Panthers Kickoff 2014 Offseason With Draft Lottery Tuesday

Just days after the final game of the 2013-14 regular season, the Florida Panthers are set to begin their first offseason under new ownership headed by Vincent Viola. Though the team hopes to solve most of their roster problems in free agency, the first important event of the 2014 offseason kicks off tomorrow night with the annual NHL Draft Lottery.

Set to begin at 8 p.m., ET, the Panthers will have an 18.8% chance at winning this year’s top pick after finishing 29th in the NHL with a final record of 29-45-8.

Given that no team can slide more than one spot back of their finishing position, the Panthers are guaranteed at least a top-three pick in this year’s draft regardless of what luck they may or may not have tomorrow night.

The chance to win this year’s first-overall selection for every lottery team is as follows:

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The Future of the Florida Panthers Blue Line is Bright

With one game remaining in the 2013-2014 regular season, the Florida Panthers find themselves in all too familiar territory. Last season, the Panthers finished dead last in both Goals Against per Game (GA/G) and the Penalty Kill (PK%), and this year has been no different. Currently ranked 27th in GA/G, allowing 3.20 goals per game, and 30th in PK%, Dale Tallon and the Hockey Operations staff may have their work cut out for them this summer, whether it be via Free Agency or trades.

Fast-forward to the very near future, and the Panthers may have something they’ve longed for since Tallon was hired as the General Manager of the Panthers; flexibility to spend and depth on defense.

Though the Panthers have struggled offensively in recent years, drafting centers Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad will finally give the Cats the stability up the middle for the first time since the Jokinen era. While drafting these mammoth centermen was the correct choice for any GM in Tallon’s position to make, the current blue line still leaves something to be desired.

Luckily for Panthers’ fans, Tallon has done a superb job of drafting Grade A defensemen during his tenure as the Panthers General Manager. While Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson and Dylan Olsen remain the face of the Panthers young defensive core, there are a handful of reliable defensemen in the Cats prospect pool just waiting for their chance at the big show.

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Florida Panthers and the Role of Leadership in the NHL

The leadership debate has been kicked into high gear recently in the hockey world and everyone who’s everyone is throwing in their two cents (5 cents if you’re from Canada). Leadership is a tricky notion in any realm to define and quantify, but in the sports world leadership is more like an omnipotent force than quantifiable trait. The inspiration for this piece comes from Steve (Dangle) Glynn, who debates the quantities/qualities of leadership in this video: http://theleafsnation.com/2014/4/7/leadership-in-hockey-what-s-that

Steve questions whether or not leadership is even real, if it’s tangible based on goals, hits, motivational speeches etc. It’s a great video; I’d check it out if I were you.

So what is it? What is leadership?

To re-hash and expand on what Steve said: Is leadership defined by production? Fighting? The notion of clutch-ness? (That’s a whole other can of worms)

Is it defined by being vocal in the locker room? On the bench? On the ice?

Is it by example? Putting your body on the line to help your team win? Attending charity events? Being available to the media no matter the situation?

Is it how you interact with your teammates? Patting them on the back when they do something right? Teaching them when they did something wrong? Calming them down when they’re making mistakes?

Is it just being old? How many cups you’ve won? How many years you’ve been in the league?

To me, leadership is a mixed bag. It’s a combination/selection of everything I listed above and more.

You can sense leadership in sport (and life, really) at any level, from the professional grade to the beer league. There are people who others gravitate to for inspiration, support, guidance or security. There are people who possess those unquantifiable quantifiable qualities that make people gravitate to them.

The term “Leadership” is used so often these days so it’s not insane to see why it’s been watered down and questioned as much as it is being. When a team wins or loses, part of that result was due to what we call leadership. Players cite their captains, alternates, goal scorers, grinders, goalies, coaches etc. as people who were impactful on the game’s outcome. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and are defined by the many variations of leadership. There’s not just one answer, there’s not just one quality, leadership is an orchestra.

