Florida Panthers Place Ed Jovanovski On Buyout Waivers

The speculation of Captain Ed Jovanovski’s future with the Florida Panthers has been laid to rest.  As a player at least. The veteran defenceman who came back to South Florida in 2011 after beginning his career with the Panthers in 1994, has been placed on buyout waivers.  Jovanovski signed a four-year contract with the Panthers in 2011, and the Panthers will buy out the final year of that deal.  Jovo was to earn $4 million this season with a $4.125 million dollar cap hit.

His return to the Panthers in 2011 was met with signficant joy, yet unfortunately for the rugged and very determined veteran defenceman, injuries and his grinding style of play finally caught up with him.  Last season Jovo came back from a major hip operation, that not many would have attempted.  He was limited to 37 games after being activated in January and had 5 points and 39 penalty minutes.

Jovo was brought back to help the Panthers younger players such as Erik Gudbranson, and provide leadership both on the ice and in the dressing room.  Jovo did what he could, but his body may no longer be able to keep up, at least at the pace that he was playing at.

Jovanovski achieved a number of accolades throughout his career including, being named to the all rookie team in 1995-1996, an Olympic Gold Medal in 2002, and five NHL All-star appearances.  He was one of the major contributors during the Panthers cinderella playoff run in 1996.

Jovo earned the nickname “Jovo Cop” early in his career when he leveled players like Eric Lindros, among many other prominent players.  Upon his return to the Panthers in 2011, he showed that he still had that edge in him as displayed by this crushing blow to Linus Omark of the Buffalo Sabres: Poor kid.

This was certainly a difficult decision for Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers.  It’s never easy to tell a player with Jovanovski’s determination and heart that his time is up.  Whether Jovo stays with the Panthers in another capacity or moves on remains to be seen.

I would personally like to thank and congratulate Ed Jovanovski for his contributions to the Florida Panthers during his career.  He should always  be remembered for his gritty style of play, his leadership skills both on and off the ice, and his dedication to the sport that he loved to play.

If this is indeed the end of the line, he has nothing to be ashamed of.

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

Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankRekas

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

Following part one of our Panthers All-Time Best series where we analyzed goalies, we move forward and analyze the top three defensemen to wear a Panthers sweater. Again this list will not include players who just spent a season with the team or were rental players for Florida. So all of you hoping to see Dino Ciccarelli or Filip Kuba show up on one of these lists you will be let down. So let’s get started!

1. ROBERT SVEHLA
Far from a household name, Svehla was one of the most reliable players the Panthers ever had on D. Although he was drafted by Calgary in the fourth round (178th overall) of the 1992 draft, Svehla began his career with the Panthers and spent eight of his nine NHL seasons with Florida, before ending his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2002-03. Acquired in a trade that saw picks and prospects swap places between Calgary and Florida, Svehla became the most valuable piece in the trade and went on to have a very productive career in Florida.

Svehla who brought with him a bronze medal from the 1992 Winter Olympics as a young member of team Czechoslovakia never looked back when he made the jump to the North American game in 1994-95. He saw his first full season of play in the Panthers legendary Stanley Cup run in 1995-96. During his rookie season, Svehla set a career high 57 points (8-49-57) in 81 games played and began looking like an absolute steal in the trade. The following year Svehla became an NHL All-Star and hit a career high 13 goals in a season.

Offense was not the only thing Svehla provided. He played with strong two-way instinct and was a career-high plus-23 in the Panthers 1999-00 season. Until Brian Campbell tied Svehla in 2011-12, Svehla held the record for most assists in a season as a Panther with 49, which he set as a rookie. No Panther defenseman has more career goals (61), power play goals (26), points (290) or games played (573) than Svehla and he also ranks third all-time among Panthers players with assists (229). Svehla was also the team’s first iron man.

The Martin, Slovakia native played in four full 82 game seasons with his other seasons being 81, 80 and 79 game seasons. In his final three seasons with Florida, he never missed a game. An unsung hero for the team, Svehla quietly made  a successful career for himself in Florida and was a heart and soul player for the Panthers for almost a decade. His dedication to the team and will to win night in and night out, secures his number one spot for Panthers defensemen.

