Gameday Preview: Florida Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 1: Goaltender Tomas Vokoun  of the Florida Panthers dives to his right to make a save on a shot by Ryan Malone  of the Tampa Bay Lightning during a preseason game on October 1, 2010 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)


Opposition Site – Litter Box Cats

The team Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester once led to many a non-playoff appearance is in town this evening. This year represents yet another reboot season for a franchise that has continually failed to get over the hump despite numerous high draft picks and regarded hockey men making their way through town.

This time, it’s erstwhile Chicago GM Dale Tallon giving it the ol’ college try. No doubt the hope is Tallon can revive the club in a similar manner to the Blackhawks, although one should keep in mind that Tallon was not only the architect who drafted Toews, Kane, Bolland, Keith, Seabrook, etc, but also the man who doled out ridiculous salaries to Campbell and Huet. He also failed to mail out RFA offers to Cam Barker and Kris Versteeg which resulted in the two becoming free agents and garnering much fatter salaries. In many ways, Tallon is simultaneously responsible for the ‘Hawks Stanely Cup championship as well as the egregious tear down that occured immediately afterward.

His work this past off-season for the Panthers was mostly commendable, given the goal wasn’t to win but to rebuild. He garnered a ton of future assets at the entry draft, dealing Keith Ballard for a package including the Canucks first rounder and then doing the same with Nathan Horton and Boston Bruins. His work in free agency was a lot more sedate, however, featuring mostly lost cost, low risk, low reward signings like the one year, $1.6M deal given to Chris Higgins. The Panthers were also looking for a way to dump the burdensome contract of Rostislav Olesz ($3.125M per year for next 5 years), but like everyone else trying to dump bad contracts this summer, found it difficult. He remains on the roster and will likely be injured any day now.

As such, the Panthers remain in their perpetual rebuild so their roster is rather unimpressive. There’s some quality up front in Stephen Weiss and David Booth (assuming the latter is fully recovered from his various concussions from last year), but things drop off pretty rapidly after that. Cory Stillman and Steven Reinprecht are certainly NHLers, but not guys upon which an organization can hang great expectations. Mikael Frolik continues to find his feet at the NHL level and may well develop into a heavy hitter. He has back-to-back 20 goal seasons and there’s little doubt the franchise is looking for him to take a big step sooner rather than later. The rest of the front-end is third liners of various stripes: Radek Dvorak (yup, he’s still in the league), Steve Bernier, Marty Reasoner, the aforementioned Chris Higgins. There’s enough actual players here that you have to take the Panthers seriously, but not enough high-end talent that you have to actually fear them. On the blueline, the current ES ice time leaders are Dennis Wideman and sophomore Dmitry Kulikov. So…yeah, the back-end isn’t all that impressive. As always, Tomas Vokoun is the pillar of strength in net and will likely be a top 5 goaltender in the league again, not that anyone will notice.

The Panthers are 0-2 to start the year, scoring just three goals thus far. They gave both EDM and VAN a run for their money and the speed quotient in each game was high, but it wasn’t enough to deliver a victory in either contest for FLA.

A fully stocked and healthy Flames club would be expected to defeat the Panthers on most nights. However, the team as currently constructed under the weight of various injuries may in fact struggle against the Panthers so there’s no expectation of an easy ‘W’ this evening. Watch for Iginla to be matched against Weiss’ line and for that to be the primary conflict.

  • “There’s enough actual players here that you have to take the Panthers seriously, but not enough high-end talent that you have to actually fear them.”

    I think the opposition blog sites should steal your quote, change “Panthers” to “Flames”, and add this to their auto-text for frequent use in game-day write ups this season.

  • So its Staios instead of Sarich tonight? I totally don’t understand how the decision making process around the Flames office works. It must be Senior’s Appreciation Day at the Scotiadome (free sample packs of Geritol and a roster slot to anyone with gray hair named “Steve”).

    • That’s been the topic of discussion on Twitter today. In fact, I wondered aloud yesterday if there is some other motivation to sitting Sarich over Pardy and now Staios. Guesses are:

      – Sarich is hurt (doesn’t seem to be the case)
      – Sutter wants Sarich to say okay to a trade

      • OilFan

        other options:

        – darryl wants to “showcase” staios, in effort to “up the ante” in a trade situation. [hahaha, i know but i wanted to say it anyways.]

