Outlook of the Panthers
This column continues with a preview of the Panthers as part of my pre-season preview project. So I went to Frank Rekas of therattrick.com.
How will the Panthers do this season? Will they make the playoffs?
The expectations for the Florida Panthers have never been higher. With the longest playoff drought in NHL history to erase, Dale Tallon has completely turned over the roster, bringing in 11 new players and a new head coach and assistant head coach. Adding veterans such as Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, Ed Jovanovski, and a young veteran Kris Versteeg, the Florida Panthers have added players who not only have a winning attitude, but have the leadership and performance to back it up. Of the 11 new players added, every single one of them has playoff experience and three of them have won a Stanley Cup.
Brian Campbell has been a winner everywhere he has gone. He and Tomas Kopeckey are solid vets and will lead by example. Kris Versteeg is a goal scorer who will add offense in every line-up. He may very well be the best pick up.
There will be a new work ethic and a new attitude that will bring a refreshing brand of hockey to this team. Young players like Dimitry Kulikov and rookie Erik Gudbranson will transform a defence that will be one of the best units of six the Panthers have ever had. While they still don't have that 40 goal scorer that we've all been looking for, the team finally has balanced scoring from all lines. With at least six players that have the ability to score 20 goals or more, no longer will the Panthers have to rely on goaltending to win games.
The best way to improve a team is simply by making the first step. Winning takes a lot of hard work. The Panthers have to have a new attitude. They have to find ways to win not to lose.
Speaking of goaltending, Jose Theodore was signed after Tomas Vokoun turned down a three year deal to explore the free agent market. Unfortunately, there will be a lot of pressure on Jose to replace Vokoun. I've been saying this all throughout training camp: Theo doesn't have to be Vokoun or anyone else. With more scoring and a better defence, the team in front of Jose is significantly better than any team that Vokoun had in front of him.
Volkoun will be missed, but the Panthers will be a much better team; and yes, Theo will have far more support in front of him.
Brian Campbell said it best a few days ago: "It's unacceptable to not make the playoffs this season".
Brian Campbell is one of the best leaders in the game, bar none.
Who will the be Panthers' MVP in order for them to make the playoffs?
There's going to have to be a collective effort here to get the Panthers into the playoffs; but the two players that I feel will make the biggest impact are Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell. Versteeg for his offensive skill. He's been a 20 goal scorer for most of his young career, and that was mostly playing on the second or third lines. Here he'll get the opportunity to play on the first line and the first power play unit. That in itself should translate into 25 to 30 goals. As for Brian Campbell, he'll be a steadying influence on the ice and in the dressing room. His skillful play and puck moving ability will quarterback the power play. His smooth skating will cause the rush, and every now and then you'll see that "homerun pass" to a forward leading to a breakaway. He brings a championship attitude to the team, and he'll be a leader both on and off the ice. With him coming here, the whole attitude of the team changes.
I completly agree. Campbell and Versteeg are awesome. They will have to lead this team. Great answers, Frank. Thanks so much for doing this
Hey Frank how can we keep track of you? Sell yourself.
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