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Trocheck's Blog: It's Got to Start Now

by Vincent Trocheck / FloridaPanthers.com

It's never fun to know that you're not going to be playing in the playoffs at this time of year.

We're a team that's frustrated with where we're at right now, knowing how much talent we have and that we could put together a deep postseason run if we had the chance. But that's on us. Looking back at this season, there were nights when we were playing our game and we could beat anyone, and then there were nights when we just let up for whatever reason and lost to teams we shouldn't have lost to.

I think showing that inconsistency each night is a maturity thing that we've got to get through right now as a team. With where everyone in this core is at, the time for us to start winning is now. We can't look around and tell ourselves that we're a young team anymore or that it's fine and it'll happen next year.

It's got to happen now.

We've all got to realize now that this is it. This is our time. We've got to start winning and winning now. We don't want to look back on our careers years from now and think, "Wow, we had such a great team back then. I really wish we would have done this, or we wouldn't have done that." It's got to start now.

I know that we have a great core group of guys in here. A lot of us have been on a run and made the playoffs together. We've added a few pieces since then. When I take a step back and look at this season, the issues aren't necessarily about talent or work ethic.

I think there are some things mentally that we need to figure out, character and maturity-wise. I think we're all starting to realize that now. But it's time for us as a core and as a leadership group to realize that we've got to start winning now and we've got to come together to realize what it takes to do that.

As leaders, we're all still learning. Barky is a young captain and we're a young leadership group. We're learning from guys like Lou, Brouwer and Sheahan, guys that have won Stanley Cups and had long playoff runs. We're learning what it takes as a leadership group to build that winning culture here in Florida.

We're starting to realize what it's going to take. We know it's not going to be easy. I mean, there's a reason that the Stanley Cup is one of the hardest trophies in sports to win. It's going to have to start with us and start now. It's got to start with that refuse-to-lose, know-you're-going-to-win attitude.

The whole locker room has to step up and embrace leadership roles moving forward. When you look at teams that win Stanley Cups, sure, they have their one or two superstars throughout the regular season, but in the playoffs everybody chips in and you really start to see contributions from all over the lineup.

When you're watching a playoff game, you start to notice guys like a bottom-two defenseman and say to yourself, "Wow, he's really good. He's really stepping up." For us, everybody's got to take ownership and create that role for themselves and it'll go a long way. That's how good teams are able to win Cups.

So where do we start?

Well, I think we're trying to figure that out, to learn exactly what it's going to take to get to that point. I think it does have to start with a little bit of a conversation among all of us, talking to each other and saying, "Hey, we're a team that can make it really far if we play the right way and do the right things."

We have the right attitude, so it's just got to start within us. Everyone in this room has a role on this team. We've got to play those roles. If we do that and do all those things the right way, play our game every night and are more consistent night in and night out, everything else will start to fall into place.

When we're playing at our best, we're confident.

We're also a team that feeds off that confidence. You saw that the last time we went to the playoffs against the New York Islanders in 2016. We had a 12-game winning streak that year to win the division. But we didn't start that way. We were a team that was kind of iffy in the first half.

Then, we just won one. Then one became two. Then two became three, and so on. We started to gain more and more confidence as it went on. There was competition among our team that started to arise and push everyone. Once we had that confidence, we realized we could literally win every single night.

About five or six games into that winning streak, there were games when we could be down a few goals and still in the back of our heads be thinking, "We're going to win this game." There was no panic-mode, none of that "Oh no! We're down three goals." When that confidence is there, it's our game to win.

That's the type of mentality we want to have all the time. There's a lot of one-goal games in this league, and I think having that belief plays a big part in whether you end up winning or not. Whether you're up or you're down, having that confidence just seems to make everything else run a whole lot smoother.

Since this is my final blog, I also wanted to thank everyone who's been supporting us from the start.

That support really does mean a lot to all of us in this room. We know you're frustrated and obviously we're very frustrated as well. This is our lives. This is what we live, eat, breathe and sleep. Hockey is our life. There's nothing we want more than to go on a long playoff run with you guys and win a Stanley Cup.

Just know that we're building towards that. We're bitter right now. We have a sour taste in our mouths after how the last couple seasons have gone. It's going to start now. It's going to start this summer with all of us. We're going to come back with the attitude that we need to change. We need to change this.

We've got to start winning now.

-- Troch

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