First and foremost, we have the talent in the stable. There is no reason the Panthers shouldn’t be performing well above 0.500. I don’t believe there’s anyone who would argue this point. The only reason the Panthers are in the hunt right now is their shitty division, one we should be not only leading, but running away with. This division is full of crap, and we’re, in theory, the stand-out team. Only they’re not standing out.
Secondly, I feel our single biggest problem is lack of focus. Our team comes out either flat or strong, but it never lasts. And the Panthers seem unable to correct the flatness or unable to maintain the strongness. The game against the Lightning on 12 January 2008 was a perfect example. They came out very strong, scored first blood in the first minute, and then after about 10 minutes apparently lost all interest in the game. I pick on this game because it more obvious than most, but the malaise has been with us for more than one season.
Worse when the team goes into the locker room, and Jacques Martin gives a motivational speech to the team, they come out and play worse — it must me an Anti-motivational speech. Jacques Martin has got to go as coach. I would love anyone to come up with a case to the contrary. I feel he should stay as GM, but he can’t coach in the “New” NHL. The game has changed but he hasn’t. He’s playing a game and coaching a game that has passed him by. He simply isn’t adjusting fast enough. By the time he’s realized the game’s slipped away, it’s just too damned late.
Our leadership isn’t leading. Our young un’s mostly disappoint. The players all talk a good game about “people needing to step up” but they aren’t benching those who don’t. That’s coaching, for the record, not reacting to what needs to be reacted to. Jokinen, Vokoun, Anderson, Murphy, and Booth are pretty consistent and good and get a hall pass. The rest all have bad nights, some far more than their fair share. Horton of the huge contract being one of the worst — his head’s been shoved up his arse all season. A good coach would work to fix this problem. It shouldn’t take a season and a half.
The team can’t maintain control the puck. The puck is everywhere, and we routinely pass it to the wrong team. The game against the Avalanche (13 Jan 2008) was a fine example. We had perfect, beautiful scoring changes, and we try to pass the puck instead of taking an easy shot. Then we turn it over. In short, we fail the “8 seconds in the zone rule” which says if you can maintain control of the puck for a long count eight (8) seconds in the attacking zone, you will score most times.
As for team chemistry I do not believe we have a locker-room problem causing “bad chemistry” so it’s just a simple problem and nothing like “who’s the cancer in the room” (as we’ve had in the past). We have to leave the lines together for a while and give them time to gel and not rotate them frequently as our coach seems to do. Again, another coaching issue.
Another coaching issue is the absurdly rapid shift changes. We seem to do this every 45 seconds regardless of whether we have the puck in the attacking or defensive zones and without regard to what is happening on the ice. Here’s a fictitious sample of what’s happening on the ice as called by a radio announcer:
HE’S GOT A BREAKAWAY! HE SKATES TOWARDS THE NET UNOPPOSED AND THE GOALIE’S OUT OF POSITION!
WHAT THE HELL?
HE’S SKATING TOWARDS THE BENCH. HE PASSED THE PUCK AWAY!!!
I GUESS HIS SHIFT WAS OVER!
If you want frustrating, watch the team play dump and chase — or more accurately: dump and let someone else beat us on the chase. We never have anyone in the slot to pick up rebounds, and those rebounds are critical. A goal is a goal. It doesn’t have to be pretty: ask ex-Panther Dino Ciccarelli who made a career of garbage goals. They win games. Finesse isn’t required — just being in position. You don’t have to be Wayne Gretzky.
2 Branislav Mezei This man has more injuries than Evel Knievel. I think he’s made of glass. He plays okay when he wants and when he can, but is that we want to settle for?
4 Jay Bouwmeester He keeps getting voted defencemen of the month by the fans? Yet I watch his play on the ice and wonder who the hell the fans are watching. Surely it’s not #4 who has more turnovers than Pepperidge Farm. He can’t keep the puck in the attacking zone, often watching it go by into the neutral zone and he can’t clear the puck from the defending zone. He doesn’t stop people from coming into our zone. Those, unless I don’t know my sport, are his three main jobs and he just can’t do them.
5 Bryan Allen Bryan’s taken flack lately. I think he tries really hard and is a good influence on the team, though it’s possible to try TOO hard. He can be better with very little work. I have hopes and I like him,
6 Magnus Johansson NEW. Comments withheld. Based on price paid, a good deal I think. He’s impressed me with the two games he’s played so far.
7 Steve Montador I still like Monty but he’s got to step up and he hasn’t. Half-hearted doesn’t cut it.
9 Stephen Weiss Flashes of brilliance followed by moments of WTF did he just do? Given the money he makes, inexcusable. He won’t be a start playing like this.