When it comes to a team’s captaincy group, I have no doubt that whoever makes the decision takes all of these qualities into account. Technically a team only has captains and alternates so that there is a designated group of people to talk to officials. Obviously that has evolved into what we have today. Being a captain or an alternate is seen as a prestigious honor.

We rank the best captains; we debate if a player should be captain, we even put more weight on a goal when it was scored by a captain or when captains fight! Obviously leadership matters in the NHL and whatever you quantify leadership as it has an impact on how you watch the game and how the game is played.

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Dancing To Support The Children’s Miracle Network

I normally don’t like to use this website as a platform to ask for donations, yet when something this important comes along, it’s difficult to resist.  My daughter, who some of you know as Alexandrea, Alex or @LilMissRatTrick is in her second year at the University of Florida.  She’s doing exceptionally well in her studies, enjoying life away from home, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

In a few days she’ll be participating in an annual event simply called Dance Marathon at the University of Florida, which raises money for the The Children’s Miracle Network.  The link explaining what it’s all about can be found by clicking here.

She has also set up a personal page where you can make donations towards her goal, which can be found by clicking this link here.

This is her description of the event:

This year I will be participating in an event that has grown into another one of our great Gator traditions – Dance Marathon at the University of Florida. Dance Marathon is a yearlong commitment in which thousands of students come together to raise funds and awareness for Children’s Miracle Network. Each April, more than 800 of these students stay awake and on their feet in the Stephen O’Connell Center for 26.2 hours to show their support for the patients at Shands Children’s Hospital at UF, right here in Gainesville.

This cause is very important to me personally. Each year my sorority raises money for our national philanthropy, Children’s Miracle Network. As a volunteer at Shands Hospital in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Emergency Department, I know exactly what this organization is fighting for. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from Dance Marathon go toward purchasing state-of-the-art medical equipment, finding research grants and educational programs, and supplying toys and other items for children to help make their stay at the hospital more enjoyable. In addition, donations fund the search for cures for some of the most common yet incurable diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis and cancer. It’s For the Kids!!

I know that times can be difficult for some, but if there’s any way that you can make a donation, no matter how small, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  Alexandrea and I both thank you in advance for any donation that you can make.

 

Panther Parkway Post-Game: Panthers vs. Islanders

Stars of the game

1st: Josh Bailey (1G-1A-2P)

2nd: Colin McDonald (0G-2A-2P)

3rd: Mike Halmo (1G-0A-1P)

Goals (Islanders 4, Panthers 2)

FLA: Quinton Howden (4) (Short-handed) Assists: Unassisted

NYI: Travis Hamonic (3) (Power Play) Assists: Josh Bailey

NYI: Josh Bailey (7) Assists: Colin McDonald, Ryan Strome

NYI: Matt Martin (8) Assists: Colin McDonald

NYI: Mike Halmo (1) Assists: Casey Cizikas

FLA: Brandon Pirri (11) (Power Play) Assists: Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov

Highlight

Jonathan Racine made his NHL debut, posting 15:35 0f ice-time, 2 penalty minutes, 4 blocked shots, 1 hit (huge hit) and a -1 rating.

Quote of the game

https://twitter.com/hfialkov/status/451179549812740098

Tweet of the game

We love these kind of tweets. Congrats!

Video of the game

Next Up

The Florida Panthers take on the Calgary Flames at the BB&T Center, on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Tune into FOX Sports Florida to catch all of the action!

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

20th Anniversary: Florida Panthers All-Time Best, Right Wing Edition

We have finally reached the final piece of the Florida Panthers All-Time Best series. Today we take a look back at the top three right wingers to play for the Panthers. While Roberto Luongo may be Florida’s resident “rockstar” type player on the team currently (and during his first stint as well), we begin this edition with one of the biggest stars of his era.

1. PAVEL BURE
When looking back at some of the game’s greatest players that were Panthers at a point in their careers, few of them stopped off in Florida during their prime. Looking to leave the lifestyle of being under the hockey microscope in Vancouver and  the volatile relationship with then Vancouver Canucks GM, Brian Burke, “The Russian Rocket” Pavel Bure expressed interest in playing for a new team. After holding out from Vancouver for the first part of the 1998-99 season, Bure was accommodated and found himself moving to Florida in a trade featuring many pieces, but most notably saw Florida fan favorite Ed Jovanovski swap places with the speedy Russian winger in Florida’s first ever “blockbuster” trade.

