48 – The number of games the Florida Panthers will play in a lockout shortened campaign.
99 – The length, in days, of the 2013 National Hockey League season.
Those two numbers combined leaves little to no room for error, especially when the Panthers are on a mission to prove that last year’s SouthEast Division Championship win, the first in team history, was not a fluke. Every game from opening night on will be important, and every single point will matter. Florida must find ways to win, more importantly, they must do so consistently if they want another shot at the playoffs.
Before breaking down the forward, defensive, and goaltending positions of the Panthers roster let’s look back at who departed and arrived during a lockout lengthened off-season.
Krystofer Barch – RW
Jason Garrison – D
Bracken Kearns – C
Jonathan Matsumoto – C
Mikael Samuelsson – RW
Sean Sullivan – D
Bill Thomas – RW
Wojtek Wolski – LW
Two names stick out on this list, Jason Garrison and Mikael Samuelsson. There is no doubt that these two will be missed, especially on the powerplay. It will be up to the new comers, such as Filip Kuba, to fill the holes left by Garrison and Samuelsson.
Andre Deveaux – C
Jean-Francois Jacques – LW
Alex Kovalev – RW
Filip Kuba – D
Peter Mueller – C
George Parros – RW
Casey Wellman – C
The Panthers had two major issues last season, one of them being toughness. Erik Gudbranson tried to defend his teammates when needed but GM Dale Tallon and head coach Kevin Dineen probably did not like seeing their top defensive prospect put himself in danger on a nightly bases. The addition of George Parros will take the pressure off of Gudbranson and the other players not known as “tough guys” this year. Parros will also be a great protector for the rookies that earn roster spots, such as Johnathan Huberdeau.
Two other names on the arrivals list that deserve attention are Alex Kovalev and Peter Mueller. Both forwards, along with Johnathan Huberdeau, will make up Florida’s second line. Putting these three skilled players together could pay off big time for the Panthers and should take some of the offensive pressure off of their top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss, and Kris Versteeg. Also, Kovalev should be a good mentor for Huberdeau, even if it is only for the 2013 campaign.
Florida Panthers 2013 Opening Night Roster
* Indicates players on IR.
#9 Stephen Weiss “A” – C
#11 Johnathan Huberdeau – C/LW
#12 Jack Skille – RW
#13 Mike Santorelli – C
#14 Tomas Fleischmann – LW
#18 Shawn Matthias – C
#19 Scottie Upshall- LW
#20 Sean Bergenheim – LW *
#22 George Parros – RW
#25 Jerred Smithson – RW
#27 Alex Kovalev – RW
#32 Kris Versteeg – RW
#57 Marcel Goc – C *
#82 Tomas Kopecky – RW
#88 Peter Mueller – C
The weakest link from last season was clearly the offensive production from Florida’s forwards. In the span of an 82 game season the Cats lost 18 games in overtime and had a -24 goal differential. If the Panthers would have been able to score one extra goal during some of those 18 OT/SO losses they would have had more wins, a better differential, and they probably would have ran away with the SouthEast Division weeks before having to beat Carolina on the last night of the regular season to clinch. Thankfully Florida was able to do so, which means none of that really matters now, but that may not be the same case this season. The Panthers will need more offensive production from their forwards, especially the new comers and those who did not meet expectations last year. Isn’t that right Scottie Upshall and Mike Santorelli? Florida also needs to hope that their top line of Fleischmann, Weiss, and Versteeg produces as well as they did last season.
#4 Keaton Ellerby – D
#7 Dmitry Kulikov – D
#17 Filip Kuba – D
#23 Tyson Strachan – D
#43 Mike Weaver – D
#44 Erik Gudbranson – D *
#51 Brian Campbell “A” – D
#55 Ed Jovanovski “C” – D
Defense on most nights during the 2011-2012 season was not an issue for the Florida Panthers. Head coach Kevin Dineen put a system in place that worked well almost every game, making Florida’s defensive play their biggest strength last year. Florida also enjoyed some offensive production from their D group as they registered 151 points from the blue line in 2011-2012. The good news is that almost all of those point producing defensemen have returned. The bad news? Their biggest powerplay threat, Jason Garrison, left for Vancouver during the off-season. It will be up to the returning blueliners, as well as Filip Kuba, to fill the void left by Garrison on the PP. This would be a perfect time for youngster Dmitry Kulikov to finally have a big breakout year and establish himself as a true top 4 defenseman.