        – they both shoot right (sarich/staois) but perhaps one is more comfortable playing on the right to brodie’s left (or is it the other way around ?)

        – darryl brought staios in for his leadership skills, so he best be leadering our youngest defenseman ?

  • Greg

    ” In many ways, Tallon is simultaneously responsible for the ‘Hawks Stanely Cup championship as well as the egregious tear down that occured immediately afterward.”

    I would take that result any day. If paying an extra 12 million to two players pushes you over the top for the cup but means you haveto dismantle the team immediately after, I’d do it every chance I had. Of course, Huet was completely irrelevant in that cup win and that money could have been much better spent (although his contract was also irrelevant inthe teardown too). I certainly wouldn’t argue that Tallon was mistake free, but I’d take his results over Sutter’s.

    As for tonight, Staois in over Sarich?!?! Blimie. Either Sarich better be injured or Sutter better be close to pulling the trigger on a trade. Otherwise this just further lowers his value and gaurantees we are stuck with his salary this year and next. Speaking of GM mistakes…

  • Does it really matter whether Sarich or Staios plays? Really? I would argue that there isn’t really that big a difference between the two.

    The bigger issue is having $6m tied up in two defenseman that are struggling to get into the lineup.

    That $6m sure would look good scoring some goals up in the top 6 forwards right now…

    • You flatter-er (is that good grammar?)

      What the crew all forgot was that cat has a NMC, which I didn’t address when I wrote it up.

      But as far as I know, and Im probably wrong, a NMC just keeps you out of the minors, I think they can still trade you. Again, probably wrong.

      And if I am and Sutter is turning the heat up…man, some times you (me, I) hate the guy, but it takes balls to correct something that you did, so I comend him for that. Just stop making the bad decisions in the first place.

  • OilFan

    Not sure why people are surprised that Staios gets to play before Sarich. Staios was picked up in the first place. Staios was playing 18-minutes + in the top 4 while Sarich finished the year at ~9-minutes/game in the bottom pairing.

    Is Staios better then Sarich? I don’t think so. But it appears someone in the Flames organization sure does.

    That said, they have to be at least looking for a trade. They can’t keep carrying 3.6 million on the bench (though they did carry it on their bottom line for the last half of last season).

  • OilFan

    staios is brutal. how can you be on the ice for EVERY SINGLE GOAL AGAINST in your first four games with a team and have people think you’re awesome ?

    look, when a trade is made and all the pundits can say is “he’s a nice guy,” you’ve got yourself a terrible player.

  • Excuse me while I go off topic for a sec……

    I love the Battle of Alberta Rivalry… Who doesn’t? I am an Edmonton Season ticket holder that goes to every Oil vs Flame game, and look forward to it all summer long.

    Most times, the heckling back and forth in the stands between Flames and Oil fans can be more entertaining than the game itself. I’ll be the first to admit that I love to rub a win or a pretty goal in the face of the closest flamer fan that I can find, but it’s always clean, and always in fun. From what I’ve seen, most other Edmonton fans behave in the same way.

    So last year, some friends and I have the great idea “Let’s go to Calgary for a game”. So 8 of us pile into Grandpa’s rusted station wagon and hit the open road.

    We get to the game, and as you would expect, get attention first thing while standing in line to get in. No problem. Expected it, and kind of enjoyed it.

    Once we get to our seats, and the flamers have had 7 minutes for the first beer to make its way through the system, thats when the fans showed just how classy they were. Droppin’ F bombs like they were goin’ out of style, wanting to fight, and throwing things at us was pretty much how we spent the next 2 and a half hours. Awesome. Good for you guys.
    So the game is over, Flames win.
    Now we get the pleasure of walking outside with 17,000 drunk rednecks.
    Go ahead, laugh and say “Oilers Suck”…. Last year I probably would have agreed…. but instead of that, you push, spit, and try to throw garbage at us?

    Good for you Cowtown. First class as usual.
    I doubt there’s any Panther fans in Alberta, so the streets of Calgary should be safe tonight after Florida picks up their first win.

    • Every fan who attends a game in another town has a similar story. I know it helps you feel that your Springfield is better than our Shelbyville is, but the truth is there are stupid douchebags in every town that aren’t necessarily representative of the rest of the fanship.

      I’m not going excusing those fans behavior because it was clearly out of line. But I’m certainly not going to apologize for it out of some sense of shared responsibility.