The acquisition of Bure in the 1998-99 season gave Florida absolute star power for the first time in their short existence. Bure was a premiere player in the NHL and was one of the most feared goal scorers in the entire league. His explosive speed, quick hands and deadly accurate shot made him one of the most exciting players to watch, and it was just in time for Florida’s transition from Miami into their current residence in Sunrise. Bure made his debut on January 20, 1999 and scored two goals in the Panthers 5-1 victory against the New York Islanders. Bure’s first season with Florida was cut short due to a knee injury and limited him to 11 games in which he amassed 16 points (13-3-16). Despite the injury, the Panthers and Bure agreed on a five-year $47.5 million contract.

The following two seasons showed that Bure was worth every penny. Bure brought attention to Florida by earning two consecutive Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies, as the league’s leading goal scorer, two consecutive All-Star Game appearances and an All-Star Game MVP (1999-00). Bure scored 58 and 59 goals respectively during those two seasons and had instant chemistry with his linemate and fellow countryman, Viktor Kozlov. Bure was a big part of the Panthers 1999-00 playoff berth, before ultimately being swept by the New Jersey Devils. Bure enjoyed his time as a Panther, and was the focal point of the team during his tenure in South Florida. The Panthers even traded original Panther, Rob Niedermayer to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Pavel’s younger brother Valeri Bure so they could finally play on the same NHL team. Bure hit the 700-point mark on December 16, 2001 after tallying three points (1-2-3) in a win over the team that he debuted as a Panther against, the Islanders.

Of the four seasons that Bure was a Panther, he only played one full season. Plagued by injuries throughout his career, his time in Florida was no different. Knee injuries and concussions kept the Russian Rocket out of play and his large contract was beginning to strangle the Panthers financially. The Panthers traded Bure to the New York Rangers in exchange for Igor UlanovFilip Novak and a first round pick in the 2002 draft (Petr Taticek) and a second round pick in the 2002 draft (Rob Globke). An unpopular trade at the time, moving Bure was essential for the team in order to gain assets (albeit none of them coming to fruition) and begin the team’s first rebuild of many. Bure’s time in New York was short-lived due to injuries as well and ultimately led to his retirement the following season.

Despite only being in the sunshine state for 4 seasons, Bure is one of the team’s most celebrated players and holds countless records as a Panther. Bure ranks third all-time in Panthers goals with 152, but holds the first and second spots for most goals in a season (59,58) as well as the most points in a season as a Panther (94,92) and ranks number one in power play goals in a season (19) and game-winning goals (14). Bure known for his offensive skill, surprisingly holds the number two spot for best plus-minus in a season finishing the 1999-00 season as a plus-25. Bure’s goal scoring prowess was unparalleled during his time and it’s hard to imagine any Panthers player coming close to the superstar’s ability with the puck. Bure recorded ten hat tricks as a Panther, with two of those tricks being four goal games. Bure was absolute magic on the ice and was a once in a million type player. Although Bure never won a championship in his career, his skill and legacy translated into a Hall of Fame induction in 2012.

The man was a human highlight reel. Check it out.

2. SCOTT MELLANBY
Arguably the best Captain in the history of the Panthers, Scott Mellanby was the heart and soul of the Panthers from day one. Left unprotected by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1993 Expansion Draft, Mellaby was selected by Florida to be a part of the inaugural Panthers team. Mellanby scored the franchise’s first ever goal on October 9, 1993 in the team’s debut. The former University of Wisconsin Badger was a fan favorite and played the best years of his career as a Panther. The best year of his career just so happens to be the most famous year in Panthers history, and much of that year is due to Mellanby.