10 David Booth I am pleased with his performance. A standout among the unimpressive. He’s not been perfect lately, but I like his style and effort. He wants to be in the NHL and it shows.
11 Gregory Campbell He made his mark last year. Apparently he thought that was enough. His effort this year hasn’t impressed me. I like grit, too. He could still be another Billy Lindsay.
2 Olli Jokinen Overall I like Olli. He’s had some not so good games. But the bottom line is he cares. He wants this team to win. Now he’s got to get those other people to listen.
14 Radek “Barky” Dvorak is making strides. He’s not the scorer he was, but he still is making plays. We all like him and he’s a returning beloved ex-Panther so that gives him brownie points.
15 Jozef Stumpel Whither Stumpy? Last year a force to be reckoned with. Now? Who the hell knows.
16 Nathan Horton Nathan has his head shoved so far up his ass, it’s absurd. I want to bitch slap him.
17 Garth Murray (IR) I liked what I saw for the few games he played. I hope the injury doesn’t dampen his spirit. He’ll be a good player for the long haul.
18 Ville Peltonen (IR) He’s good. I like him. Just some bad luck with his injuries this year. He’ll be back and he’ll be strong as well.
20 Richard Zednik Another in the “I will play really well some games and others you won’t know I’m here” camp. Consistency is needed desperately from him.
21 Cory Murphy (IR) By far our best Youngster. He will be a Big Star if he can return from this injury without having his confidence crushed (as happened to Stewart).
22 Jassen Cullimore No complaints. No comments. Solid but uninspiring. He’s one of our few guys who appears to be good at face-offs.
24 Ruslan Salei Yawn. He should be doing so much more.
26 Mike Van Ryn (IR). He’s done and won’t be back. His career is probably over. He did so well last year. I won’t rag on him this year only because I feel his wrist injury hampered his desire to do well. Spirit was willing but the body wasn’t.
27 Noah Welch (IR). He’ll probably do well if he’s ever healthy. Same qualification as Stewart. Another Promising Youngster.
29 Tomas Vokoun Heart of a champion, desire of a champion, skill of a champion, and mouth of a champion. Unless you get a cheap goal and then he takes it personally and plays like shite the rest of the game — that’s his one flaw. Still, he’s one of the better goalies in the NHL and one of the few capable of taking a team to the Cup if he maintains his focus. Most NHL goalies can’t win their team a cup and Vokoun can and I don’t believe there are any doubters.
31 Craig Anderson You couldn’t get a better backup goalie if you tried. I have full confidence in him. When Vokoun can’t play for a night you don’t roll your eyes and think “well it’s okay if we lose this game” because you know you still have a chance.
47 Martin Lojek Comments withheld. Haven’t seen enough to say anything. I can tell you what the reports say, but I’d prefer to go by my own observations in case you hadn’t noticed.
53 Brett McLean Here. There. Everywhere. Average. Wasn’t he supposed to be an up-and-coming star? I don’t see it because he’s all over the place.
54 Kamil Kreps Also, Here. There. Everywhere. Average. He wants to be a star but his skills just aren’t there. Maybe he needs more AHL playing time? I don’t know.
57 Anthony Stewart This is the most disappointing guy on the team. Here’s an example of what a simple injury can do to a player’s psyche. He came to us as a hyped high-draft pick and now he’s got all the moves of a water buffalo on ice. Why do we keep calling him up if he won’t use his talent? I dub him trade-bait.
85 Rostislav Olesz Here’s a guy who either has a good game or a bad game (invisible games count as bad). I expect more from him. I wish he expected more from himself, though he’s been trying harder lately, I think.
This is just to prove I do know hockey. Someone recently wrote me and asked why at the Panthers Hockey Message Boards I don’t often jump in. Quite honestly, I feel that I should let the membership have their say. My goal is to move conversations along and not create them. I like to participate but don’t want to overwhelm the boards. I could, you know but I don’t feel it would be fun for other people. Every now and then, though, I feel the need to really have at it with an in-depth article. I did, after all, write for LCS Guide to Hockey for three years as their Panthers correspondent.
And one last thing to plug while I’m here. Don’t forget Panthershockey.net which is a great compendium of resources on the Panthers, and of course the message boards which I referenced above. Although there are others, this one is spam-free and full of people who know hockey. It’s not the morass of me-too boards and whatnot others run.
Lastly, this topic doesn’t allow commenting. You can comment on the original thread on the message boards.