#30 Scott Clemmensen – G
#60 Jose Theodore – G
What is there to say that has not already been said about Florida’s goaltending last season? Jose Theodore exceeded expectations and proved to everyone that he still possesses the skills to be a starter in the National Hockey League while Scott Clemmensen did an admirable job as backup. These two goaltenders can clearly keep pucks out of the net until Jacob Markstrom is ready to take his rightful place between the pipes, which should be in the very near future.
Player to Watch: Johnathan Huberdeau
Does it really surprise anyone that Huberdeau is our player to watch this year? Florida’s top offensive prospect will finally make his debut in South Florida this season. The rookie will have to prove that he is ready for NHL hockey right from the start since he will lose a year off of his contract if he is not returned to his junior team after just six games instead of the usual ten. Thank the lockout shortened season for that rule. Hopefully being on a line with three-time National Hockey League all-star Alex Kovalev and highly skilled forward Peter Mueller will jump start Huberdeau’s offensive production as soon as possible.
This shortened season is a tough one to predict for any team, including the Florida Panthers. Personally I think a 48 game schedule will help the Cats, especially considering the fact that during the second half of last season they looked burned out and struggled to produce offense on a nightly bases. With that said, I see Florida having another successful year but I do not see them winning the SouthEast Division in 2013. The Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals have all made significant improvements, and the Winnipeg Jets will be just as competitive as before. Who do I think will win the SE? That will be revealed in a different article later today. Even though I do not think the Panthers will win their division I do believe they will make the playoffs again, but it will take a complete team effort, just like last season.
We hope that everyone enjoyed our 2013 Florida Panthers preview. Thankfully, the time for talk, and all of the guessing games, ends tonight when Florida plays host to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. Good luck to all 30 National Hockey League teams, and most importantly, let’s go Panthers.
Today we continue on with our journey to the #1 most memorable moment from the Florida Panthers 2011-2012 season by revealing #6 on our top 10 list. The moment we are about to discuss is a game in which the Cats absolutely needed to win, especially for their fans in attendance at the BankAtlantic Center, or at least those who were able to get tickets. We could not think of a better way to ring in 2012 than how the Panthers did this season.
#6 – Happy New Year Montreal! Panthers send invading Habs fans home with a loss (December 31st, 2011)
While other people in South Florida were at night clubs and bars celebrating the New Year Panthers fans were busy watching their team send the Montreal Canadiens and their swarm of fans that invaded the BAC home with a loss. The Canadiens went into the first intermission with a one goal lead, but that would change early in the second period when Tomas Fleischmann ripped a shot past Montreal goaltender Carey Price on the powerplay, tying the game at one. Then, at the start of the third period, Shawn Matthias would squeak a shot by an unsuspecting Price to give the Panthers their first lead of the night, sucking the arrogance out of the pro-Habs crowd. Fleischmann scored one more late in the game and Florida survived a late surge from the Canadiens, sending them and their fans home frustrated.
Marc’s take: At a season ticket holder meeting during the 2010-2011 season Sunrise Sports and Entertainment COO Michael Yormark promised fans in attendance, including me, that Florida will NOT play Montreal on New Year’s Eve. Since it was Yormark who made the promise I was not at all surprised when it was announced that the Panthers would indeed play the Canadiens on December 31st, 2011. I look at it this way; these new Panthers are not like the teams of the past that were bullied by visiting clubs and their fans. Keep scheduling the New Year’s Eve game against the Habs Michael, let them spend their money at the BankAtlantic Center and let our team send them home upset.
Enjoy the video above and the links below from moment #6. Come back tomorrow as we continue our countdown to the #1 most memorable moment of the Florida Panthers 2011-2012 season.
The time has come for us to reveal the #7 most memorable moment on our countdown. The two moments previously shown on our top 10 list involved individual actions from GM Dale Tallon and Panthers forward Stephen Weiss, but today we will get back to discussing the team as a whole by looking at one of the greatest regular season comebacks by Florida in recent history.
