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Peeke's Points: Don't Stop At Four

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Cliff Peeke, a Panther season ticket holder since DAY ONE, is back blogging on for a fifth 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 most his life (admittedly average at best), Cliff grew up watching the 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 owns InXpress USA – South Florida (DHL international shipping and Freight).  He has a wife and two sons (Trevor, 29, and Andrew, 13).  Andrew has played on Tier 1 Jr. Panther teams since first eligible, and will be playing defence for the Bantam Minor, Tier 1, AAA, Florida Allliance in the ’11-’12 season..

Peeke's Points Archive
Please note that the views expressed in this blog are views expressed by the blogger only and are not necessarily the views expressed by the Florida Panthers Hockey Club.

The Panthers four-game homestand ended last night with a shootout victory (What? Really?) over the pesky Buffalo Sabres and we end up going 4-0, collecting 8 points. My whole outlook on everything is great today. I’ll even tackle the “to-do list” and not complain. Maybe it’s weird, but the Panthers play of late has put me in an awesome mood. This is certainly no time to put our guard down, but I’m feeling much better about our chances of not only making the playoffs but for grabbing the #3 seed…maybe the #2 seed.

Before the game last night I was concerned the Panthers would be feeling a little over-confident after the shellacking of the Bruins Thursday. I figured they would come out flat and they sure did. As a fan, you ask yourself “how that is possible?”. They are professionals. They are coached to be cautious of this and yet it happens. I thought it was a well-below-average performance and was excruciating to watch at times. Yet somehow we found a way to win and I’ll take it. Any time! Think of how many times we’ve peppered the opposition goalie, outplaying our opponent, and skate off with nothing to show for it. So I’ll take ugly wins any day. 

Ok…we’ve got 11 games remaining. We win 6 of them and we surpass the Pete DeBoer led team of 2008-’09. I still think we need to focus on a 7-4 record and end up with 97 points.

I’m smelling the playoffs and starting to think of different opponent scenarios. I had a talk with a few people about this and many seem to think the Devils would not be a preferential draw. I think otherwise. The Devils 41 victories include 11 shootout wins with their remarkable 11-3 record. With no shootouts in the playoffs, and regulation victories becoming the barometer, I think this would be a desired matchup for us. You know, I can’t even remember even thinking about playoff matchups in mid-March. This Panther team, this year, created a buzz early and is carrying it through the whole season.

My pre-season prediction had the Panthers with the 6th most points in the East. We are presently 7th but only two points from 4th. I placed them at that spot but qualified that by saying that it would happen only if their goaltending held up. Is Jose Theodore playing lights-out or what? Several times in the third period last night he made the kind of saves that playoff-bound goalies only make. He truly was the star of that game and really the star of the week for us. I have not once heard that we would have been better off with Tomas Vokoun in the net this year. 

That example makes me always happy to see ex-Panthers that wanted to leave and are in a less-desirable place. Sure, Washington may yet amass a streak, but for now isn’t it a pleasure to know that Vokoun bolting for what ended up being less dollars so he could play on a #1 team, is looking up in the standings at his old team.

So, yesterday, my son is looking at past drafts and points out the 2003 one. He just turned 14, yet asks a reasonable question…how can Scouts and GM’s get paid the money they do when they make such big mistakes. So we looked it over carefully, and I must admit this was truly one of the drafts the Panthers probably wish they had back. Check this out…

We owned the #1 pick but traded down to #3 and selected Nathan Horton. We could have had Eric Staal or Marc-Andre Fleury (though with Roberto Luongo on board we were not interested in him). But instead of taking Horton, look at the players we could have had that were selected all the way down to the #24 slot…Thomas Vanek, Ryan Suter, Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter, Brent Seabrook, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kessler and Mike Richards. Don’t you think a number of them would have been a better selection…in hindsight?

But here’s where it gets worse…we select Anthony Stewart with the #25 pick, and we could have had Corey Perry (#28) or Loui Eriksson (#36). After that, we pick Kamil Kreps at #38. Look who was chosen after that…Patrice Bergeron, Matt Carle, Shea Weber (NO WAY!). To further add to the decision-making, we select Stefan Meyer at #55 and pass on David Backes at #62.

Granted some of that can be due to rushing young players into the league and not giving them a chance to properly develop but the reason I bring up these memories of drafts-gone-bad are to make me realize the importance of having a team led by Dale Tallon and Mike Santos. It is an incredible peace of mind knowing that most all decisions made by them have a better than average chance of working out. We have seen positive moves and great draft picks since this new regime, and yes, I have even forgotten about Michael Grabner (who has come back down to earth).

To me, the most important position in hockey is the General Manager /Assistant General Manager, and it’s great knowing we may have the best in the league. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Panthers exceeded Chicago’s point total this season? We are only a few points away.

Go Panthers! We don’t care how ugly of a win. Just keep winning and see about going 7-4 for the remaining eleven games.

I enjoy reading the comments (some from around the world) after one of these…so please share your thoughts…my email is
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