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.
The lockout is finally, officially, over, which means we finally get to see the Panthers shortened 2013 schedule. Florida will kick off the season against Carolina at the BB&T Center on Saturday, January 19th at 7:30 PM EST. The Cats will also raise their 2011-2012 SouthEast Division championship banner to the rafters before they do battle with the Hurricanes on opening night.
Other highlights on the 48 game schedule include:
- Florida will participate in five back-to-back game scenarios.
- The Panthers have one, five game road trip and two, four game road trips.
- The Cats will play SE Division foes 18 times in the 48 game schedule. Carolina – x4, Tampa – x5, Washington – x4, Winnipeg – x5.
- Florida will play host to Montreal, and their fans, twice in less than a month at the BB&T Center. February 14th (Happy Valentines Day!) and March 10th.
In any professional sport over the course of a season teams have defining moments that separate the winners from the rest of the league. During the last couple of months we have highlighted nine of these moments from the Florida Panthers 2011-2012 season. Now, after over a month of waiting, it is finally time for us to reveal the number one moment on our countdown. Trust us when we say that this is a moment that will go down as one of the best in franchise history, especially considering the fact that all of the so called “hockey experts” wrote off the Panthers before the season even began.
#1 – SouthEast Champs (April 7th, 2012)
Leave it to the Panthers to wait until the final game of 2012 to have one of the most important season defining moments in franchise history. Florida held the number one spot in the SouthEast division for the majority of the season until Washington forced them into a must win situation in game number 82 against the Carolina Hurricanes. If Carolina wins the Cats drop out of the top spot in the SE, lose home ice advantage for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and fail to secure a divisional title that they owned for most of the 2011-2012 season. Thankfully Florida finished the year strong by defeating the Hurricanes 4-1 and winning their first ever divisional championship.
While the win was great the post-game celebration was even greater, especially for the diehard fans. The cheering section that has gathered in front of Pantherland since 2007 grew larger than ever before, no matter how hard Michael Yormark and his Club Red goons, aka security personnel, tried to stop it. On that night Panthers fans were finally able to speak the words “playoff hockey” inside the BankAtlantic Center for the first time in over a decade. Most importantly, during that glorious night, the fans were finally able to put the past 12 heart breaking years behind them.
Clearly everyone has their own favorite moment from the 2011-2012 season, including our good friend Donny Rivette, founder of Litter Box Cats. We reached out to Donny and asked him to share his most memorable moment from last year and this is what he had to say.
“What stands out to me? Simple: October 15, around 6 p.m, watching fans file in to the newly en-reddened BankAtlantic Center for the first home game of the 2011-12 campaign. Regardless of an existing 1-1 record, surprising to no one, given the previous opponents were the Islanders and Penguins. What cemented the impression was a sense of newfound excitement and reset-button enthusiasm which had been missing in previous openers. Before it was “here we go again; hope for the best but unquestionably ready for yet another pointless sweater giveaway in early April”. The undeniable sign of a True, though realistic fan, but this home opener had hallmarks of something far different. Nothing clear enough to establish as a physical manifestation of Victory By Committee, but anyone in the building that night should stand by the stereotype of a Community Engaged. This was a Big Ticket.”
“Unquestionably, more than a few folks morphed from “I attended due to boredom and/or a free ticket” to “I’m sold on this because it’s solid entertainment,” which was evident just in walking through the concourses as the game went on. The Panthers hadn’t yet won 2 games and word began to carry: this is where the action is. I’ve never personally met a larger number of admitted non-hockey fans before that night who changed their collective tune within an hour, and all were beside themselves with praise for a sport they previously gave so little attention to. A terrific night which set the stage for all which followed.”
We hope that our readers enjoyed Sunshine State Hockey’s countdown of the top 10 moments of Florida’s 2011-2012 season. This year was truly one to remember for Panthers fans everywhere. Hopefully the National Hockey League and its players association can reach a deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before the September 15th deadline so we do not have to wait any longer for another memorable hockey season in South Florida.
Finally we would like to thank Donny Rivette from Litter Box Cats for his great input. We also want to remind our readers one final time to click through the links below for the full experience of moment #1.
Before the start of the 2011-2012 NHL season being a fan of the Florida Panthers was a difficult task. For the past 12 years the Cats and their fan base seemed to be the laughing-stock of the league. That was until new owner Cliff Viner, GM Dale Tallon, and the rest of the new look Panthers changed everyone’s opinion about Florida by finally putting a winning product on the ice after a very long wait. Of course since the Cats did do plenty of winning this season they picked up a lot of points in the standings, which makes moment #5 on our top 10 list of the most memorable moments of the 2011-2012 season possible.
#5 – Panthers end 12 year playoff drought by losing to Washington (April 5th, 2012)
It is hard to imagine a professional sports team being happy after a loss, but that is exactly how the entire Panthers locker room felt after losing 4-2 to the Washington Capitals. Why was Florida so happy? Because thanks to the Flyers beating Buffalo in regulation the Cats had earned enough points to clinch their first playoff spot in 12 years.
“I don’t care (about the loss). I couldn’t care how it happened.” Said an excited Stephen Weiss. “All you got to do is get in, and anything can happen.”
The Panthers were not the only team scoreboard watching in this game. Their opponents, the Washington Capitals, were also fighting for their playoff lives. With the Capitals winning and the Sabres losing to Philadelphia it meant that both clubs in this game were locked into the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, a rare event enjoyed by both Washington and Florida fans in attendance at the Verizon Center. The video below shows the reaction from the pro-Capitals crowd when the standings are shown on the board during the final minute of the game.
Also, just as a little note about the ranking of this moment, we would have ranked it higher in our top ten if Florida would have won the game. Clinching a playoff spot after a 12 year drought is huge, but at the same time the loss put a small damper on the celebration. Thankfully it all worked out in the end though, and we are positive that the final four moments left to be revealed on the site are better than this one.
Be sure to check out the following links and come back tomorrow for the next installment of our top 10 moments of the 2011-2012 Florida Panthers season.
This is just going to be a quick post containing our predictions for the semifinals of this year’s playoffs because the puck drops on the first game of round two in less than 15 minutes. We will post an article discussing our predictions from the quarterfinals sometime tomorrow as well as who to watch in the second round. For now here are Sunshine State Hockey’s picks for the next round:
#1 New York Rangers VS #7 Washington Capitals
Ana: Capitals in 6 games
Marc: Capitals in 5 games
Rob: Capitals in 6 games
#5 Philadelphia Flyers VS #6 New Jersey Devils
Ana: Flyers in 5 games
Marc: Flyers in 6 games
Rob: Flyers in 6 games
#2 St. Louis Blues VS #8 Los Angeles Kings
Ana: Blues in 6 games
Marc: Kings in 7 games
Rob: Kings in 6 games
#3 Phoenix Coyotes VS #4 Nashville Predators
Ana: Coyotes in 7 games
Marc: Predators in 5 games
Rob: Predators in 5 games