| 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 Jr. Panthers ’98 Squirt Travel Team. Peeke's Points Archive
The new season is upon us…and this will be the year we make the playoffs. Sound familiar? I’ve said it for several years in a row, but always with the same caveat…we need to get off to a fast start. Same thing this year.
If we do that, I think we can grab at least the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference…that’s where I predict we’ll finish. If that happens, I’m betting three teams from the Southeast make it into the top seven…Washington, The Dive Team, and the Panthers.
Washington is my pick for #1. No surprise that being lucky with the top two positions in the 2004 entry draft would yield Ovechkin and Malkin for two hungry teams. The Caps take Ovechkin and their future became much brighter. Superstars of that caliber…players that will quickly turn a team around…were not available to us when we had the #1 overall picks in ’01 and ’02. Heck, we even traded down and selected Bouwmeester and Horton with those picks. Anyway, in that same 2004 draft, the Caps select Mike Green at #29. Twenty-two spots earlier we grabbed Rostislav Olecz. That was a super draft for the Capitals. But it was the 2002 draft that they were able to select Alexander Semin with the #13 pick (we took Petr Taticek at #10…he’s somewhere in Europe now). A lot of luck and some savvy drafting has certainly elevated this team. They did have a clunker in 2005, picking Sasha Pokulok in the 1st round, but rebounded nicely with Nicklas Backstrom…the 4th pick in ’06. Their marquee players will help overcome what many consider their weakness…goaltending.
Here’s my 2009-2010 Eastern Conference predictions…1.
Washington Capitals…highly entertaining team with loads of skill and talent2.
Pittsburgh Penguins…pure luck that Crosby and Malkin become available to them. Any chance of getting both on a fantasy team?3.
Philadelphia Flyers…this team will contend if they avoid injuries…strong defense and top six forwards make this a classy team. How did they get so good so fast? Answer…their GM.4.
New Jersey Devils…the model of consistency. And Brodeur.5.
Boston Bruins…to think our division is stronger than theirs. This team, even minus Kessel is playoff bound.6.
The Dive Team…I so badly wanted to put us ahead of them, but until Horton proves he’s a better NHL player than Staal, I’ll leave them at #6.7.
Florida Panthers…will only happen, and possibly higher, if we get off to a great start, avoid injuries, and all the other reasons I stated in my prior blog (except Jeff Taffe’s contribution, of course).8.
Buffalo Sabres…I just can’t see them missing the playoffs three years in a row. If goalie Ryan Miller has a good year, this is where they’ll land.9.
NY Rangers…this is one team I love to beat in our building, and we’ll do it each time this season.10.
Montreal Canadiens…even with their re-vamped roster, there is no way I can stomach Jacques Martin leading them to the playoffs, although I’m glad he’s there and not here.
Atlanta Thrashers…a lot of offense, especially Kovulchuk, but can they keep the puck out of the net. They are #11 only if their goalie situation strengthens. Rick Dudley (favorite ex-GM) is here.12.
Toronto Maple Leafs…a team on the rise. Not this year, but maybe next.13.
Ottawa Senators…the last part of the trifecta of Eastern Conference Canadien teams that do not make the playoffs. Brian Murray is still their GM????14.
Tampa Bay Lightning…a year ago, they made a mockery of the off-season and will still pay the price. Their ownership quarrels are a joke.15.
NY Islanders…they are one year away from being a pretty good team. But will that be in Kansas City???
The puck drops soon in Finland as we take on Chicago. We need to arrive for our home opener on 10/10 with at least four points. GO PANTHERS !!!!
As always, I enjoy hearing comments…my email is firstname.lastname@example.org