Panther Parkway Mailbag: Florida Panther Fans Ask. I Answer!

It’s been 8 days since the last published article on our site, and you (all 3 of you) may have been wondering where we’ve been. To be “frank”, we’ve been right here. Watching what was supposed to be a promising season for the Florida Panthers develop into the dumpster fire that it has become. Yes a bit harsh, but there’s a reason for it. As much as we’d like to be positive, it’s difficult when there’s so much that’s gone wrong, and rather than continue to drive that nail in the coffin constantly, it’s sometimes better to take a step back and see how things go.

We did. We didn’t like what we saw.

As owner and operator of this site, I have always promised to be truthful, objective, yet respectful. Some of it you may not want to hear, but we here at Panther Parkway will never compromise our beliefs and our value proposition.

Here are the questions that you, our loyal and faithful readers have asked:

First up is long time reader, and friend David Bierman @1Panthers:
What would you do to change the culture of the panthers? I heard the players were partying at the Miami Open Friday night. I have no problem with that except they didn’t show up for the game Saturday.

Outstanding question David. This exact issue has gone on for many seasons. It was first brought to light under the guidance of former coach Mike Keenan back in 2002 I believe. He questioned the mental capacity of the team to avoid the distractions of South Florida, and to be able to play playoff style hockey during the season, when the games were crucial, and points were needed. Not much has changed since then and that was approximately 17 seasons ago. I have no problem with players going out and having a good time, and some fun on their off days. When anyone mentions happy hour, I’m first in line myself. But! I/they must come to work the next day ready to do the job. No exceptions. A night out on South Beach (if true) with a heavy schedule coming up may not have been the best idea for a Friday night. Especially for a team that was still thinking, blindly that they were in a playoff hunt. The leadership with any organization starts at the top, and filters down. The expectation this season was to be a playoff team. Not good enough. We must be a Stanley Cup contender. The team has missed the playoffs in 20 of 25 seasons, and with the exception of the ’96 run, has not been past the first round when they did make it. Awful. The men in the dressing room need to be mature, focused, and determined to win the cup. They need to sacrifice their boyish behavior at times, and save it for the off season. There has to be more veteran leadership in the room to guide both the young players and the core. The only Cup winner on this years roster is Troy Brouwer. You need more than one, and the Panthers need to go out and get another one, or three like players who have won before. Missing the playoffs is no longer acceptable. The only way that the country club atmosphere goes away is to have that attitude across all players, coaches and management. And actually mean it, and show it.

Next up is Jack Greenman @jackgreenman, another long time reader. Jack asked: Who do you think on the current roster has played his last game as a Panther?

The first obvious answer is James Reimer. He hasn’t been what the Panthers organization at the time he was signed, thought he would be. His inconsistency has been his detriment. He likely is traded, and the Panthers may need to eat some of his salary, or at least pay the bonus he gets July 1, or is bought out.

Others in this writers opinion are Mark Pysyk, Jamie McGinn , Colton Sceviour, and possibly Riley Sheahan. Purely speculative on my part, but these players can all be replaced for younger, better, less expensive players. I left Troy Brouwer off this list because I do believe the Panthers value him, and his role on the 4th line is perfectly suited for him. As well as his playoff experience. I’m aware that the Panthers have indicated that Sheanhan could be resigned, but I am not sure why.

Our next question is from Malgin and Tonic @VKS82:
Can the current coaching staff lead us from mediocre to making the playoffs consistently? With how the team finished last season, everyone expected even better things for this season. Yet, another slow start derailed the playoff hopes that may have been taken for granted. You can blame the injury to Luongo in game one if you want. Yet there were other parts of the team that needed fixing and were not addressed via new personnel, or by the coaching staff. Offensively this is the most talented roster the Panthers have ever assembled. Team defence, goaltending, mental toughness, and the inability to make the changes have led them to where they are today. After that long answer, the short answer is no.

Next up is Jeff Garlitz @ fakejedega: What does the future hold for James Reimer and Luongo as Panthers? What about the free agents on this team when the season ends? I don’t see Reimer as being part of the future. As I mentioned in an earlier question he’s likely either traded or bought out. As for Luongo, this is a tough one on both sides. As a player who is very well respected and means a great deal to this team and community, he needs to decide himself if he can perform at an optimal level next season playing 20- 25 games. No more, and potentially less. I for one am not ready yet to hand the keys to my Maserati to Monty. So that means signing one of Robin Lehner, Semyon Varlomov, Petr Mrazek, Antti Niemi, or Cam Talbot. If the Panthers feel that Monty is the goalie of the future, I am not in favor of signing Bobrovsky who will be 31 next season to a 7 or 8 year contract.

