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Peeke's Points: Off-Season, Part Four

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Panthers Blogger Cliff Peeke
Cliff Peeke, a Panther season ticket holder since Day One, will blog at throughout the 2007-08 season from a serious, die-hard fan’s perspective.

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 25) plays there as well. His youngest son (age 9) is a member of the Jr. Panthers ’98 Squirt Travel Team.

Peeke's Points Archive

07.02.08 :::: Off-Season, Part Four

At the top of our list… that’s where Andrew and I had Cory Stillman as we searched each team’s list of free agents immediately following the Entry Draft (and the Jokinen trade). In our mock GM moment, we targeted three players, and Cory was one of them.

So, as you can imagine, we are thrilled that GM Martin not only entered the free agent fray, but came away a winner…getting a “winner” in the likes of Stillman. Playing the “Dive Team” as often as we have, I always felt that Stillman stood out while he was on the ice. He was one of those players that I would comment on that I wish he were in a Panther uniform. Now he is. 

There were (and still are) some flashy free agent names out there, but the risk always seems to be higher with them. The average fan may want a recognizable name, a top twenty scorer, a crowd draw…but at what price, what risk, what contract length, and finally…what character. Hard core fans, on the other hand, see the huge upside to a player like Stillman. Those of us that have seen him play against us know what he brings to the ice…tenacity, talent, and creativity. Add a huge dose of “character’ and championship experience, and by my thinking, we’ve got our guy.

I really like how this team is coming together. My recent blog favored the acquisition of Ballard and Boynton, and our defense has never looked this solid going into a season. Vokoun and Anderson are a top tier one-two punch in the net. Until yesterday, I thought we may need some help up front…and that’s been addressed.  I’m very happy with the Olecz deal, and if he stays healthy that’s an easy twenty plus goals. The upcoming season has got to be where Nathan Horton makes us forget we could have had Eric Staal (2003 entry draft). And, I’m definitely looking forward to watching one or two prospects make the team and contribute (Frolik, Matthias, Repik).

Strong goaltending, strong defense, that’s what will put us (or any team) into the playoffs. And we just got a lot stronger up front with Stillman. I really like these moves.  Next up…Bouwmeester. We’re waiting.

One last thing…is there any one else out there scratching their heads trying to figure out what Tampa Bay is doing? They’re making headlines for sure…but some questionable signings for large sums of money all going to offense…a team that really needed to focus on their blue line. I’d much rather have our roster.

I can’t wait to see how the free agent frenzy plays out over the next month. Never really an off-season in hockey.

Talk to you soon.
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