A floridapanthers.com exclusive, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon will be sharing his thoughts with Panthers and hockey fans throughout the year in his blog entitled G.M. Journal.
Happy New Year Panthers fans. As we close the book on 2011 I thought it would be a good time to reflect on an important year of growth and development for our organization, while also looking ahead to an exciting 2012.
Clearly, our team has come a long way over the last 12 months. It starts at the top where our owner Cliff Viner made the commitment to making this team better and building it the right way.
Behind the bench we hired head coach Kevin Dineen who has brought an incredible level of passion, commitment and coaching acumen to our team. Then we went out and acquired a host of new players to boost the skill, speed and character of our roster.
Once training camp began the big question was: how long would it take to develop the chemistry we needed to compete and start winning hockey games. Thanks to our coaching staff, and the commitment of both our new players and returnees, that happened pretty quickly.
Thus far, we’ve gotten solid goaltending from Jose Theodore
, Scott Clemmensen
and even rookie Jacob Markstrom
when he’s been called upon. Meanwhile, our defensemen have made an impact not only in keep in our zone, but also in contributing offensively. Brian Campbell
and Jason Garrison
have been very effective playing the points on our power play, Ed Jovanovski
and Mike Weaver
have been solid on the ice and great leaders off of it, and youngsters like Dmitry Kulikov
, Erik Gudbranson
and Keaton Ellerby
have shown glimpses of the impact they could make in the future.
Up front, there’s no doubt we’ve been carried at times by our first line of Stephen Weiss
, Kris Versteeg
and Tomas Fleischmann
, but we’ve got contributions up and down the lineup from players such as Tomas Kopecky
, Shawn Matthias
Our fans have to be excited that, sitting here on Jan. 1, 2012, the Panthers are sitting in first place in the Southeast Division, but there is still a long way to go. Looking ahead to the next few weeks, I’m hoping some of our injured players heal up and get back in the lineup. Certainly we are missing the contributions of forwards such as Marcel Goc
, Sean Bergenheim
, Jack Skille
and Scottie Upshall
, though we’ve gotten solid contributions from the likes of Tim Kennedy, Bill Thomas
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t comment on the support that we have gotten from our fans all season long. For a franchise that has struggled through a long run of disappointing seasons, the energy and size of the crowds during our games at the BankAtlantic have been nothing short of spectacular. To have three straight home games with 20,000-plus fans over the last week tells me that we have only scratched the surface of South Florida’s passion for hockey, and for our team.
I would only expect our crowds to continue to grow as the season goes on and we continue to jockey for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. I think we’ve proved a lot during the first half of the 2011 season. We’ve show that we have a clear direction and plan for this franchise, and it is starting to pay dividends. We’ve shown that, led by Kevin Dineen, we work hard and play an exciting brand of hockey. We’ve also shown that we can compete with any team in the league on any given night.
It’s going to be exciting 2012 there’s no doubt, and I want to personally thank all of our fans for continuing to support us and make South Florida a great hockey town. Happy New Year.