Good afternoon! Welcome back to another exciting edition!
Since the last publication of this literary work, the annual Panthers Development Camp took place. It’s always fun to see newly drafted prospects put on Panthers colors for the first time, to see the prospects’ excitement when they hit the ice, and to see some of the talent on display. Also, we saw the new Panthers logo on the ice for the first time, which probably made everyone say that October can’t come soon enough. But right now, development camp, the start of free agency and the draft are in the rearview, while rookie camps, training camps, and preseason are still well over a month away.
Big news on the radio front! You all saw the recent announcement that once again 560 WQAM will be the flagship radio home of the Panthers! We’re very excited to continue working with our friends over at WQAM and CBS Radio Miami. Keep an eye on the website for everything regarding Panthers radio!
It'll be a little bit of time before this exciting Panthers lineup hits the ice, but in no particular order, here’s just a few of the many reasons to be excited in 2016-17.
A FEW REASONS TO BE EXCITED FOR ’16-17!
-New additions. Keith Yandle was going to be the most sought-after free agent defenseman, but the Panthers locked him up for seven years. His on-ice capabilities (75 power play points since 2013-14) are known across the hockey world, and he was extremely enthusiastic about joining the Panthers organization. Defenseman Jason Demers was +16 for Dallas last year and is +39 for his career. Mark Pysyk is a quality young defenseman who is very solid in his own end. Goalie James Reimer had a .922 save percentage in 40 games last season, and with Roberto Luongo, forms one of the league’s best goaltending duos. Up front, Jonathan Marchessault, Jared McCann and Colton Sceviour bring a variety of skill sets and the common theme of offensive upside.
-Jaromir Jagr. The Panthers points leader from last season returns with more milestones on the horizon for 2016-17. His first goal of the season will be the 750th career tally for the league’s third all-time leading goal scorer. Jagr’s 1,868 points are 19 behind Mark Messier, who is second all-time in points. On that note, Jagr is 32 points away from being just the second player to register 1,900 points in the NHL; of course, Wayne Gretzky is the other. Jagr is also eighth on the all-time list with 1,629 games played. Mark Recchi is fourth all-time in games played with 1,652. Overall, sports fans of South Florida have a chance to watch one of the great athletes of the last century every night at the BB&T Center.
-Roberto Luongo. Much like Jagr, Luongo, who had an all-star year in 2015-16, has multiple milestones on the horizon heading into this season. He’s seventh all-time in goaltending wins with 436; one behind Jacques Plante, 11 behind Terry Sawchuk, and 18 behind Curtis Joseph. A future Hall of Famer and one of the great goalies of the generation, he’s also in striking distance of the top-10 in shutouts.
-Aleksander Barkov. Entering his fourth year in the NHL, Barkov is coming off a 2015-16 season that saw him score 15 goals and add 13 assists for 28 points over 27 games from February through the end of the regular season. Barkov has blossomed into one of the league’s top centers, and a guy who can match up against the opposition’s top players night after night. He takes great pride in his defensive game, and I’d imagine he’ll win the Selke Trophy multiple times before too long. Again, South Florida sports fans: this guy is worth the price of admission. Especially when he’s grouped on a line with Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau on the wings. Together, they’re one of the best lines in the NHL.
-Aaron Ekblad, Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck. All three are key young parts of this Panthers team, and all three will be here for several years to come after receiving contract extensions this offseason. Ekblad is becoming the type of franchise cornerstone defenseman that every team wants. Smith had a career year in terms of offense and posted eight points in six playoff games while being a key part of the Panthers penalty kill all season. Trocheck caught fire late in the season and had a breakout second half, totaling 26 points in 27 games between February and March.
-Cross-state rivalry. The Panthers are the defending Atlantic Division Champions, while the Tampa Bay Lightning reached the Eastern Conference Final. The Panthers learned a lot last season, return their core, and bring several key additions. Tampa Bay returns as a contender. We were excited about this matchup last season, but the four regular season matchups between the two in 2016-17 could have a feel like they’ve never had before. October 18th, November 7th, January 26th, and March 11th are the dates of the four games the teams will play this season, with games two and three of the season series at the BB&T Center.
-Last, but certainly not least, the fans! I can’t want to see all of you back out at the BB&T Center very soon. We had awesome turnouts at the logo unveiling, and at development camp. The buzz around the team was awesome all season last year, and that has only grown! As always, thanks for the ongoing support!
-Two weekends ago I was at the first-ever Chicago Open Air festival; a three-day hard rock and metal extravaganza. I saw some awesome bands over the 72 hours. Killswitch Engage played Sunday night and tore the place up as their drummer and our friend Justin Foley sported a Panthers t-shirt (pictured below). Some of my other favorites over the weekend: Beartooth, Nothing More, Miss May I, In This Moment, and Of Mice & Men. I also saw Korn for the second time, and their live performance is still one of the best in the business.
-For those of you who are WWE Network subscribers: the WCW Monday Nitro that aired on November 22, 1999 is available in the vault. At the Palace of Auburn Hills that evening, a 14-year-old Doug Plagens was in the fifth row on the entrance way holding a neon orange sign that said “DOUG” with an arrow pointing downward. If you watch it, Tweet me a screen shot.
-I had a great time at last night’s Marlins game; a 5-0 win for the Fish. Ichiro had career hit 2,997, and Giancarlo Stanton hits the ball really hard, even when it stays in play. And Billy the Marlin has reached classic mascot status, in my opinion. How about the mascots of the NL East? Between Billy, Mr. Met, and the Philly Phanatic, the division is totally loaded with three all-time greats. It has to be the best mascot division in the Majors.
-Feel free to Tweet me @DougPlagens.
That’ll do it from here. ‘Til next time, folks!