It was known as the “Year of the Rat”. The 1995-96 season saw an underdog Panthers team shock the hockey world and make a run at the Stanley Cup. Mellanby kickstarted the rat craze, originally known as “the rat trick”. Before the team’s home opener of that season, Mellanby killed a rat in the team locker room with his stick by shooting it across the room. Mellanby went on to score two goals with the very same stick that night. Once word got out, a tradition began in South Florida. Panthers fans would litter the ice with plastic rats after a goal, an act that was a thorn in the sides of not only NHL officials but opposing teams as well. Mellanby was named to play in the All-Star Game that season and scored a career high 32 goals and 72 points (32-38-70). The year of the rat became a legend in the history of the team, in many ways thanks to Mellanby.

Playing in eight seasons as a Panther, and serving as Captain during four of those seasons, Mellanby ranks fifth all-time in games played in a Panthers uniform (552). Mellanby’s long tenure as a Panther perches him up at the top of the best ever to play for Florida. Mellanby is second only behind Olli Jokinen for most goals as a Panther (157), third all-time in points (354), fourth all-time in assists (197) and is number one all-time in power play goals as a Panther (66). A 20-year veteran in the NHL, Mellanby played his 1,000th game in the league during his time as a Panther. Mellanby was a tough act to follow as captain, and to this day there has not been a Captain who could lead the way like Mellanby could for Florida. The rat tradition lives on in Florida, and we have Mellanby to thank for that. Mellanby is currently the Director of Player Personnel for his hometown Montreal Canadiens.
Here’s a look at Mellanby’s hockey career.

 

3. NATHAN HORTON
While Nathan Horton may be best known as the guy who asked to leave Florida when Dale Tallon took over, there is no denying how good Horton was when he was on his game. The Panthers possessed the first overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, a draft seen as the deepest draft of the last decade. Marc-Andre FleuryEric StaalThomas VanekRyan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards and Brent Seabrook are just some of the future NHL stars that would materialize from the first round. Florida traded down to the third pick. Swapping places with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the third spot and gaining Mikael Samuelsson and a second round pick (Stefan Meyer). The Penguins ultimately selected Fleury, followed by the Carolina Hurricanes selecting the face of their franchise in Staal. Florida at three selected Horton, who was seen as the complimentary power forward to play alongside Stephen Weiss and along with Jay Bouwmeester could allow Florida to have a solid three young players to build around.

During Horton’s rookie season in 2003-04 he made history. On January 9, 2004, Horton became the youngest player in NHL history to score on a penalty shot (this would be broken by Jordan Staal three seasons later). Shortly after, Horton suffered a shoulder injury and ended his first season at 55 games. His first campaign in the NHL showed glimpses that the young forward could be  true goal scorer in the show, finishing with 14. This was his last season as a Panther where he would score less than 20 goals. During the six seasons Horton was in Florida, he had four 20 goal seasons and one 30 goal season. Owning a quick release and unrelenting power in his shot, Horton was seen as the team’s goal scorer for years to come. Playing in 422 games as a Panther, Horton ranks fourth all-time in points (295) and fifth all-time in goals (142).

Becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the direction of the team and the years without playoff appearances left Horton disgruntled and was eventually dealt to the Boston Bruins, where he won a Stanley Cup and was an important part of Boston’s playoff run. After three seasons as a Bruin, Horton tested free agency during the 2013-14 offseason and signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

FUN FACT: Horton’s trade to Boston also sent Gregory Campbell along with him to Beantown. In return the Bruins gave the Panthers Dennis Wideman, a first round pick in the 2010 draft and a third round pick in the 2011 draft. The Panthers used that first round pick to select current Panther center, Nick Bjugstad and the third round pick to select Bjugstad’s University of Minnesota teammate and friend, Kyle Rau. Wideman did not last  a full season in Florida and was traded to the Washington Capitals. In return the Panthers received another third round pick in the 2011 draft, which they used to select Jonathan Racine.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: RADEK DVORAK
The man called D-Vo will always be a favorite amongst Panthers fans. The quick skating Czech winger ranks second all-time in games played as a Panther, skating in 613 games during two separate stints with the Panthers. Selected 10th overall in the 1995 draft, Dvorak played his rookie season during the year of the rat, and posted 27 points (13-14-27) in 77 games. Dvorak played five seasons for Florida, never really showing the form of the goal scorer they hoped he would be. After an injury to goaltender Trevor Kidd in the 1999-00 season and the Panthers not having a goalie to fill the spot, Dvorak was used as a trade chip to bring aging All-Star goaltender, Mike Vernon to Florida from the San Jose Sharks. This move was made drastically as the Panthers looked to secure a playoff berth. Dvorak was flipped to the Rangers right after, never playing a game for San Jose.

