As we move closer to hockey’s version of the “Final Four”, and with not much news to report here in Sunrise, let’s take a brief look at what some of the needs are for the Florida Panthers in the upcoming season. With realignment, and new divisional foes, the Florida Panthers will be facing stiffer competition on a nightly basis within their division. A seven team setup that includes Detroit, Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Tampa and Toronto should force the Panthers to make some improvements to their roster, but at the same time acquire players that will help make this team playoff ready. Not to focus on specific players that the Panthers should go after, we’ll focus more on what they need to add to become more competitive.
* The first “ingredient” so to speak is leadership. The team is in need of a player that not only has a vocal presence in the dressing room and on the ice, but a player who can back up his statements with his play. A true captain if you will similar to a Jonathan Toews or a Sidney Crosby, yet without as much offensive upside because we know those players cost too much for the Panthers at this point. No offence to Ed Jovanovski who was the perfect selection as captain last season from the players on the roster, but with his season long injuries, the Panthers required a player to step up and take charge, and I’m not exactly sure if the Panthers have anyone else worthy of captaincy. While players such as Toews and Crosby are a special breed and hard to find, there are proven veteran leaders out there who have similar vocal and leadership qualities of those two.
If you go to Cap Geek and look at the top list of unrestricted free agents, there are some pretty significant names that are available this summer. Pascal Dupuis could be someone that the Panthers can target, although he could demand too much money. However, if you want to win, you have to spend some money, and sooner or later Florida must realize this. Jarome Iginla is also on that list, and as much as I think he’d be an excellent acquisition, he’ll command far too much for the budget of this team at this point. Brenden Morrow is another interesting name to look at, and for those who thought he might be at the end of his career, his resurgence with Pittsburgh and performance in the post season argues against that. He just might be rejuvenated enough to give someone a couple of good years. The bottom line is that in order for Florida to grow, and succeed, they must mix in a few wily veterans who know how to win, and who are willing to show the youngsters how it’s done, and still have some game left.
I’ve never been really been a fan of the saying “he plays the game the right way”, but after watching Panthers’ forward Tomas Kopecky over the past several weeks – I am inclined to re-think my position on that term. Already one of the Panthers’ alternate Captains since last season, Kopecky was thrust into a larger leadership role this season after injuries initially limited and then eventually ended Captain Ed Jovanovski’s season. Although the letter on Kopecky’s sweater remains an “A”, he has been looking like a Captain in recent weeks while leading the team through impressive and gritty play every night.
With the season almost over, Tomas Kopecky has already tied his career goal total after he lit the lamp for the 15th time this season on Saturday night against the Washington Capitals. Amazingly, Kopecky has reached the 15 goal plateau in just 39 games this season – a far cry from the 81 games it took him during the 2010-2011 season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, even though he is putting up career numbers, Kopecky’s accomplishments are not limited to his point total. Playing just over 17 minutes a game, Kopecky constantly finds himself on the ice and making a difference on both ends. In fact he currently sits 2nd on the team in takeaways with 21, 2nd on the team in shot percentage with 18.1%, and leads all Panther forwards in blocked shots with 24.
On special teams, Kopecky has been a menace on both the power play and penalty killing units. This season, Kopecky has played the most shorthanded minutes of any Panther forward with a grand total of 73:30 thus far. On the power play, Kopecky has recorded 80:39 and earned 9 points – including 4 goals. Considering how many injuries the Panthers have had to deal with this season, Kopecky’s ability to play in any situation has been invaluable to a team that has had trouble fielding a steady lineup.
Happy Easter hockey fans! While many of you will find Easter baskets filled with chocolate and scratch off lottery tickets waiting for your this morning, we here at Panther Parkway decided to give you a new kind of Easter Egg. For this special holiday, we have put together a list of fun Florida Panthers’ Easter Eggs for you to enjoy. Everything from fun stats to interesting facts about the Panthers’ season are listed below, enjoy!
*Statistics shown are correct as of March 30, 2013.
- Between Stephen Weiss, Sean Bergenheim, Ed Jovanovski, Kris Versteeg, and Jose Theodore, the Panthers currently have $15,875,000 worth of salary out for the remainder of the 2013 season.
- The Florida Panthers are heading towards being the first Southeast Division champion to miss the playoffs the following year since the Atlanta Thrashers failed to reach the playoffs during the 2007-2008 season.
- Panthers’ rookie forward Drew Shore and Head Coach Kevin Dineen both played college hockey for the University of Denver.
- Forward George Parros needs just 21 PIM’s to reach 1000 for his career.
