| 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 Panthers ’98 Panthers Alliance Tier 1 Pee Wee team. Peeke's Points Archive
The Panthers are half-way to what…another season of mediocrity? At the season’s mid-point (41 games) we have amassed a whopping 16 victories…a .390 win percentage. We stumble to this half-way mark losing three in a row. I love the Panthers…I’m a die-hard fan, but I also try to be realistic when I collect my thoughts to write this blog.
So…here’s how I feel half-way through this season…ANGRY. Yet another season of the same feeling the same time of year. My second son plays on the ’98 Panthers Alliance Tier 1 Pee Wee team. A bunch of us dads were talking recently how our boys have NEVER seen an NHL playoff game. Isn’t that sick…these boys are in Middle School and unless they have miraculous memories watching a game in diapers, they have YET TO SEE A PLAYOFF GAME. I know that the league is more balanced than ever before and we still find ourselves in the playoff hunt but why can’t we be this year’s Colorado (52 pts) or Phoenix (54 pts). Take a look at Phoenix…a team that has everything going against them. Check it out…ownership and bankruptcy issues, team sale and Gretzky leaving, abysmal attendance and re-location possibilities. It’s a team many picked to be at the bottom of the league. Their leader in points is Shane Doan, who has only 26 points and puts him 91st in the league. Their leading goal scorer is Scottie Upshall
with 14 goals. Yet here they sit #5 overall in the NHL. Here’s a team that refuses to let EXCUSES get in the way, and instead just goes out there and figures out a way to be successful…now that’s a great story. Why can’t we be like that???
How ironic that Montreal comes to town Thursday night after an extended road trip and ends 2009 with beating our Panthers. Montreal nudged us out of the playoffs last season via a tie-breaker, and then the Jacques Martin led Canadiens embarrass us in game #41. A must-win game and we find ways to lose it. I am ANGRY !!!
In my pre-season blog (09/30), I offered up my Eastern Conference predictions. I was close on a few and way off on others. Without concern towards divisional seedings, the list below is what I predicted and in parenthesis is where the teams currently reside.
1. Washington Capitals
(2) This highly entertaining team will battle the Devils and Penguins for the #1 spot. I still predict they will end up as best in the conference at the end.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
(3) Tremendous high end talent will keep them at or near the top. Prediction…#3
3. Philadelphia Flyers
(9) I was a little off on this one, but they are on the move having won four straight before their loss on New Year's Day in the Winter Classic, and will make the playoffs. Prediction…#6
4. New Jersey Devils
(1) This is one franchise I am jealous of…a true model of consistency. Prediction….#2
5. Boston Bruins
(5) Right on the mark with this one. Tim Thomas is playing great and they roll out three good lines. Prediction…#5
6. Carolina Hurricanes
(15) Way off on this one. There is no way they can overcome their poor start. They will get the top pick in the entry draft and if you’re not making the playoffs, that’s a good thing. Prediction…#15
7. Florida Panthers
(13) Can they grab 54 out of a possible 82 second half points??? Doubtful. But I’m sure we’ll witness a strong surge only to be disappointed again. I hope I’m wrong, but the realistic side of me says we come close…once again. If we played Coyote-like in the first half I would be more optimistic. Prediction…#9
8. Buffalo Sabres
(4) I thought they would make the playoffs if Ryan Miller had a good year. He is…and they will be in. Prediction…#4
9. NY Rangers
(8) They will compete for the 8th spot but fall short. Prediction…#10
10. Montreal Canadiens
(7) The thought of seeing Jacques Martin behind the bench for a playoff game is upsetting…but it will happen. Prediction…#8
11. Atlanta Thrashers
(10) After a decent start, they are sliding a bit. Does Kovalchuk get traded before deadline??? Prediction…#11
12. Toronto Maple Leafs
(14) They will be in the mix of eight teams vying for the final playoff spot. Prediction…#14
13. Ottawa Senators
(6) An Eastern Conference first-half surprise. They will maintain the momentum and find themselves in. Prediction…#7
14. Tampa Bay Lightning
(11) Another team that has a shot, will compete, but end up on the outside. Prediction…#12
15. NY Islanders
(12) It’s possible…but not this year. They’ll be close like many others, but will need to look forward to next year. This is a team on the rise. Prediction…#13
Parity is the reason more teams will compete for the last couple playoff spots. That’s OK with me…I’m a big fan of the salary cap. The Panthers have a shot for sure. Hopefully, they approach the new year with a determined focus and reel off a major winning streak. By the end of January, we’ll know the fate of this team. It starts with the Penguin game Sunday…a game that looms quite large. They all do now…as we find ourselves in that familiar spot…LOOKING UP.
Happy New Year panther fans. I always enjoy your comments, so continue to write me at email@example.com