2. JAY BOUWMEESTER
Love him or hate him, Bouwmeester could have easily been the number one on this list. “J-Bo” is no doubt one of the very best defensemen to play for Florida. Armed with incredible skating ability, size and sound two-way play, Bouwmeester was a can’t miss prospect in the 2002 Entry Draft. Selected by Florida third overall, the Panthers saw Bouwmeester as a player they could build a team around and saw the young blueliner as the guy who could take them to the next level.

Bouwmeester spent six seasons in South Florida and gained a reputation as not only one of the league’s best puck moving defensemen but as an iron man. In those six seasons, Bouwmeester played a full 82 games five times, a record that could prove to be untouchable for years to come. Bouwmeester’s most productive seasons of his career were while he was with Florida. In the 2005-06 season, Bouwmeester hit his career high in points with 46 (5-41-46) and reached a career high in plus-minus the following season, finishing plus-23 on a Panthers squad that finished in 12th place in the East.

Bouwmeester’s final two seasons in Florida were consecutive 15-goal seasons for the Panthers’ top D-man. During the 2008-09 season Bouwmeester tied the most power play goals by a defenseman record set by Gord Murphy in the 1993-94 season with 9 power play goals. The Edmonton, Alberta native’s 15 goals had set a record for most goals by a defenseman in Panthers history. In the 2011-12 season  Jason Garrison broke both the power play and even strength goal records that J-Bo set (both by just one goal in each category). Broken or not, Bouwmeester has set the bar quite high for any defenseman who puts on the Florida uniform.

Bouwmeester’s falling out with Florida over his desire to leave the team and the constant rumors of his departure hanging overhead didn’t sit well with fans and the organization itself obviously. Bouwmeester did and still does possess the full package you look for in a defenseman which made it incredibly difficult to lose such a special player for virtually nothing. Bouwmeester’s departure like that of Roberto Luongo‘s mismanaged trade set the Panthers back creating huge holes in their lineup for years. He wasn’t always the most physical player but his game was much more than just that. He was a cerebral player, who could open a game up with his speed and skill. Bouwmeester gave the Florida organization credibility as he became a two-time All-Star while with the Panthers and was a product of their own system, something Florida had lacked for years. Bouwmeester is currently playing for the St. Louis Blues and recently won a Gold Medal in Sochi as a member of Team Canada. Bouwmeester has also played in 700 consecutive regular season games, a feat unmatched by any athlete in the four major sports today (MLB/NFL/NBA/NHL).

FUN FACT: When the Panthers traded Bouwmeester’s rights to the Calgary Flames due to his expiring contract, the Panthers couldn’t receive much in return, but did receive Jordan Leopold and a third round pick for the 2009 draft. The Panthers used that pick to draft Josh Birkholz, while Leopold later was traded to Pittsburgh for a second round pick in the 2010 draft. Florida used that pick to select Connor Brickley. Leopold and Bouwmeester are now teammates in St. Louis. 

3. ED JOVANOVSKI
The only Florida Panther player ever to be drafted first overall, “Jovo” became an instant fan favorite upon being drafted. He was looked at as the cornerstone of the team’s future immediately. He matched up against some of the league’s top players and shut down the likes of Eric Lindros, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr  as a 19-year old rookie during the Panthers’ “Year of the Rat” Stanley Cup Run. Like Svehla, Jovo was relied upon heavily as a rookie, and while he managed to put up 21 points (10-11-21) he also spent 137 minutes in the penalty box.

“JovoCop” as he was quickly nicknamed patrolled the blueline in the Miami Arena, getting under the skin and laying out anyone who stood in his way. Jovanovski spent four seasons with Florida before being packaged in a blockbuster deal to that sent him to the Vancouver Canucks and brought the “Russian Rocket” Pavel Bure to South Florida.  Jovanovski went on to have the best years of his career in Vancouver and later spent time with the Phoenix Coyotes.

While testing free agency in the summer of 2011, Jovo decided to return to the team that drafted him and scored the first home goal of the season on the power play for the Panthers against their rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now in a very different role than his first stint with Florida, Jovanovski was brought in to mentor young defensemen like Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov as well the others on the way. Jovo was named captain in his second season back and while a serious hip injury looked like it could be the end for the grizzled veteran, Jovanovski powered back into the lineup and continues to mentor the young players on the team.  With over 1,100 games under his belt, Jovo may not find his name leading any team records but is loved by the fan base. Jovo’s return to Florida was a nostalgia trip for many of the original Panthers fans and was the clear-cut choice to lead the young nucleus of talent the Panthers have accumulated, into the next chapter of this franchise’s story.