- Read the rest of this entry
After much speculation over whether or not he may return this season, it has been announced that Panthers’ Captain Ed Jovanovski will have a season ending surgery to fix a nagging hip injury.
Jovanovski’s season came to an abrupt end on January 29th after a dirty hit from Lightning forward B.J. Crombeen took him out of the lineup indefinitely. Jovanovski attempted a comeback on March 16th against the New York Islanders, but sadly re-aggravated his hip injury and was shut down once again shortly thereafter.
After being named Captain prior to the start of the 2013 season, expectations were sky high not only for Jovanovski, but for the Panthers’ team as a whole. However, only a few games into the season it became clear that both the Panthers and Jovanovski would be in for a long season. When he was healthy, Jovanovski competed in 6 games while averaging 15:39 of ice time. While most defensive Captains around the NHL average just over 20 minutes of ice time, Jovonavski’s age and ability kept him from being that kind of player for the Panthers this season.
Although Jovanovski wasn’t dazzling on the score sheet, the value of his veteran leadership and experience cannot be understated. On a team filled with young talent like Jonathan Huberdeau and Drew Shore, Jovanovski’s presence in the dressing room would have been a great assest in helping the Panthers’ young talent stay focused and remain undiscouraged throughout this forgettable season.
While there is some speculation that this injury may be the beginning of the end of Jovanovski’s career, I wouldn’t be too quick to jump to that conclusion. At 36-years-old and set to make north of $8 million over the next two seasons, Jovanovski’s retirement is far from a guarantee. Considering the financial concerns, the Florida Panthers are most likely in no position to use one of their amnesty buyouts, so Jovanovski would have to leave by his own free will. While it’s hard to imagine any player walking away from $8 million, we can save the Jovanovski speculation for another day.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts on Ed Jovanovski’s future in the comments section below!
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FLORIDA PANTHERS: 7-16-6 (20 PTS.) vs. CAROLINA HURRICANES: 15-11-1 (31 PTS.)
GAMEDAY SONG: Lost In The Flood
The hits just keep on coming this season for the Florida Panthers as two more players have gone down with injuries. Ed Jovanovski returned after missing 21 games Saturday night when the Panthers took on the New York Islanders, finds himself back on the shelf again. After playing just over 10 minutes in the first two periods, Jovanovski did not reappear for the remainder of the game. At Monday’s practice it was revealed that Jovo will be re-evaluated after the Panthers return home from their five game, eight day road trip that starts tonight in Carolina. In addition to Jovanovski, tough guy George Parros is also out of the lineup. Parros who fought Eric Boulton in Saturday’s game landed hard on the ice at the tail end of the fight, and that is likely what injured him. The Panthers have recalled Eric Selleck from San Antonio to take Parros’s spot in the lineup. The list of injured players is almost long enough to put two lines together.
The Panthers have now lost six in a row, and also dropped nine of its past 10. And 11 of its past 13. And 16 of 19. That hurt to type as much as I’m sure it hurt to read. Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders finds the Panthers with a 4-8-5 record on home ice this season. During this recent six game skid which sees them at 0-5-1, they’ve been outscored 26-11. Going on a road trip may be just what they need, however if you think you don’t recognize them now, who knows what we’ll find when they come back. The next home game will be Thursday the 28th against Buffalo, and if the slide continues, Dale Tallon may not wait till the deadline of April 3rd to start making changes.
The Florida Panthers announced Saturday evening that they have recalled defenseman Colby Robak from San Antonio of the American Hockey League. The 22 year-old Robak played three games for Florida last February when injuries decimated their defensive corps, the first games of his National Hockey League career.
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Some may find my writing or commentary here and on Twitter insensitive, negative or arrogant. While that’s not who I am, I do take solace in being fair and truthful as I see and perceive things. If you’re looking for an apologist or a “homer” that’s not me. If you want fair opinion, then you’re in the right place. This article is in response to many of the discussions that were had after Saturday’s loss to Tampa.
The Florida Panthers will complete their four game homestand tonight against the much improved Toronto Maple Leafs hoping to get at least one win out of the four games played here in Sunrise. A rather disappointing week finds the Panthers with an 0-0-3 record on home ice in which they’ve squandered a two goal lead late in the game, not once, but twice. Only to see both games lost shortly into overtime. Those games saw the Panthers erupt for five goals in each tilt, but sandwiched between them was a 1-0 overtime shutout by Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens. It seems as though the Florida Panthers score five goals, or no goals on their way to a consistently inconsistent season.