#7 – Weiss scores short-handed as the comeback Cats beat New Jersey (November 21st, 2011)
After the first period in the game against New Jersey on November 21st, 2011 it seemed that the Panthers packed it in before the first puck was even dropped. The Devils outscored Florida 3-0 after just the first 12 minutes of play, leading many to believe that the Cats were returning to their old ways and setting themselves up for a long night with a loss at the end of it. Surprisingly that would not be the case as forward Kris Versteeg scored two goals in the second period to pull the Panthers within one. Then, around the 10 minute mark of the third, with the Cats still trailing by one goal and on the penalty kill, this happened:
With the game tied Florida continued to attack, outshooting the Devils 11 to 3 in the third period. Finally, with two minutes left to go in the game, Tomas Fleischmann scored a beautiful goal to seal the comeback win for the Panthers.
The “cherry on top” for this moment is the fact that this was Pete DeBoer’s first game back in Sunrise, FL after being fired over the previous summer by Tallon and the Panthers. Of course DeBoer and his Devils would get the last laugh this season, eliminating Florida in game seven of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, but that is a story best saved for another day, *hint* *hint*.
We will reveal moment #6 from our top 10 list on Monday, so be sure to come back to Sunshine State Hockey and check it out.
We are back for day two of our top 10 moments of the 2011-2012 season countdown. Before revealing the #9 most memorable moment on our list we would like to point out the we have added a new section on the homepage to the right of this article (over there —>) containing all of the items from this top 10 list. This new feature will be updated daily after each reveal, granting our visitors easy access to all of the memorable moments in one place. With that important announcement out of the way it is time to show our readers what we picked for #9 on our list.
#9 – Tallon fills out roster and giant table with new players (July 8th, 2011)
When Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon cleaned house during the 2011 trade deadline everyone knew that he would have to spend a lot of money during the free agency period to even reach the league’s salary floor. Tallon did not disappoint, signing seven players on July 1st, including Jose Theodore, Thomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim, and Ed Jovanovski. Florida’s General Manager also acquired the likes of Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, and Tomas Kopecky leading up to the first day of free agency.
After finalizing all of the off-season transactions it was time for the organization to introduce their newly acquired team. What transpired on the day of the press conference was truly entertaining, especially when seeing most of the new faces sitting at one of the biggest tables ever used during an introduction related media event. We say “most of the new faces” because some of the players were unable to attend the event for personal reasons.
Be sure to watch the video below and click through all of the links for full coverage of moment #9. We will be back tomorrow to reveal #8 on our countdown of the top 10 moments of the 2011-2012 season.
I am not going to bother writing a game recap or summary because we all know what happened. The Florida Panthers, a team that was suppose to finish dead last in the Eastern Conference based off opinions of the NHL media, forced game seven into double overtime before losing to New Jersey. That same National Hockey League media also called the Panthers a bunch of outcasts. Well those outcasts, the 2012 SouthEast Division Champions, certainly did well for themselves, right Mike Milbury?
This article is not intended to be all about how the talking heads were completely wrong abut this team, even though they were. This post is being made to personally thank each and every member of the Florida Panthers organization, except for Michael Yormark, for making this the best season of hockey I have ever witnessed. I have been around this team for a very long time, since 2001 to be exact, and have seen just how poorly they used to play. Dale Tallon, Kevin Dineen, and the rest of the management and coaching staff built a team that, win or lose, worked hard every single night. Tallon and Co. put together a team built around character and we witnessed that during every game, practice, and event that the players were involved in.
The most important thing to remember after tonight Panthers fans is that this is just the beginning. Florida has one of the best prospect groups in all of the National Hockey League with youngsters like Jonathan Huberdeau, Jacob Markstrom, and Nick Bjugstad fine tuning their skills in the minors while waiting for their shot to crack the lineup. The Cats will also welcome back the majority of this year’s SouthEast Division winning team for the 2012-2013 NHL season. Barring any major trades that means players like Tomas Fleischmann, Erik Gudbranson, and “Mr. Panther” Stephen Weiss will be on the roster when the puck drops for game one of next season.
Finally I would like to thank everyone, even the bandwagoners, for coming out to the BankAtlantic Center and making our house rock for games one, two, five, and seven. The atmosphere inside the BAC was absolutely electric, especially in game seven, and it is all because South Florida believed in their hockey team again. Now remember, those of us who have been there for years expect each and every one of you to come back for the 2012-2013 season, so do not let us down.
Be sure to keep coming back to Sunshine State Hockey throughout the rest of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs and during the off-season. We will continue to share our opinions and report the latest news about the National Hockey League and more importantly the Florida Panthers.