Dvorak returned to Florida as a veteran in the 2007-08 season and played three more seasons as a Panther, which included his 1,000th game in the NHL. Dvorak posted 268 points (113-155-268) during his time as a Panther. Although never becoming a great goal scorer, Dvorak became a solid two-way player and an excellent penalty killer. Reliable on both ends of the ice, Dvorak was used in all situations by coaches during his time in Florida. Currently the 37-year old Dvorak is playing for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Check out this D-Vo Hatty against Pittsburgh

And of course this classic from the 90′s

 

Well, that ends it ladies and gentlemen. As we approach the end of the season and look towards the 21st year of the Panthers in the 2014-15 season, it’s always good to remember the roots and humble beginnings. Not every team achieves greatness easily, and as Panthers fans have come to learn it can be a painful process. The Panthers prospects are some of the league’s best and as we transition into the next stage of the Tallon blueprint we can only hope that these “Young Guns” could one day be the all-time best to play for the Panthers.

Panther Parkway Post-Game: Panthers vs. Ducks

Stars of the game

1st: Ryan Getzlaf (1G-2A-3P)

2nd: Corey Perry (1G-2A-3P)

3rd: Teemu Selanne (1G-1A-2P)

Goals (Anaheim 6, Panthers 2)

ANA: Patrick Maroon (7) (Powerplay) Assists: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry

ANA: Teemu Selanne (9) Assists: Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf 

ANA: Jakob Silfverberg (8) (Short-handed) Assists: Unassisted 

FLA: Jimmy Hayes (10) Assists: Krys Barch, Dmitry Kulikov

FLA: Tomas Fleischmann (8) Assists: Vincent Trocheck

ANA: Kyle Palmieri (12) Assists: Mathieu Perreault, Patrick Maroon

ANA: Corey Perry (37) Assists: Sami Vatanen, Bryan Allen

ANA: Ryan Getzlaf (30) Assists: Teemu Selanne, Stephane Robidas

Highlight

Jimmy Hayes scored his 10th goal of the season, and heavy-weight Krys Barch recorded his 4th assist of the season.

Quote of the game

TBD

Tweet of the game

“Good Work, Captain Duck”

Next Up

The Florida Panthers take on the Ottawa Senators at the BB&T Center, on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Tune into FOX Sports Florida to catch all of the action!

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

20th Anniversary: Florida Panthers All-Time Best, Center Edition

Moving left to right for the forwards in the All-Time Best series, today we take a look at the top three Centers in the history of the Florida Panthers. For many years, Florida never really had a clear-cut number one center. This was an issue that was addressed very quickly by current Panthers GM Dale Tallon. Through the draft, Tallon has brought in a plethora of talented young centers to the fold in Florida. Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Vincent Trocheck are looked at as the future one-two-three combo for the Panthers, but wait. There’s more. Drew Shore drafted by former GM Randy Sexton and Brandon Pirri acquired before the deadline by Tallon from Chicago, make things quite interesting down the middle. This logjam of young talent at the center position is an excellent problem to have. Having this many options for the future is extremely promising for the Panthers and will provide stiff competition down the road. These young centers have high ceilings to what they can do and one day may even be considered some of the team’s all-time greats, but to get there they will have to get past these guys…

1. OLLI JOKINEN
One of the most popular figures in Panthers history is former captain, Olli Jokinen. Jokinen came over to Florida with Roberto Luongo in another of former New York Islanders GM Mike Milbury‘s infamous code red, disaster-level trades. Florida gave up Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish and in return gained Jokinen and Luongo. Both of these players are ranked number one all-time at their positions in these lists so far, while Parrish was a journeyman in the pros and Kvasha didn’t last long in the NHL. Jokinen was drafted in the first round of the 1997 draft by the Los Angeles Kings and was traded to the Islanders two seasons after. Jokinen’s production was limited at both the NHL and AHL level and many began questioning if he could ever live up to expectations.