After this weeks overtime losses to division foes Washington and Tampa Bay, many of the same mistakes that Panther fans have been accustomed to over the years began to raise their ugly heads again causing many probing questions, as well as some harsh remarks from the fan base. Many are calling for the Panthers to get Jacob Markstrom here as fast as possible with confidence in Jose Theodore fading, and trust in Scott Clemmensen almost non existent. The losing is certainly frustrating, and the fragility and lack of confidence in the team is clearly present. Especially late in games.
While many are quick to judge and ready to pull the plug on the current goaltending tandem, to be fair, one must take a long hard look at what else is happening on the ice before making such a statement. While this isn’t an apology for either Theodore, or Clemmensen, who both must be sharper and more consistent, there are a glut of other issues that contribute to this seasons erratic and frustrating play. It was after a home game earlier in the year when Captain Ed Jovanovski commented in the dressing room that play in all three zones has to be better. It was an issue more than 2 weeks ago, and it’s still an issue now. Which brings us to the point of this article.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: 6-6-1 (13 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 4-6-2 (12 PTS).
GAME DAY SONG: The Fuse by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Two struggling Florida teams will face off this afternoon when the reeling Tampa Bay Lightning meet the Florida Panthers here in Sunrise, Florida. The Lightning who started out hot, are now 0-5-1 in their last six games and are 1-4-0 on the road for the season find themselves just two points ahead of the Panthers in the Eastern Conference standings. Tampa has beaten Florida the past five times they’ve met including January 29th by a score of 5-2. That was the game where BJ Crombeen hit Ed Jovanovski knee on knee and we haven’t seen Jovo since. Also of note during the Lightning’s latest winless streak is that their high powered offence hasn’t scored more than three goals in any of those six games. The last time Tampa won was the very next game they played after beating the Panthers when they manhandled Winnipeg 8-3.
Tampa’s struggles can also be attributed to their suddenly anemic power play during this losing streak, which is only 2 for it’s last 18, while being outshot 186 to 147. Tampa lost a close one to Washington on Thursday by a score of 4-3, but coach Guy Boucher is trying to remain optimistic throughout the streak:
“Either we just stay close and keep grinding and we come out of this, it’s still going to be a fight after we win one game,” said coach Guy Boucher, whose team went 0-6-1 from Jan. 3-15, 2012.
“It won’t change anything in terms of how we’re supposed to play, we’re just trying to be more consistent at it and get a bit of something positive out of it.”
During last season’s 82 game schedule the Florida Panthers lost over 320 man games to injury en route to their first ever division championship. Fortunately it was the depth of the organization and the play of the entire team behind the coaching of Kevin Dineen, that allowed Panthers to overcome the constant and lenghty trips to the injured list. Scottie Upshall, Dmitry Kulikov, Sean Bergenheim, and Marcel Goc were among the players that missed significant time, with many others having spent time injured as well. Collectively the Florida Panthers were able to hold their own as the leaders of their division.
This year, the trend seems to be continuing, however with vastly different results. Scottie Upshall who missed 56 games last season will be out approximately a month with an ankle injury. Sean Bergenheim was hurt playing in Europe, and there’s no timetable for his return. Captain Ed Jovanovski has been out of action since taking a knee on knee hit from Tampa’s BJ Crombeen on January 29th. Jovo is expected to be out another two weeks, although he did skate with the team at practice on Friday. He is expected to miss an additional two weeks.
Adding to that list, Kris Versteeg, last season’s spark plug hasn’t been healthy from the beginning of the season, and is now day to day after taking a hit from behind by Alex Ovechkin. Versteeg missed Thursday night’s game against Montreal, and is expected to miss Saturday’s game against Tampa. Lastly, Stephen Weiss who has been a ghost of himself is apparently nursing a groin injury, which might explain his somewhat lackluster play.
With the announcement that the Winter Classic has officially been cancelled, thinking of material to hold your interest can get difficult. However it’s also a time where I can sit back and write about some things that I normally wouldn’t have time for. This will be a series called “He Coulda Been A Florida Panther” that will examine the Florida Panthers first round draft picks, and who they “could’ve” drafted instead. It’s easy to look back and analyze, especially with what is known after the fact, but we need some fun. Although I think in a few cases, we’ll shed some tears.
Today we take a look at the first round of 1994. The Florida Panthers who were coming off a very successful first season, landed the top pick in the draft and made a very solid choice with their pick. Ed Jovanovski, a big, offensively talented blue liner who could score, and pass in addition to playing with a nasty snarl was an easy choice. The Panthers who were a defensive minded team at that time, wanted to shore up their blue line, and by adding Jovo, they felt that found a player that could be built around for a very long time.