why can’t Jets’ management understand this?

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Kings
They have the right mix of skill, toughness and great goaltending. They’ll be in the mix for the Stanley Cup again this year.

San Jose Sharks
It’s the last shot for this group to win. They’ll still roll out world-class talent at forward and have a very good goaltender in Antti Niemi. One serious injury to the forwards will doom the Sharks.

(This was my thought before their red-hot start. I never would have expected what has happened.

Anaheim Ducks
Lucky for you, Pierre Canard has you covered with an actual in-depth preview. Read it now.

Vancouver Canucks
They’re a tire fire waiting to happen, but they still possess some of the best talent in the world. They’re not elite anymore though. And the Sharks own them, which is great for everyone.

Phoenix Coyotes
Still stingy on defense and the score more than you think. I’d be shocked if they didn’t earn the West’s final wild card spot.

Edmonton Oilers
I still don’t trust this team on defense and in net. That’s bad news for a fan base that expects to win now.

Calgary Flames
Oof. Calgary needs to fail badly to try to lock up the top pick in next year’s draft. They’ll battle, but they’re very short on talent.

There ya go. I did not take anything that has happened so far into account for these brief previews. I’m sure everyone will agree with me though…

I am Ryan Thomas, and I’m glad I don’t do this for a living. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22, because if you like hockey, you’ll like following me.


2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview, #3 Florida Panthers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils

In Uncategorized on April 10, 2012 at 12:30 am

Before I start this preview, I have to give major props to the third-seeded Panthers. I picked them to finish next-to-last in the East, and they responded by making me look very stupid. Well done, Cats.

That said, Florida is being viewed the same coming in to the playoffs as they were in the pre-season. Not a lot of people are giving the Panthers a chance to make much noise in the playoffs. What they have working in their favor is they now have battle tested veterans and they don’t have the pressure in the series being the underdog. So while many are saying this could be a short series, I beg to differ.

Good to see Stephen Weiss finally have a chance to play in the playoffs. He’s stuck with the Panthers through thick and thicker times, and he deserves a chance to play for the Cup. He’s also in charge of centering the top line along with Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann on his wings. But where the secondary scoring comes from is somewhat of a mystery to me. The Panthers didn’t exactly light it up this season, and if they get in a shootout with the Devils, they’re not going to win.

Lastly, the Panthers need to figure out their goaltending situation. Jose Theodore has earned the chance to be the starter, but will Kevin Dineen have the same short leash for Theo that Bruch Boudreau did in Washington? If so, Scott Clemmensen, veteran of 6:53 of total playoff ice time, assumes the duties. John Vanbiesbrouck certainly isn’t walking through that door and the two Florida netminders are going to have their work cut out for them.

On the other side, the Devils come in playing some of their best hockey of the year with a very dangerous offense, defense by committee, and maybe the best goalie of all time.

The Devils boast three 30-goal scorers (Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dave Clarkson) and can roll out three scoring lines. They’re actually a fun team to watch, and I’m not upset about saying that regarding the Devils.

Former Panthers’ bench boss Peter DeBoer has to like having the edge in net with Martin Brodeur. But ever since the lockout, Marty has been shaky in the playoffs, as New Jersey has only won one series. Can Broduer give one more vintage performance? We’ll see.

The Devils can’t lose any edge they have coming in to this series. They know they’re favored and if they overlook the gritty Cats, they’ll be done in less than two weeks.

Players to Watch

Brian Campbell, Panthers D – Much maligned because of his huge contract, Campbell has shut a lot of his critics up this year with one of his best seasons. But he’s going to draw major responsibility in this series playing against either Kovalchuk or Parise, as well as running the Florida power play. Since the Panthers don’t score a lot, it’s up to Campbell to use his vision to generate some scoring chances.

Zach Parise, Devils LW – This could easily be the most important two weeks to date for Parise, who is looking for a big contract after this season. He’s flown under the radar thanks to the outstanding play of Kovalchuk, but Parise is still the Devils’ best player. He scores in so many different ways and if the New Jersey power play is clicking, Parise is going to make the Panthers pay.

Florida Will Win If…

The slow the game down. I know it sounds boring, but this cannot turn into a track meet if the Panthers want to win. Is it the kind of play hockey fans dread? Yes. But the bottom line is all that matters in the playoffs. Keep the games close and they need to hope they can figure out the Devils’ top-ranked penalty kill if they want to win.

New Jersey Will Win If…

The stars show up in the series. Let’s face it, Florida’s chances of holding down all the Devils’ offensive weapons are very slim. They’ll have to worry about three lines and unless Kovalchuk decides to channel Alex Semin, New Jersey should be fine. But the focus can’t all be on the offense. Marty Brodeur and the defense can’t take the low-scoring Cats for granted. If they do, it could bite them.


I want to pick the Panthers in an upset worse than anything. But staring at them is a very good offensive team that’s due for a series win. This won’t be an easy series for New Jersey, but I still like them to move on. Devils in six.

