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Peeke's Points: Thirteen Points

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Cliff Peeke, a Panther season ticket holder since Day One, is back blogging on 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

I have some fun on my company’s website compiling a weekly NHL Power Ranking. Check it out. It’s in the Sports Section.

As I’ve performed this exercise throughout the season, I’ve come to realize that this may be one of the wackiest seasons I can recall. We are 40% of the way into the season, and one word seems to describe it…PARITY. And I’m ok with it. I am a huge fan of the salary cap, and managing payroll to the cap has got to be an absolute riot. GM’s and Scouts have very little room for error. A couple bad contracts, poor signings and suspect decisions can really affect the product on the ice.

Just check out the Rangers. There was an interesting article in today’s The Hockey News online where they were just slamming Sather’s decision-making as a GM. Here’s a team that year in and year out has some kind of “superstar” signing, yet fail to reach any sustained level of success. Marion Gaborik is near the top of the league in points, but the Rangers sit near the bottom in the standings. Why??? Some poor high-end signings (Redden) and un-spectacular drafting.

Teams like Nashville and Buffalo impress me. Their on-ice product is very good, yet they spend responsibly. No great superstars (although Ryan Miller is on his way), just a group of players that really work well together and play their respective systems to near-perfection. Both those teams lost significant players in the past few years, yet here they are in the top ten at this point in the season.

Which brings to mind the article in the Sun-Sentinel this past weekend in which Pavel Bure feels it’s important to have that “superstar” type player on the Panthers. I do not agree. As exciting as it was watching Pavel play in a Panther jersey, I had a lot more fun watching the ’95-’96 team. Get me a group of guys that “want to be here”, give strong efforts on EVERY shift, play the system to perfection and compete near the top of the standings and I’m a happy fan. Again, think Nashville and Buffalo. And…maybe the Panthers???

The Panthers have been a real “puzzle” to me this season. They are thirteen points from the top AND bottom of the conference. Interestingly, as frustrating as their “one step forward – two steps backward” type of season has been, they are still right there in the playoff mix. At the same time, they are still only two points from being next to last in the conference. OK, let’s look at it half-full...we are only 5 points removed from the #5 spot. Again, parity has its plusses. But I’m still trying to figure this team out. I’m really starting to like the defense, and Seidenberg is helping me forget the departure of Skrastins. Overall, I think this group is starting to gel. Goaltending is above average, so we’re ok there. The pleasant surprise has been the offensive output of Horton and Weiss. Their combined salaries are $6.5 million and their production so far this year justifies the amount they make. Steven Reinprecht, at 25 points and $1.8 million, has been a pleasant surprise, and has more points than Jokinen (22 points and a $5.5 million salary). McCabe’s 17 points and Seidenberg’s 13 points compare well to the departed Bouwmeester’s 14 points. We certainly have some bright spots and some good cost vs. production numbers.

Back to Weiss and Horton…they are only 26 and 24 years old. They are now just entering their prime production years, and organization patience may now be paying off. Previous regimes may have made the deadly mistakes of trading them…we can’t let that happen with these two players in our current management/ownership. Horton is currently #21 in overall points, and that’s right up there with Iginla, Zetterberg, and Nash. I’m betting he will end the season in the top 30 at least. 

Now…back to value/decisions/signings…what’s up with Koistenen??? We sign him to a two year deal at $2.4 million…that’s a lot of money. He was a healthy scratch many times at Nashville and was not a full time defenceman when he did play. After a heroic opening day game, he lost a top six spot on our defense and was waived without being picked up and went through re-entry waivers without being picked up. Had he been claimed, we would have to still pay approximately $1.0 million of his salary. To me, that’s a very expensive mistake, especially for a team that is surprisingly close to the cap ceiling. I don’t get it. Granted, other teams make robust mistakes, but that certainly doesn’t make it alright. Worse yet, if we keep him in Rochester, we still spend the $2.4 million. Looking ahead, those dollars can have an affect on our ability to sign upcoming UFA’s Moore, Seidenberg, and Leopold. And don’t forget, it would be nice to have a cushion for a late season acquisition if we are in the playoff race. 

As I stated earlier, this season has had some interesting surprises. I really like the LA Kings, but would you have thought they would be in the top echelon of teams. How about Colorado, Phoenix, and Atlanta. I’m loving the fact that new teams are emerging and replacing the Anaheims, Carolina’s, and Philadelphia's. Parity and the salary cap is working…I just hope that plays into the Panthers favor. So far, in this wacky season, it is. And here’s what it really does…it makes EVERY game important. That’s why I can’t wait to head to the arena Wednesday night.  The game against the Thrashers really means something. GO PANTHERS !!!!

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