| Cliff Peeke, a Panther season ticket holder since Day One, is back blogging on FloridaPanthers.com 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 Jr. Panthers ’98 Squirt Travel Team. Peeke's Points Archive
I have finally recovered from last season’s near miss of making the playoffs. It was a difficult ride from the trade deadline on to the moment we were eliminated. I really believed that we would be playing beyond the regular season, and with that not happening, I shut down on hockey…just couldn’t watch much of the playoffs and was left wondering what positive steps the franchise would make in the off-season. Until recently, it’s been a bit baffling.
But first, I’ve got to share some frustrations. Look back at my blog before the trade deadline. I said at that time we had to trade Jay Bouwmeester and get some good value in return. I wish I knew the deals that were sitting on ex-GM Jacques Martin’s desk at that time. We all know Martin saw himself in a no-win situation, but I’d have made the move. Looking back, it would have certainly been the right move. As it was, Bouwmeester’s efforts after the deadline were not close to what we had seen prior to it. As if he was saying, “See…I wanted out…you should have let me go”. Which brings to mind Bouwmeester’s pre-draft interview…how can scouts not determine if this kid would be troubled living in Florida and would want out. We could have had Rick Nash instead.
Still, we need to create a winning atmosphere, and that has been lacking for way too long. Except Dudley, our GM choices have been suspect and here we are…without one now. Of course, to get to that point, Montreal probably did us a favor in hiring Martin away. I was so-so with regards to Martin’s moves until he failed to move Bouwmeester and not bring some scoring in at the deadline. It was only a matter of time. So he’s gone.
Sexton grabs the reigns, and pulls off a nice entry draft coup grabbing Dmitry Kulikov
, Drew Shore
, and Josh Birkholz
. He gets some return from dealing Bouwmeester for the “rights” to sign Jordan Leopold….and pulls off a signing, albeit a one year deal. We’ll take it. The free agency period had some “baffling” occurrences. The lows…I thought it was strange trading for Steve Eminger at the deadline and then we appear to have no desire to sign him afterwards…was he asking too much? Ville Peltonen is just a great guy who played a significant role on this team. He wanted to stay…so was it his age? Prone to injuries…what? Nick Boynton’s locker room antics probably cost him (although you hate to see a return from the Jokinen trade leave so soon). Sad to see Richard Zednik gone, but at least he won’t be on the competition, as he’s in Russia with Ville. But here’s where it got crazy…my favorite defenseman, Karlis Skrastins is not offered a deal both sides can live with. He plays with a fearless grit that is hard to replace…this non-signing upset me the most. Just under that one, was the inability to come to terms with Craig Anderson. For two seasons, he was instrumental in keeping the team in the playoff chase. It really is hard for fans to understand how some players are not re-signed, and most of us would really like to know why. I’m sure we’ll never know…so we have to hope that our GM (or acting GM/Asst GM) can balance out the exports we let leave and bring in some imports that will make us believe that he’s doing a good job.
Up until last week, I wasn’t sure. Certainly, I was glad that David Booth and Radek Dvorak were signed…and our core offense remained intact as a result. We added Steven Reinprecht and Jeff Taffe (who may turn out to be a big surprise) to the mix. But defense remained a problem (especially with Skrastins gone). Scott Clemmensen
for Anderson??? Maybe even up. But Leopold and Ville Koistinen for Bouwmeester, Skrastins, Boynton, and Eminger…OUCH. So Monday’s news that we signed Dennis Seidenberg, to me, was huge. All of a sudden, our defense strengthened and as I play with the depth charts, we really look to be ok. I’ve seen him play against us and was impressed. His game seems to be on the upswing and we may have gotten lucky. If we like what we see after a couple months (and he likes it here hopefully) then lets turn this into an extension beyond a year.
Here are my ten early keys to success (mid-September report)…
1. Bryan Allen is healthy enough to play at pre-injury levels…and stay healthy
2. Once again…get off to a darn good start. Just do it this year!!!
3. Nathan Horton stays on the wing and racks up some serious points
4. Rostislav Olesz finally proves he’s worth the contract he received a year ago
5. Taffe surprises and proves his AHL success continues into the NHL
6. Cory Stillman’s great vision of the ice does not get clouded by another concussion
7. Tomas Vokoun and Clemmensen prove to be the best 1-2 punch in the league…why not?
8. Koistinen, Leopold, and Seidenberg quickly make us forget about Bo and Karlis
9. We really need to avoid injuries
10. Ownership and team sale issues need to stay out of the limelight
I’m glad we are through with the Keenan/Martin era. Our coaching is fine, and we return our core forwards. It appears as though Sexton will get an opportunity to prove he’s the man for the GM job…he’s done well to this point. We’ve drafted well the last three years and some youngsters are pushing for some jobs. More than anything, and once again, we need to get off to a fast start. Build early excitement and momentum and the arena will fill up with success-starved hockey fans. There’s enough fans down here…we just need to know that our investment will provide a great return…it’s been too long. It’s been a whacky ride since the end of the season…anger…baffled…excited. I can’t wait for the puck to drop…even though its half-way around the world. Go Panthers !!!!
As always, I enjoy hearing comments…my email is firstname.lastname@example.org