2011-12 NHL Season Preview: Florida Panthers

In Hockey on September 6, 2011 at 10:54 am

Florida Panthers

A Look Back to 2010-11
In the Panthers’ first year of the Dale Tallon era, the team performed about as well as they were expected to. They struggled to score and finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. But what was lost in the end result is the fact that the Panthers actually weren’t awful defensively (although a lot of that had to do with Tomas Vokoun in net) and they were actually in the think of the playoff chase for much of the first half of the season. So down the stretch, Tallon got moving on revamping the team, getting young scorer Jack Skille from Chicago for Michael Frolik. Young defenders Dmitri Kulikov and Keaton Ellerby also got more time at the NHL level, giving them experience heading into this coming season. But the town is still pretty lethargic when it comes to team interest. That’s what happens when you haven’t been to the playoffs for 11 years. Grade: D- (They don’t get an F because people expected them to suck and Vokoun kept them from being much worse.)

A Look Ahead to 2011-12

With the new additions, the pressure to produce should be alleviated from Stephen Weiss.

Holy overhaul, Panthers. For a team that struggled to score last year, since only five players scored 10 goals last season, Tallon went out and spent some serious money on new players with the hope that they can give their fans some excitement (the fans that actually go to the games that is). They have a solid 1-2 punch on the top line with David Booth and Stephen Weiss occupying the left side and middle of the ice. Booth had some trouble rebounding from a nasty concussion, but he was also one of the only scoring options for the Panthers. Weiss’ numbers also suffered because of that, but each guy was able to score more than 20 goals despite the lack of help. I expect those numbers to go up this year with the additions of Scottie Upshall, Tomas Kopecky, Tomas Fleischmann, Matt Bradley, Sean Bergenheim, Marcel Goc and Kris Versteeg. You could pencil in either Versteeg or Upshall to play with Booth and Weiss and a combination of two others to play with the team’s other 20-goal scorer from last year, Mike Santorelli. Now, while adding these veterans to the team will give the team more offensive punch, it will take away from the ice time of guys like Jack Skille, Shawn Matthias, Evgeny Dadonov and Michal Repik. However, those players, with Dadonov as the only exception, haven’t shown that they can handle the top minutes on an NHL team, so it’s a wash no matter what way you look at it. The Panthers are also loaded in the minors with Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden and the 2011 third overall pick in Johnathan Huberdeau. Things will be better, but this group of forwards lacks a star and consistent scorers. Grade: C (Tallon had to overpay for the new guys because of how bad they were offensively. They will improve, but this is mostly a group of grinders.)

Former third-overall pick Erik Gudbranson will be ready to make the jump to the NHL this year.

Another area that the Panthers were looking to get some help for their young players was on defense. The Panthers were 17th in the league last year in goals against, and there’s reason to think that number will be about the same this year. However, this is the area of the team that I like the most, at least for this year. More on that statement later. But Tallon went and got Brian Campbell (and his massive contract) from Chicago to fill the puck-moving void that Dennis Wideman and Bryan McCabe left, and Ed Jovanovski to play big minutes and mentor the team’s trio of young defensive studs in Dmitri Kulikov, Keaton Ellerby and Erik Gudbranson. Jason Garrison and veteran Mike Weaver stepped up and played big minutes late last year as well and fared well in that role. However, the crown jewel of the defense is Gudbranson, who should make his NHL debut this year. Kulikov already has two full seasons under his belt, and he and Gudbranson should be a force on the Florida blue line for years to come. The only knock that I have with the Panther defense has nothing to do with any of the current players. That complaint goes straight to Tallon, who passed on a sure thing in Adam Larsson to take Huberdeau. Add Larsson to the Gudbranson-Kulikov combo, and you’re looking at a scary young trio in South Florida. Huberdeau better be worth it. AHLer Nolan Yonkman was also brought in as a depth move and potential enforcer. Grade: C (I hate that they passed on Larsson, but this unit could be sneaky good if the kids listen to Jovo.)

Jacob Markstrom could put his stamp on the Florida nets as early as this season.

A ton of the Panthers’ mistakes over the last few years were erased due to the play of Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun has since left to go to Washington, and the Panthers brought in Jose Theodore to bridge the gap between the present and future. Theodore showed he still had some game left, posting decent numbers with a mediocre Minnesota team last year. The difference between that team and this one is that Theodore is going to see a ton of vulcanized rubber this year and hasn’t played an above-average full season since 2003-04. I love that someone gave Theodore a chance to play, I’ve been a fan of his for quite some time. Scott Clemmensen returns for the last year of his contract and should see his average workload as the team’s backup. But like I said, those two guys are temporary solutions with the top goaltending prospect in the league, Jacob Markstrom, waiting his turn. I suspect Markstrom, who is coming off a knee injury, to play a full season in San Antonio before being called up either later this season or next. I don’t think he needs all that time, as he’s been playing, and succeeding, against professionals since his days for Brynas in the Swedish Elite League as a 17 year old. Ask anyone that has talked about the Panthers with me (I’ll pay you a year’s worth of my salary if you can find someone), and they can tell you how I’ve been raving about Markstrom since he was drafted. He’s on the way, and he is also the backbone of what is shaping up to be a young and talented team in short time. For now, this is Theodore’s team. Grade: C- (Their goals against will rise unless they feel Markstrom is ready to be the guy this year.)

The Panthers score major points for switching back to red this year. Unfortunately, those points aren't in goals.

The Panthers won’t be as boring as they were last year. Some experienced players are going to have a chance to see some big ice time this year while the youngsters develop more. However, the Panthers are a long way from being a playoff team. What do they have working for them though? They FINALLY changed their home jerseys back to red. Well played, Panthers. Well played. 5th in Southeast, 14th in East.