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Peeke's Points: A Tale Of Two Cities

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Panthers Blogger Cliff Peeke
Cliff Peeke, a Panther season ticket holder since Day One, is back blogging on for a third season, giving the point of view on the Cats from a serious, die-hard fan’s perspective in his own blog titled Peeke's Points (formerly YourBLOG).

A Michigan native who’s played hockey (admittedly average at best) most of his life, Cliff grew up watching Red Wings games at the old Olympia Stadium. His allegiance changed to the Panthers the moment it was announced South Florida would have a team.

Cliff has played in adult leagues at IncredibleIce and his oldest son (age 27) plays there as well. His youngest son (age 11) is a member of the Panthers ’98 Panthers Alliance Tier 1 Pee Wee team..

Peeke's Points Archive

What would be the chances that a team with these characteristics would be in the TOP FIVE of the NHL at this point in the season…

•    The greatest NHL player turned coach departs prior to the season
•    A new coach and new system is brought in
•    The franchise is in major financial turmoil and must be run by the league
•    Constant threats of relocation
•    Experts predict the team to be near the bottom
•    Very little fan interest
•    Attendance for home games average less than 11,000
•    The team’s leading scorer through 70 games has 51 points which ranks him #57 overall in the league and he wasn’t even a member of the team a month ago
•    One of the team’s leading scorers through 49 games suffers a major injury and is out for the rest of the season
•    Goaltender is very good but still ranks below Vokoun in save percentage

This un-remarkable team plays a remarkable “team game” and figured out a way to be #4 in the NHL at this point in the season. Not only satisfied with “making” the playoffs, they are riding a seven game win streak as they push forward to insuring home rink advantage in the first round. They are the Phoenix Coyotes…and I am very impressed by them. With everything against them, they just figured it out. Meanwhile, fans of the Panthers can only wonder why our squad can’t emulate the Coyotes keys to success…consistent hard work and focused team play.

Last night’s sickening shootout loss to the Coyotes continues to baffle fans as to how we “sit” on third period leads. It was very unfortunate that Tomas Vokoun lets in that dump-in from the red line…but it should have never been a one goal game at that point anyway.

This has certainly been a difficult season, and that has made it difficult to contribute blog entries on a consistent basis. After three years of doing this, it becomes difficult to find new words for the same old “sad” song. The one positive I can think of in this season is the ownership change. You can’t help but get behind Stu Seigel and Cliff Viner as you sense their passion and love of the team. We have been asked to be patient as they navigate the team toward success while employing an initial four-step process (trade deadline, free agency, entry draft, training camp). It came as no surprise to me that they recognized the team’s shortcomings in an interesting note to season seat-holders. Actually, I give them credit for going public with it. 

We are told that there is supposed to be a plan in place, and to hold off evaluating until the roster is set for next season. Still, it was difficult to accept Dennis Seidenberg traded to Boston at the deadline. I know he would have been a UFA at the end of the season…but why not sign him to an extension rather than “hope” he may come back. With Boston, he is logging 23+ minutes and is right there with Zdeno Chara’s ice time. My guess is that Boston offers a contract prior to free agency…and he accepts. I liked his defensive play, shot blocking, and offensive contributions.  And he’s a guy that wanted to be here. Ouch.

I liked Jordan Leopold (another impending free-agent) but I can understand that trade. We have to give Keaton Ellerby some playing time to determine if he is worthy of making the club next season. I believe that next season he can not be sent to Rochester unless he clears waivers, so its time for him to step it up. Besides, he was a high first round pick a few years ago and you would think he should be ready to step in.

Now, I am not suggesting anything here, but there are certainly some high caliber players in the 2010 Entry Draft that will impact a team positively. I will always say this…I’d rather us finish last than one spot out of the playoffs so we can obtain a great pick. Imagine the future if we were able to grab a player like Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall (if he’s not #1). Even the #3 pick can be huge with a choice of two defensemen (Cam Fowler or Erik Gudbranson). But I think we need to get an offensive player and a #2 pick will do that. 

At some point in the next few weeks, the Panthers may see a benefit in taking a closer look at their prospects. When that time comes, I would…

•    Give Ellerby and Jason Garrison 20+ minutes a game
•    Call up Evgeny Dadonov and get him some action
•    Call up Mike Duco and Andrew Sweetland and give them some ice time
•    Give Michal Repik some serious ice time
•    Get Scott Clemmenson back in the net and get his confidence up

On a different note…I am so rooting for Detroit to stay in front of Calgary and see the Flames miss the playoffs this year. Jay Bouwmeester couldn’t wait to get out of here and sign with the Flames thinking they would be Cup contenders. The fact that the Flames will take a significant slide south and miss the playoffs WITH J-BO is rather interesting. GO Red Wings !!!!

Two other things…
•    It was great seeing Ville Peltonen carrying the Finnish flag at the Olympic opening
•    Wonder what Mike Keenan thought as he saw Dan Boyle play well for Team Canada.  Keenan threw Boyle out of here in one of the most disastrous trades of this franchise.

I always appreciate feedback and comments, so please write
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