Jokinen’s start to his Panthers career was lackluster to say the least. His first two seasons (2000-01, 2001-02) were beginning to label the former third overall draft choice as a bust as tensions flared between himself and head coach Terry Murray. Playing in 158 games during his first two seasons, Jokinen finished with 45 points (15-30-45), 204 PIMs and a horrendous minus-38 rating. Once seen as a promising piece to the Florida puzzle, Jokinen was not impressing fans or management alike, this included new coach, Mike Keenan. While Keenan is infamous for his time in Florida and a bit vilified by many fans, Keenan lit a fire under the under-performing young Finn. Pavel Bure was no longer a Panther by the start of the 2002-03 season, and while irreplaceable as the future hall-of-famer was, someone needed to step up and seize the opportunity to carry the offensive load.

Enter Jokinen. Jokinen made his presence known that season playing 81 games and posting 65 points (36-29-65), emerging as the team’s top player. Jokinen led the team in points that season, an achievement he held on to for the rest of his days as a Panther. Named to the All-Star Team, Jokinen credited his success to Keenan, who continued to use Jokinen as their number one center. Jokinen became the team’s go-go guy over the course of his career in Florida. Ranking fourth all-time in games played as a Panther (567). No player in Florida history has taken more shots (1837), scored more goals (188), game-winning goals (36) or points (419) in a Panthers uniform than Jokinen. The Kuopio, Finland native’s best seasons of his career were during his time in Florida. Jokinen played four straight 82-game seasons for the Panthers and holds the record for most consecutive games played by a Panther (373). A prolific point producer for Florida, Jokinen hit career bests in goals (39) and points (91) during the 2006-07 season and recorded over 60 points in a season on four separate occasions. While never making the playoffs during his tenure in Florida, Jokinen led a young Panthers team to best of his ability. Not afraid to drop the gloves, or drill his opponents with a hit, Jokinen brought it all when he was on the ice.

Jokinen was a threat on the ice for the Panthers every night and holds a record untouched by a Panthers player by recording more points in a game than any Florida skater. On Mar. 17, 2007 Jokinen recorded six points (2-4-6) against the team that traded him to Florida, the Islanders. After missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons (boy did they have no idea how much longer it would be) the Panthers decided to shake up the team by moving Jokinen. Jokinen was traded along with a 2nd round pick  to the Phoenix Coyotes for defenseman Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton. Phoenix used that pick to draft Jared Staal. Jokinen bounced around to a few other teams and spent the majority of his time with the Calgary Flames. Jokinen never regained his form after being traded, and is currently a member of the Winnipeg Jets. Panthers fans can catch Jokinen at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs during the offseason, as he still spends his summers in Florida. The man who wore number 12, ranks as number one on the All-Time Best list.

Fun Fact: Ballard, who the Panthers received in return for Jokinen from Phoenix was traded to the Vancouver Canucks at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft for a first round pick, Michael Grabner and Steve Bernier. While Grabner and Bernier didn’t last long in Florida, the Panthers used that first round pick to select Quinton Howden, 25th overall.

Here’s a great highlight video with clips of his reaction being traded to Phoenix, as well as international play with Team Finland, his early years as an Islander and of course is time as a Panther.

2. STEPHEN WEISS
654 games as a Panther. No player in Panthers history was more of a mainstay or thought of as the heart and soul of the team more than Stephen Weiss. Selected by Florida at the 2001 NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise, Weiss was taken fourth overall in the first round and was compared to his hero Steve Yzerman. While higher ranked prospects are often compared to elite players, many do not live up to those comparisons. The Yzerman comparison was more in style than substance for Weiss, and he never quite lived up to that hype. Weiss’ increase in attention at the draft was due to his 87 points (40-47-87) in 62 games with his junior team, the Plymouth Whalers. Weiss although never a top-caliber player, he was indeed a very good center through his time in Florida.

