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Peeke's Points: Off-Season, Part Three

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

06.22.08 ::::  Off-Season, Part Three

24 hours…a lot happened.  Fans close to the scene certainly expected something would develop regarding Olie Jokinen.  If anything, there was enough prep from the press that left us with only two questions…where and who (in return).  That drama, and the possibility of us moving up into the first round, was enough to keep me in front of the TV with laptop on NHL sites as the draft began.  Didn’t take long to be rewarded with the announcement…that indeed Jokinen was traded…destination Phoenix…for Ballard, Boynton, and a pick.  I, like many of us, was very surprised that Phoenix was our trade partner.  I had to wait some anxious moments as I almost expected Phoenix to turn this into a three way trade, moving Jokinen to Calgary reuniting him with Keenan…and that would have made this fan very angry.  After the Gretsky interview, I realized that Jokinen was their prize and there would be no further movement. 

It was at that point that I tried to let the trade sink in.  Initial knee-jerk reaction was that we did not get enough in return.  And, because of a lack of familiarity with Ballard and Boynton, I spent the next couple hours researching those two.  I refrained from writing this article last night and wanted to wait until I had some time to let this all digest, read some comments, and enjoy how each team put a “spin” on this trade.  As I’ve heard a few say, I think this trade may very well work out for both teams…and I’m starting to think we may have a slight edge.

But first, I really want Olie to know that he was so well liked by so many fans down here.  It really will not seem right with him in a different jersey.  He is a class guy, who was well-liked in the community, and showed interest in his legions of young fans.  He liked it here and wanted to be a Panther.  My son has a Finland jersey signed by Ollie.  He wore it to every Panther game last season and would purposely show it off to Olie during the pre-game skate.  Olie always made sure the young fans, and often my son, were rewarded with pucks during the pre-game.  Olie, I’m sure, was a hero to not only my son…but to many of the youth hockey fans in South Florida.  That’s why it’s hard to comprehend trades of this magnitude.

Heck, I was on record before the trade deadline as saying that trading Ollie would jeopardize my season ticket status.  At that time, I felt that in order to make the playoffs we needed him to stay put.  Two disappointing losses, one to Tampa on the road, followed by Atlanta at home, sealed the Panthers fate…and I also felt that perhaps those two losses sealed Olie’s fate as well.  We now have a new GM/Coach combination, and they have every right to make the best deals to help the team…and we did need help on defense.  And so…we lose Olie.  From this fan and my family…we wish you the best of success and good health.

So then I turned my attention to Ballard and Boynton.  By now, you all have seen the stats, contract specifics, and other interesting information on them.  So have I.  But what I’ve learned is these two are “character” guys who give it all every shift.  Leaders in the locker room and on the ice.  Both are capable, and tough.  There are fans in Phoenix that are not happy to see them dealt.  Both will look very good in a Panther uniform patrolling the blue line.  Our defense just got real strong.  Pair them with Bouwmeester and Allen, and/or combine with these players under contract…Skastrins, VanRyn, Murphy, and Welch.  Wow !!!!  Although I’d still like to see Johannson in a Panther jersey.

Next, my son and I looked up each NHL team’s free agent lists.  There are some very intriguing forward (and center) possibilities out there that can be had on July 1st.  So…to me, this trade can not be fully evaluated until after the free agent signing period.

Through all this, I followed the remaining draft rounds today.  Today was a success.  We may have gotten the best goalie in the draft in Markstrum.  He was projected higher than #31, where we got him.  Same thing with Robak…we got him at #46, and some projected him as high as 27 (first round material).  And again, same thing with Comrie, who we drafted at #80, but was also projected to go much higher.  How about Jenks…he was projected around #26, and we grabbed him at the #100 spot.  Not bad…and a little lucky.

So now we turn our attention to the Bouwmeester signing (get this done now please), and the first day of free agent signings.  It’s an interesting off-season so far.  Can’t wait to see how things shape up in the next sixty days.  Still, it’s an odd feeling knowing that Olie will not be a part of the upcoming season.  It’s tough being a fan…or am I just too deep into all this.

Talk to you soon.
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