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Peeke's Points: Mid-Season Report

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 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

I’m sorry…I wanted to submit a blog entry so many times during the first half of this season and never did. I would write one after a thrilling victory only to witness a disappointing defeat and then tear up the blog entry. Or vice versa…write one after a defeat and then we win. I realized that the season so far was really no different than the past seasons and I could have just dusted off one of my entries from the past and submitted it…it’s been the same old story.

Don’t get me wrong…I like this team or maybe I should say for the most part they are likeable. But I try to be realistic at the same time…and that’s tough to do. Because we are in the SAME SPOT AT THE SAME TIME year after year at the 41 game half-way mark.

2010 – 2011   19-20-2  40 points
2009 – 2010   16-18-7  39 points
2008 – 2009   19-16-6  44 points
2007 – 2008   19-19-3  41 points

Get the picture…it’s the same old mediocrity. Granted, you get the feeling there is a “blueprint” in place. For the first time since Rick Dudley and before then, Bobby Clarke, I feel we have the right people designing the “blueprint”. So what, our best years are ahead of us??? Then what will the remainder of this season bring??? My guess is that it will take 94 points to reach the final 8th playoff spot. That means we have to have a record of 27-14 or something like 25-12-4 to get the job done. And that means stringing together a winning streak, which is something this team just can not do (although we have a modest 3 game streak going). Heck, holding onto a lead in a game is a harrowing, if not near impossible experience. Is it possible for this year’s edition to win almost two out of every three games the rest of the way??? With last night’s overtime win against the Devils (and by the way, that Kulikov goal was a thing of beauty), we are on a three-game winning streak and two games into the second half of the season.  

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 3-0. We went on to lose four more and could never recover. The team we need to pass to make the playoffs is Atlanta, so a win Monday night puts us 5 points behind with three games in hand.  

So here’s what’s on tap…(1) January will be the deciding month again, (2) season seat renewals will focus on the ‘blueprint” and the belief that next year is full of promise, (3) the annual excitement of the trade deadline, and (4) battling to make the playoffs which if we don’t will set an embarrassing NHL record.  

Here’s some points I want to make…
  1. Quick…name three forwards on Nashville. Now do the same for Phoenix. Tough isn’t it? Yet why are they well over 50 points?  Nashville consistently proves that you don’t need big name scorers to be a very good team. But you do have to play a consistent style and buy into the team concept. By the way, they recently had a 6 game winning streak, until losing to the Panthers on Thursday.
  2. Winning streaks…the only way that’s going to happen is if we get a few games where our goalies “steal” a victory and that just hasn’t been happening in the first half of the season. That, and a little luck (which we don’t get in big doses) and some decent referees so the NHL isn’t issuing apologies to us on their behalf.
  3. Defense…I did not expect this group to be this good…but they are. Not great but decent. And we have some depth with Ellerby and a kid to look forward to in Gudbranson. I would make that Horton for Wideman trade any day…that worked out fine.
  4. Forwards…see point #1. Weiss finally got going and that’s been a big help. Santorelli has been a pleasant surprise (thankfully, since I was not happy to see us trade for Grabner (10 goals this season) then waive him. Another surprise is Marty Reasoner. I thought we would get more production out of Chris Higgins (signed as free agent) and Steve Bernier (traded for along with Grabner and a first for Ballard), and in that regard it’s a little disappointing so I'm hopeful for a strong second half from those two. Cory Stillman, who has had his share of injuries in his three years here, is still the best passer on this team and made some huge plays that resulted in recent overtime goals against the Capitals and Devils. Do not trade Dadonov. I’ll repeat…DO NOT TRADE DADONOV. Matthias continues to improve.
  5. Goaltending…see point #2. Steal some games. How many times have we seen opposing netminders do it to us? We can only lose 14 games from this point forward…that means some huge efforts CONSISTENTLY from Vokoun and Clemmenson.
So…can we put together 50 points in the remaining 39 games? With our inability to put together a Nashville-like six-game winning streak…it will be tough. My mid-season predictions have the Panthers in the playoffs but with one huge caveat…a victory in regulation against Atlanta Monday night. Here’s my predictions and in ( ) is where I had them at pre-season. This is based on points.
  1. Pittsburgh (4)…just too damn good all the way around.
  2. Washington (1)…something’s a little off…not much…but just enough
  3. Philadelphia (3)…this well-balanced team will compete for the top spot
  4. Montreal (7)…Panthers score more than them…good team D and great goalie
  5. Boston (6)…Seidenberg, not Horton is the ex-Panther that will get them in.
  6. Tampa Bay (9)…Stamkos and St. Louis…they can’t miss
  7. NY Rangers (15)…hate to put them here, but they play good on the road
  8. Florida (8)…imagine a line of Staal, Nash, and Semin…could have happened
  9. Atlanta (11) …good off-season moves by Dudley. 8th if they win Monday night.
  10. Carolina (12)…Skinner’s heroics ease off in second half
  11. Buffalo (5)…unless Ryan Miller gets real hot, they stay well out of it
  12. Toronto (13)…under .500 at home will haunt them
  13. Ottawa (10)…Bryan Murray is still there???
  14. NY Islanders (14)…this is a troubled franchise
  15. New Jersey (2)…I was way off on this one. And a “superstar” ???
I want to get back in the groove and do these more often. So I am hoping for something new to happen…like win six in a row…like stop always looking up in the standings…like JUST WIN !!!

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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