| Cliff Peeke, a Panther season ticket holder since DAY ONE, is back blogging on FloridaPanthers.com 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.
There has not been this level of excitement for an upcoming Panthers season in some time. Expectations are high and they need to be…it’s been way too long for this fan base to be without the playoffs. Local Bantam year hockey players have no idea what playoff hockey is all about, and that is very sad.
Things are aligning perfectly for the Panthers to be “relevant” in the South Florida market. The Dolphins appear headed towards selecting Andrew Luck next year, the Heat may not have a season. Meanwhile, the Panthers made headlines with a major roster transformation, adding players that are talented and displaying a strong interest to play here. A few solid drafts have stockpiled what many say is the NHL’s strongest pool of prospects. It is clear now as to what the “blueprint” is; clear the deck, bring in quality players whose contracts expire as the prospects are at an age to integrate, and always maintain depth.
In previous years, there was this “cautiously optimistic” attitude before the season started. For years, I would write that we had a chance as long as we did not dig a hole for ourselves early on. We kept digging that hole and were constantly looking up in the standings, making a valiant run near the end. Except last year. Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon had seen enough and promptly made changes at the trade deadline. It was brutal for me during the last couple months of the season, as I quietly hoped for losses to improve our draft position. That will be the last time I will ever do that.
My pre-season predictions over the past few seasons have been pretty close. The exception is that I always throw the Panthers into the Top-8. But other than that, I’ve predicted well. In reality, it wasn’t difficult in the East as there was clear-cut definition of the balance of power. Not so anymore as I think the Eastern Conference is full of parity this season. Sure, it’s easy to say the Capitals, Flyers, Bruins and Penguins will make the playoffs, but after that, it is really going to be a dog-fight. The Panthers are primed to surprise, and so many other teams have a legitimate shot at a playoff position. You really can’t count out Toronto, the Rangers or maybe even the Islanders. There are just a lot of good teams in the East.
That’s not the case in the West where the top five teams will dominate and there appears to be a drop off from there. I added my Western Conference predictions this year.
A common theme with this team continues. The Panthers must get off to a decent start. It does not have to be great but it can’t be bad. I will take 12 out of 20 points. EASTERN CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS
WESTERN CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS
- Washington Capitals…Tomas Vokoun’s salary is now back down to earth. The Capitals high-powered offense does not require him to “steal” games, something that rarely happened in Pantherland in the past.
- Philadelphia Flyers…Aggressive off-season moves changes the team complexion but when you land Ilya Bryzgalov you become very good. He was the primary reason the low-payroll. Coyotes competed. This team, along with the Panthers, will prove that change is good.
- Buffalo Sabres…A fast, scrappy team that’s had front office consistency and strong goaltending. Ryan Miller makes them good and adding defenseman Robyn Regehr makes them better.
- Pittsburgh Penguins…Somehow they assembled a strong defense along the way…puck-movers Kris Letang and Paul Martin combine with Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek. Mix in their attacking offense and Marc-Andre Fleury in net…this is a playoff team for sure.
- Boston Bruins…And to think we had Dennis Seidenberg. Anyway, everything clicked for this team last year but no doubt it was Tim Thomas’ goaltending that led the way. Repeating will be tough.
- FLORIDA PANTHERS…If team is 6-4 after ten games, they will have enough confidence and talent to surprise critics and fill the arena with fans starving for something of relevance down here. The goaltending tandem of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen will be the deciding factor.
- Tampa Bay Lightning…There are some holes on this team but their power play and top-end talent players make them an automatic for a playoff spot. I can’t put them ahead of the Panthers though.
- Montreal Canadiens…This is one of those teams where every player is at least “good”. Then you have Carey Price in net and how do you not make the playoffs even if it may be close.
- New Jersey Devils…Peter DeBoer makes do with the defense-first mentality but finds out he’s a few years too late with this team as goaltender Brodeur is nearing the end, and he always made the difference.
- New York Rangers…Henrik Lundqvist will keep them in the hunt all season. The lack of firepower up front and an average defense makes it tough to enjoy a playoff slot.
- Toronto Maple Leafs…The Leafs are improved and could be one of the conference’s surprise teams. Goaltending and depth may be their problem areas. Still, if things click they could sneak in.
- Carolina Hurricanes….This team is actually well-balanced, and could contend. There are just better teams ahead of them and losing Erik Cole really hurts.
- New York Islanders…If they didn’t scoop up Michael Grabner from us and me having to stomach his awesome season, I would have to be excited by the youthful talent this team has. They make the playoffs next year…not this year.
- Winnipeg Jets…Hockey-starved community can only bring on so many wins. They are nowhere near enough for this team to make the playoffs.
- Ottawa Senators…GM Bryan Murray has compiled some talented, hard working youth. The future is bright…just a few years away.
- San Jose Sharks
- Vancouver Canucks
- Detroit Red Wings
- Los Angeles Kings
- Anaheim Ducks
- Nashville Predators
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- St Louis Blues
- Colorado Avalanche
- Edmonton Oilers
- Calgary Flames
- Phoenix Coyotes
- Dallas Stars
- Minnesota Wild
Interesting…I received more emails from that blog entry than many others. I want to point out that the “point” I was trying to make is that this team was finally good enough where the team could excite the fans rather than the fans exciting themselves and the team by constant cowbell clanging. The responses were overwhelmingly in favor of banning the cowbell. There were a few that felt strongly in favor of them and saw me as some type of no-fun-old-fart. However, most believed that the constant clanging disrupted the enjoyment of the game…and why they were there…to watch hockey…not be in a rodeo-like environment. Based on the responses, I went to the Saveology.com Iceplex and conducted a poll.
The question was…What is your opinion of Cowbells at the Panthers games. The possible answers were…(1) get rid of them altogether, (2) they are ok as long as they are used after a goal, or (3) they are an enhancement to the arena experience. Now keep in mind that the respondents were primarily hockey knowledgeable adults with kids in various travel and house leagues. The results….#1 – 80%, #2 – 15%, #3 – 5%.
It goes back to a simple them, if a team is winning, exciting to watch and providing value, the game itself becomes the main focus.
Much like so many fans I talk with, I am so excited for this season to start. I can’t wait to see our new Panthers and am anxious to follow our recent draft picks. For once, I could care less where ex-Panthers are playing. I am dialed-in and focused on this team.THREE MORE POINTS
- No doubt the tragedy of the airplane crash of KHL’s Lokomotiv team was felt throughout the hockey world and beyond. Sadly, a few ex-Panthers were among those lost and one of them, Karlis Skastrins, was one of my favorite defensemen to wear a Panthers jersey.
- Welcome back Cory Stillman! It’s great to know that this team has some quality people in the hockey operations areas of Pro Development and Scouting. These areas often do not get attention, yet are extremely important to long-term success. The addition of Cory Stillman is proof this franchise is building correctly. Thankfully, Cory is a Panther again and not with Carolina.
- Look for some exciting news out of the Saveology.com Iceplex with the upcoming Thanksgiving Tournament. Word is out that teams from Europe and Russia may be flying over to participate. More on this in a future blog.
I enjoy reading the comments (some from around the world) after one of these…so please share your thoughts…my email is firstname.lastname@example.org