On April, 3, 2002 Weiss made his NHL debut on his 19th birthday, facing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Weiss scored his first career goal in that game and finished the rest of Florida’s season with the team playing in seven total games, recording two points (1-1-2). Weiss did not flourish under the Keenan regime and struggled to live up to his draft stock. The highest point total Weiss recorded under Keenan was 29 points (12-17-29) in 50 games. Weiss took a few seasons to become a dependable player for Florida and battled injuries as well. He began turning the corner after Keenan’s departure posting his first 20 goal season (2006-07) under head coach Jacques Martin. Weiss steadily kept pace around the 40 point mark the following season, but didn’t really break out until a familiar face from his past, took the reigns behind the bench.

Pete DeBoer was Weiss’ old coach from his days in Plymouth. It was under DeBoer that Weiss elevated his play to his 87-point campaign. DeBoer became the head coach of the Florida Panthers in the 2008-09 season and Weiss excelled. Weiss went on to have the best season of his career that year. Weiss was the team’s number one center now that Jokinen was no longer a Panther and DeBoer instilled his trust in his former pupil. Weiss posted a career-best 61 points that season (14-47-61) and finished with a career-high plus-19 rating. His confidence on the ice as well as his chemistry with David Booth and Nathan Horton gave the Panthers a real chance at a playoff berth. Ultimately the Panthers lost out on the playoffs by a hair, but Weiss who now wore the “A” in Florida looked to take the team even further the following season.

The 2009-10 season was a disappointment. Weiss hit a career-high in goals with 28 that year, but the exit of Jay Bouwmeester, the concussion of Booth and countless other injuries to the team took it’s toll as the Panthers finished towards the bottom of the standings yet again. When Tallon took over as GM, he looked to weed out any player not interested in helping with his rebuild of the team. Weiss stood pat, and wanted to remain a Panther. While recording 21 goals the following season, Weiss led a who’s who of aging veterans, AHL call-ups and young players into another disappointing year. DeBoer was dismissed and Kevin Dineen came on board.This was Weiss’ seventh coach to play under during his ten seasons in Florida.

Weiss didn’t miss a beat under Dineen and formed a deadly alliance with Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg that led to the Panthers first playoff berth since the 1999-00 season. Although winning the Southeast Division, the 2011-12 Panthers were an underdog and were looked at as easy prey in the first round to the New Jersey Devils, who were led by former coach, DeBoer. Weiss finally played in his first ever NHL postseason and gave the team everything he could. Weiss posted five points (3-2-5) in seven playoff games, including back-to-back power play goals in game two, pushing Florida to their first playoff win in 15 years. Despite losing in a heartbreaking game seven double overtime finish, Weiss looked to help the Panthers return to the playoffs the following season and defend their division title. The lockout and a season ending wrist injury limited Weiss to 17 games where he posted a meager 4 points (1-2-3) and floated through the year with uncertainty as he was a pending free agent.

Weiss ultimately left Florida last summer to join the Detroit Red Wings. Again limited this season due to injuries, Weiss signed a five-year $25. 4 million contract and has yet to show his worth with the Wings. Weiss may have left Florida, but was met with a warm reception by the Florida faithful at his first game back in Sunrise. The longest tenured Panther in team history, Weiss also holds the record for most assists by a Panther (249),  ranks second all-time in points (394), second all-time in game-winning goals (23) and is third all-time in power play goals (48). While he was never awarded the Captain’s “C” many fans considered him to be the true captain during his time with the Panthers, especially in their run to the playoffs.

