Images property of Kim Smith (@kimsmithimages)
If there’s anything Florida Panther fans know throughout their history, it’s frustration. I’ve always found myself to be somewhat of an optimistic fan, especially when it comes to this team. Usually it’s easy to be optimistic with the Cats, their roster is solid, even enviable in the eyes of hockey fans. Elite forwards and offensively gifted defensemen all lined up in front of the only active two-time Vezina Trophy winning goaltender, it’s easy to see what people like in the Panthers, and also why this team leaves much to be desired.
From the Beginning
Ever since this season kicked off, we should’ve seen the writing on the wall. The Cats began with two straight games against Tampa, two straight games where we saw completely different efforts out of the same exact team. Obviously, these drastically different efforts bred opposite results, splitting the games. The latter of these games showed hope to fans that this team had what it took to hang with the top dogs in the league, which it absolutely can.
Fast forward to two November games you might remember, against Boston on the road and against Anaheim at home. These games showed the inconsistency of the Panthers can even be so drastic within individual contests. Its insane to think this team fell down by four goals and came back to win each game, twice in one week. If we weren’t such blind, crazy fans, maybe we’d see that this was a huge red flag regarding hopes of this team’s season.
The truth is the Panthers have been the same team all year. From shift-to-shift, game-to-game, and week-by-week, the Panthers don’t show consistent effort, for better or for worse.
Like I said previously, I’m never the first to get down on the Cats. What’s been draining throughout the year has been watching flashes of greatness, followed by slow, uninspired efforts. Most recently, the Panthers lost to the Coyotes at home 5-2. Now this score line doesn’t quite tell the entire story of the game, as the ‘Yotes lead by 1 with 2 minutes remaining before adding a breakaway goal followed by an empty-net tally to pad the lead.
David Dwork noted that Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov was visibly upset following this game, sitting alone silently in his locker. As a fan, this shows me that Barkov truly cares about the success of this team. In hockey, you want a captain to step up and to lead his team in times like these. Whether or not you think Barky is a deserving captain, that’ll show for itself in the remainder of this year. I think fans feel similarly to how Barkov feels in this moment, he knows how talent he and his team are, but he’s left wondering what more they have after taking tough losses.
The practice following featured a seemingly inspired squad, filled with energy and hustle. Jameson Olive tweeted a video from a drill at practice of the entire team playing a game with a single puck. Many others reported the team seemed in good spirits and excited to get to work.
Part of the frustration as a fan is that it takes a “slap in the face” type loss to get the boys going like this. I wish the Cats would just be motivated enough to get going in every game, instead of needing a chewing out or a blowout loss to get some energy.
In the end
The silver lining in all of this is what I mentioned to begin, we know this team can be elite. It’s not a matter of if they’re good, it’s a matter of will they be consistent enough, in their effort, energy, and play, to show the league that the Florida Panthers are truly a playoff caliber team.
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