“I think everyone here should be on notice,” said Panthers’ coach Peter DeBoer early Sunday afternoon. “The status quo isn’t good enough… It’s not good enough where we’re sitting and there’s going to be consequences throughout the lineup because of that.”
DeBoer’s pointed comments came a day after the team placed Wade Belak on waivers and two days after making Rostislav Olesz a healthy scratch in Boston.
It’s no secret that something has to be done and soon. The Panthers have the worst record in the NHL and have scored the fewest goals. And DeBoer and GM Jacques Martin said Sunday they will do whatever they need to “get this team to the level we think they should be competing at,” DeBoer said.
“I’m not happy with the performance of our team,” Martin added. “When I look down our roster some people have to give us more. We made one move putting (Wade) Belak on waivers and, I think, at the same time, sending the players a message that maybe we’re too comfortable. For sure, we may try to do something else.”
Obviously, Belak, who was averaging just over four minutes a game, isn’t the reason the Panthers are cellar dwellers 19 games into the season. But something is amiss and changes have to be made.
Martin’s off-season acquisitions of defensemen Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton and Bryan McCabe and forward Cory Stillman have been a bright spot. The defensemen have accounted for seven goals and are a combined plus-3. Stillman, out with symptoms of a concussion, has five goals and is a plus-3. But several players have not performed to expectations.
DeBoer said two weeks ago his team had to play consistently desperate. Instead, they have played desperately inconsistent.
As for the message being sent?
“Loud and clear,” said Brett McLean. “Obviously, to a man, we need to be better.”
McLean said he believes the Panthers have what it takes to be a good team.
“At times we’ve been so good,” he added. “I think the buzz words - and they’re easy to say but harder to do – but consistency and the start of games have really been our issues. It’s frustrating and it just shows the effort level and concentration level you have to have at this level.
“Look at last year and that great finish we had. We need that now.”
David Booth, who leads the team with nine goals, believes the team’s record isn’t a reflection of their work ethic.
“It’s not that we’re not trying,” said David Booth, who leads the team with nine goals. “It’s been a tough start and we have to break that. I know people have said in the past we’ve gotten off to slow starts, but you can’t accept that. You have to change that. Maybe by changing the roster or something like that it will spark something.
“I think it starts with the guys in the room and believing. You have to have in your mind, ‘We can win this game,’ instead of hoping you can win this game, or lets not lose this one. It’s the mindset you bring to every game.”
But DeBoer’s and Martin’s patience appears to be waning. DeBoer reiterated Sunday he arrived in South Florida ready to give all his players a “clean slate.” But the team’s 7-11-1 record, and its maddening inconsistency, are surely wearing thin.
Defensemen Karlis Skrastins, said the Panthers are disappointed, and said the waiving of Belak and the sitting of Olesz is “a message for us to pick it up.”
“It’s not Rusty’s fault or Belak’s fault we’re not winning,” he said. “But we know it could be anyone in their position.”