3. VIKTOR KOZLOV
Six-foot-four, 232lbs, great offensive instincts and a nose for the net, Viktor Kozlov had all the tools to be a NHLer. The Togliatti, Russia native complimented fellow Russian, Pavel Bure excellently during their time playing together in Florida. Kozlov possessed a booming shot, slick passing ability and could move very well for a player of his size. Kozlov hit a career high in assists with 53 during the 1999-00 season and helped not only the Panthers secure a playoff berth, but helped Bure earn his first Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top scorer. Kozlov’s 53 assist year is still the Panthers record for most assists in a season. Kozlov was a Panther for seven seasons, playing in 414 games and is fifth all-time among Panthers players in points (291), assists (190) and fourth all-time in shots on goal (1177). Kozlov goes unmentioned a lot when Panthers history comes up. Often overshadowed by players around him like Bure, Ray WhitneyScott Mellanby and even goaltender Roberto Luongo or fan favorites, Paul Laus and Peter Worrell, Kozlov was a quiet producer for the Panthers through his time with the team. Kozlov was a prototypical power forward , and while his hockey playing days in the NHL may be over, the 39-year old center spent last season splitting time in the KHL with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv and CSKA Moscow.

Here’s a video of Kozlov in the KHL showing off his hands and passing ability. The guy’s still got it.

HONORABLE MENTION: ROB NIEDERMAYER
He was the first ever player to be drafted by the Panthers. Rob Niedermayer, the younger brother of hall of fame defenseman, Scott Niedermayer was selected fifth overall by Florida in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. After showing he could score goals at the junior level by posting a 43 goals in his draft year, Florida saw Niedermayer as a dynamic two-way forward who could be their first ever lifer as a Panther. An enormous part of the “Year of the Rat” Niedermayer notched a career high 26 goals and 61 points in 82 games, before posting eight points (5-3-8) in 22 playoff games. Niedermayer battled concussions and injuries in the following years and never regained the form he showed that season. He converted into a more defensive forward through the years and was eventually traded to Calgary in a deal that brought Valeri Bure to Florida to unite with his brother Pavel. As the years went on Niedermayer was able to unite with his brother as well, and win a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks. Niedermayer played in 518 games as a Panther recording 266 points (101-165-266). The first ever true Florida Panther, Niedermayer was loved by the fans and remains a celebrated player in the team’s history.

Stay tuned as we begin to close in on the final chapter of the All-Time Best series on Panther Parkway!

Panther Parkway Post-Game: Panthers vs. Phoenix

Stars of the game

1st: Mike Smith (22-23 saves – .957 sv%)

2nd: Radim Vrbata (1G-0A-1P)

3rd: Chris Summers (0G-0A-0P)

Goals (Coyotes 2, Panthers 1)

PHX: Radim Vrbata (20) (Powerplay) Assists: Martin Hanzal, Oliver Ekman-Larsson

PHX: Antoine Vermette (23) Assists: Michael Stone, Mikkel Boedker

FLA: Scott Gomez (2) Assists: Dmitry Kulikov

Highlight

Scott Gomez notched his 2nd goal of the season, breaking a 34 game goal drought. Gomez’ last goal came during the Florida Panthers first game of the season.

Quote of the game

TBD

Tweet of the game

Next Up

The Florida Panthers take on the LA Kings at the Staples Center, on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

Tune into FOX Sports Florida to catch all of the action!

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

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20th Anniversary: Florida Panthers All-Time Best, Left Wing Edition

Our newest edition of the Florida Panthers All-Time Best will take us through a walk on the left side. Throughout the history of the team there has been many solid left wings, but not necessarily in their prime or didn’t stay in South Florida for long.  The left-wing position through the years has been a bit of a weakness for the team when you look back at some of the best players to play for the Panthers.

Until the mid-2000′s the Panthers hadn’t had a clear-cut top-line left-winger.Players like Gary Roberts and Cory Stillman were serviceable and valuable veterans in the locker room, but were declining in production and didn’t make it through full seasons. The emergence of rookie of the year Jonathan Huberdeau as well as other young left wings in the system like Quinton Howden give the Panthers some hope on the left side and could one day leap the players that clock in at the top three of the list. Only time will tell. So without further ado, we begin analyzing the all-time best, Florida Panthers left wings.

[Read more...]

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