The Panthers Just Suck. Seriously. It’s THAT Bad.

Apparently I’m (in)famous now. As you may know I got special tickets to heckle Jay Bouwmeester mercilessly on his return to Florida 5 Feb 2010. Getty Images* sent a picture of me over the newswires and it’s here in this article on Yahoo Sports. Or just see the image here:

Florida Panthers fan holds up a sign for Jay Bouwmeester of the Calgary Flames for his first visit back to Florida on February 5, 2010 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Flames defeated the Panthers 2-1,” reads the caption. While Jay didn’t read the sign as far as we could see, a number of his teammates did and that’s good enough, because we know they told him his special fan club was in attendance. Sadly, the Panthers lost that contest. However, we had fun for two periods of the three until the Panthers threw in the towel. Which leads us to the next topic.

I am going to discuss something I’ve already discussed over on my message boards in this thread. A few short weeks ago, the Panthers were as high as sixth place in the conference struggling to stay there. They’ve slipped down to twelfth, and are in danger of settling into last place. And not just in the conference, but in the league. Today the “Managing Partners” of the Panthers wrote an open letter to their fan(s). Click that link to read the letter, and my comments follow there. I’m going to go a bit further here, though.

As I said, that letter is an important document, historical in at least one sense. Over time many teams have performed badly, but the Panthers have been trying harder than most to be bad. This in spite of the “Managing Partners” promise of accountability. This is the first team in professional sports I’ve ever seen that has sent a memo to fans that admits we suck which is what it says. “ … our team, the way it is currently structured, is not equipped to meet the goals and objectives that we have set ….” That says we suck and there’s no getting around it either. And it’s 100% true. We suck, swallow, and beg for more. It’s embarrassing to me and my fellow fans what passes for hockey on the ice.

The team doesn’t care and it shows. Management doesn’t care and it shows, this letter notwithstanding. The bottom line is that despite the “Managing Partners” moniker, Alan Cohen still owns this team and the pile of festering, steaming shite it has become. This goes back to the basic issue, nobody on this team, the management, or anyone involved has any clue why the team is like this. It’s still like this despite changes in coaches, general managers, players, and more. There is one constant, and apparently I’m one of the few that can see it. When our season is over on 11 April 2010 (no playoffs for us), I will contact Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel, and if they agree, I will tell them what’s wrong with the team. The problem is, and I know this in advance, they won’t want to hear it because sometimes the truth is very painful. A cancer such as this team has spreads and getting rid of the infected parts doesn’t cure the problem — you have to kill the source, and quite frankly, Alan Cohen doesn’t have the balls to do it: he’s the most wishy-washy vacillating owner I’ve ever seen**. I have no idea how he ever ran a successful business.

A very, very sad fact: I care more about this team than any one person in management. I say that unreservedly, unconditionally, and without exception. I have no desire to get into hockey operations, and while it may need some fixing, that is secondary to the malaise that infects our hockey team.

The letter goes on to say, we’re rebuilding. This is our fifth rebuild (give or take) in our short history. None of the others have worked, and this one won’t either. I’m throwing that out in front of everyone right now. I’m willing to bet anyone one year of my salary that this next one will fail too. Because they aren’t addressing the underlying malady, the source of our internal plague. Because they don’t see it. I’m not sure if they saw it, if they would fix it. I realize my words here are harsh, and it would be great if someone in management would read them. (If they do read them, please note I will gladly say these same words to your face. And, given the opportunity, I will. What I say in private will be polite, professional, and brutally eviscerating. But if you listen, it’ll do you some good.)

The letter also indicates they’re keeping our coach (DeBoer) and general manager (Sexton). I can see a bunch of our local fans rolling their eyes and thinking how bad an idea this is. It’s a great idea. DeBoer is not the problem, though he probably should take his frustrations out on the players a little more. If I were to build a hockey team from scratch, DeBoer is the sort of man I’d want behind the bench.

Sexton, well he’s sort of green but I think he deserves a chance. I think he’s got good hockey sense and his ego doesn’t get in the way (unlike, say, Keenan, who Cohen had on our team not once, but twice). These “Managing Partners” are behind DeBoer and Sexton because they say “After consulting with … Sexton … DeBoer” — you don’t consult with people you intend to fire. And “Sexton has begun the process of reshaping this team” Good. I’m happy with this.

The letter then states, “these changes are part of an overall plan” — then share it with us, please. This team has been rudderless a long, long time. I’m a charter and inaugural season ticket holder. I’ve sat through almost every home game this team has played in over fifteen years. (In the first ten years I only missed a total of three games.) I know hockey and this isn’t it.

As I said, after the season is over — okay, it’s already over if you want to be technical — I am going to contact both Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel. If they agree, I will ask for a one-hour meeting with nobody else in attendance. Just us three. I will tell them what’s wrong, what they need to do to fix it. And I’ll give them proof. Just to make sure they understand I really do know what’s wrong with this team. I won’t hold my breath because current management of this team says they care, but they really don’t care. They have proven that repeatedly to me and many other fans. And they’re too self-centered to even realize it. (Now, please proceed to beat your heard on the wall repeatedly.)

* While Getty Images may claim copyright to this photo, I deny that claim. First, it’s a picture of me — taken without my express or implied consent. Second, it’s a picture of my sign to which I lay copyright claim, and for which I gave them no permission to use or reproduce. So to hell with them.

** Here’s a guy who had Jacques Martin as coach and GM. He asked many fans to a town hall style meeting. Then he asked what we thought while admitting he had no idea what he was doing. Pretty much every said JM should go. Cohen then laid the decision on someone else. Who? Jacques Martin. Yeah, the guy was allowed to decide his own career at the team. He opted to stay as GM. He should have been shown the door. The real point is that the owner of the team needs to have the balls to make the decision. He doesn’t. 

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