|Panthers Blogger Cliff Peeke |
Cliff Peeke, a Panther season ticket holder since Day One, is back blogging on FloridaPanthers.com for a fourth 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.
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 28) plays there as well. His youngest son (age 12) is a member of the Panthers ’98 Panthers Alliance Tier 1 Pee Wee team.Peeke's Points Archive
But it has to continue. Monday night’s game against Atlanta is huge. It reminds me of last year when we had a few things going good and hosted Anaheim on 2/1/2010. I commented that this would be a pivotal game and we lost 0-3. We went on to lose four more and could never recover. The team we need no pass to make the playoffs is Atlanta, so a win Monday night puts us 5 points behind with three games in hand.
I wrote the paragraph above in my previous blog. I saw that Jan. 17 contest as a pivotal game. It appeared as though we had it too – two minutes remaining and a 2-0 lead only to experience a gut-wrenching collapse and a shootout loss. That game was followed by a 2-3 OT loss, a 1-2 SO loss, a 2-5 loss, a 4-3 win, and a 1-2 loss. Including that Atlanta game, we collected only five of a possible 12 points. Very disturbing and eerily similar to last year. Expect us to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline. If that’s the reality, then so be it. Let’s strengthen our future and make no mistakes like we did when we held on to Jay Bouwmeester.
So, I’m watching the skills competitions Saturday night and can’t help but feel somewhat embarrassed by the lack of Panthers representation. Years and years of poor team management left us with not even one Panther among the 42 All-Stars. Granted, Evgeny Dadonov was invited as a rookie. But then so was Michael Grabner. This was just another reminder of what could have been as Eric Staal (we took Nathan Horton) and Rick Nash (we took Bouwmeester) were on the ice. And there are other All-Stars we could have had on our team if we hadn’t made other non-productive selections…players like Mike Green and Kris Letang.
Just when I think I’ve “turned the page” and succeeded in forgetting about this team’s past sins, I get that jolt of a reminder with the absence of Panthers at the All-Star event. Don’t get me wrong, I am buying in to the “blueprint” plan and I am 100-percent behind Dale Tallon as the man that will help resurrect this mediocre team. I’m sure there is a long range plan, and as such I should not worry that other first round picks taken after we selected Erik Gudbranson
are already producing (Jeff Skinner and Cam Fowler). But rest assured I will be following very closely the development of all five of our picks that we had in the top 36…Gudbranson (No. 3), Nick Bjugstad
(No. 19), Quinton Howden
(No. 25), John McFarland
(No. 33) and Alex Petrovic
(No. 36). Their development success will define how well our blueprint is performing.
It’s crazy to think that I’m already digging deep into Central Scouting’s lists of prospects for the 2011 Amateur Draft, but I am. I start thinking…okay, if we don’t make the playoffs it really does not matter if we are picking at No. 30 or No. 16. I look to see what type of player and what kind of Junior career he’s having and what kind of spot he can be selected. I am seriously hoping that this is the last year I am doing this as early as January.
Much like how this team has very little room for error on the ice and must play hard every shift, there is no doubt that management has very little room for error as well. If we are to take the “blueprint” plan seriously, and I am, then us fans need to see some real positive returns on deals that are made down the road. Again, I know we want to build a Stanley Cup winner…not just a team that makes the playoffs. I know this does not happen overnight, and I know there really is a vision that we will accomplish it. I’m okay with that. That is why I am going to be closely watching the development of our 2010 draft picks, dissect the moves we make at the trade deadline, and be extremely interested in the additions we make in free agency as we should have a significant amount of money “freed up” to add players that will bring CHARACTER, SKILL, SIZE, SPEED, and more CHARACTER.
The next six months will be interesting.
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