HONORABLE MENTION: PAUL LAUS
The rules were top three of all-time but how could Laus be left out? A guest on Panther Parkway Radio recently, there was no tougher defenseman in Florida’s history than Laus. A former captain of the Panthers, Laus spent his entire nine season career as a Panther. Despite being drafted in the 2nd round (37th overall) in 1989 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Laus is one of the few Panthers lifers in the history of the team. Claimed by Florida in the Expansion Draft he was brought in to bring sandpaper to the new team’s lineup, and boy did he bring that. His hands were used more for fighting than scoring as Laus amassed a Panthers all-time record 1,702 PIMs. Laus took on all challengers which many times included some of the league’s nastiest enforcers. During the 1996-97 season, Laus picked up a career-high 313 PIMs in 77 games.  Aside from Svehla, Laus has played more games than all Panthers defensemen ranking number two in games played  (530) and is a career plus-31, the highest among Panthers defensemen all-time and second among all Panthers players. Laus left it all on the ice each night and did everything he could to help his team.

Check out this Paul Laus C-C-C-Combo Breaker!

Stay tuned to Panther Parkway as we continue to look at the best All-Time Panthers at each position!

Video: Tomas Kopecky Talks After 5-4 SO Win Over Predators

For the second time in under a month, Panthers’ forward Tomas Kopecky once again found himself in a high pressure shootout with the game on the line. And, for the second time in under a month, Kopecky succeeded – raising his arms in victory as the Panthers earned a much needed two points in the standings with a 5-4 SO victory over the visiting Nashville Predators.

In the video below, Kopecky talks about his recent shootout heroics, as well as the return of team captain Ed Jovanovski.

Enjoy!

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Captain Ed Jovanovski to Return to Panthers Lineup This Saturday

Having not suited up since March 16th of last year due to a nagging hip injury, Florida Panthers Executive Vice President/General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that team captain D Ed Jovanovski has been activated from injured reserve and is expected to make his long awaited season debut on Saturday night when Florida hosts the Nashville Predators.

“We are thrilled to have our captain back in the line-up,” Tallon said in the team’s official press release. “Ed worked extremely hard during his extensive rehabilitation process and should be commended for his diligent efforts both on and off the ice. He is a true professional in every sense, who adds leadership, character and a veteran presence to our locker room.”

An original draft pick of the Panthers in 1994 as well as a key player in their improbable 1996 run to the Stanley Cup Finals, Jovanovski will look to bring inspiration and excitement to not only his teammates, but hopeful Panthers’ fans as well.

“I am very excited to get back on the ice with my teammates on Saturday night,” said Jovanovski. “I cannot thank our doctors and training staff enough for the countless hours they spent helping me rehab from my injury. I look forward to seeing all the Panthers fans at the BB&T Center tomorrow night.”

A 17-year NHL veteran, Jovanovski will certainly bring a wealth of experience to the Panthers’ locker room as well as a centralized voice of leadership that has been missing since his departure.

In the six games played prior to suffering his injury last season, Jovanovski, 36, earned one assist while seeing 15:39 TOI per-game.

Tune in to FOX Sports Florida tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. to catch all the excitement of Jovanovski’s return to the ice.

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Three Ingredients The Florida Panthers Need This Coming Season

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.

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Tomas Kopecky: The Florida Panthers’ Renaissance Man

Photo Credit: Wikimedia CommonsAuthor: Michael Miller

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Author: Michael Miller

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.

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Florida Panthers’ Easter Eggs

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.
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Ed Jovanovski to Have Season Ending Surgery

Ed Jovanovski (Wikipedia)

Ed Jovanovski (Wikipedia)

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!

Follow All Panther Parkway writers on Twitter: Me @JamesonCoop, Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, Josh Luecht @eyesonsunrise, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger, Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530 and David Lasseter @davidlasseter. Visit our Facebook fan page here and give us a like and share anything you wish with us.

Game Day: Florida Panthers vs. Carolina Hurricanes. Have You Thrown Your Senses To The War?

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 7-16-6  (20 PTS.) vs. CAROLINA HURRICANES: 15-11-1 (31 PTS.)

TSN GAMEDAY

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.

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