Our next question is from Dylan Goldman @DJgoldman35 who asked me: Frank, in all honesty, do you ever see the #FlaPanthers becoming a championship-level organization? Well Dylan, ownership, management which includes Dale Tallon of course, as well as the current coaching staff surely have said that they want to bring a championship here to South Florida. The problem isn’t spending. Ownership has spent money on players. Just not always the right players, and not always in the right way. The Matheson contract for example was too early for that length. Reimer’s deal was also too long, and about a million per year too much. They also haven’t spent money on coaching, staying far away from anyone who wants more than a couple million dollars. This off season is the biggest one in the history of the team. They must get it right. Although I feel that we’ve said this before.

Our own Alex Lopez @CF3234 asked: Do you think the organization needs to be more vocal about what happened to Barkov last night? Absolutely! That was a tackle. Forgetting the fact that Chara is 25 inches taller than everyone else, the fact of the matter is there’s no place in the sport for that play. Unfortunately no one from Sportsnet, or TSN said anything about it, and everyone else outside of South Florida thinks it’s a hockey play. Put the shoe on the other foot and see the reaction. If the NHL doesn’t give him a suspension, then I think that one of the Panthers, maybe Brouwer, since he’s our most veteran leader, can lick him next Saturday. That’s a joke. In all seriousness, something has to happen with this. But I don’t expect anything will come of it.

This question comes from someone who has been with us since our Rat Trick days, Harry Lampley @hlamp: Since McCann’s trade to the Pens he has been a goal scoring machine. What is different about his situation with the Pens from playing with Cats in terms of system and line mates? It’s amazing sometimes what a change of scenery can do for a player, and being in a system where you’re put into a position to succeed. Same thing has been happening to Gudbranson by the way. But I digress. McCann was mishandled at times, but also wasn’t playing with players that made him better, and in a system that demanded, yes demanded excellence. Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Hornqvist, and even young Jake Guentzel are all very good players who all want to win, and are hungry. That mindset is spread throughout the team. Coupled with the mindset of the organization, you see what’s happening. McCann was mostly on the third and 4th lines, with spot duty on the second line. Maybe the system that the Panthers had didn’t suit him and allow him to excel. Just imagine if that trade never happened and Gudbranson was still here.

Next up is Bill who is known as @fluffyman. He asked: What is the likelihood of across the board coaching changes?

First off, as a working professional, I don’t like to see anyone get fired. But I think that everyone on the coaching staff will be evaluated at the end of the season. While there has been some good things like the power play, there have been some bad things. Defence. Giving up way too many short handed goals (14?). 5 on 5 play. Goaltending. System. I think that if the Panthers organEYEzation is honest with themselves and they want to take the next step, and also give themselves a better opportunity to attract free agents, then changes are due. I have not met, or should I say been up close with anyone other than Bob. I like Bob as a person. I think he’s got a very good side to him. I don’t think that his lieutenant Jack Capuano has done him any favors. Now, Jack’s contract is up after this season. Bob has two more years. I’m not sure about Paul MacFarland. But if you’re looking to to make a splash and let he hockey world know you’re serious, you go after Q. And you go hard, and give him the money. After that, let Q decide who his assistants are. Could Bob be an associate coach? Maybe. But that would be Q’s decision. Someone will sign Joel, and whichever organization that is, they will be better off for it. If that’s not the Panthers, then it’s going to be a long haul for improvement. Now, what is the likelihood of any change taking place? Your guess is as good as mine, but I will say again, if the Panthers are serious about winning a Stanley Cup, the answer to your question is very simple. And the announcement can be made on April 8th, because that would put everyone on notice that change isn’t coming. It’s here.

I always give time to my good friend and long time reader Ralph Lucarella known as @NCPanthers1: He asks: Would you agree that the Panthers Organization still hasn’t recovered from the departure of Dave Bolland? The only reason Ralph that they haven’t recovered is that you continue to remind them on a nightly basis! And I mean that in the most genuine way.

Our final question comes from Jack Hughes known as @ChrisAGrega:
Will we ever get back to the team that set a franchise record in points and won a division title ? Ever? That depends on a number of factors. Who is the coach. What makes up the core of the roster. Who are the goaltenders. What does the defence look like, and can they for once in their lives figure out their assignments. The off season as has been said is vital to what happens next. There can be no mistakes, and the Panthers must evaluate this as a business and put personal feelings aside. If they ask themselves what do we need to do to win the Stanley Cup next year, then and only then will the right decisions be made across the board. I’m not saying that all the necessary changes will guarantee them a cup, but you need to act and believe that they will. Otherwise, they will remain a pretender instead of a contender.

I’d like to thank everyone who submitted their questions. If I missed yours, it could be included at a later date, or part of another article.

As the season winds down, with 7 games remaining, please hang in there with us. We will be making some changes for next season because we believe that we need to be at our collective best for you, our readers and loyal followers.

Thanks for reading. Please share with your friends.

Please follow me on Twitter @FrankRekas