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VanMurph's View: A Little Hope

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Murphy and Vanessa Burch
Murphy Burch is back for his second season of blogging. He will be sharing his views on the Panthers during the year, along with fellow fan blogger, Cliff Peeke (Peeke's Points).

Murphy, an airline pilot originally from North Carolina, is better known as vanmurph on the Panthers message boards and he, along with his wife Vanessa are two of the most vociferous fans at the BankAtlantic Center.

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I live for this team.  I don’t sleep when they lose, and I’m as proud as a new father when they win.  But even being the eternal optimist that I am, it’s getting harder and harder to come to grips with the reality of the hole we’re digging ourselves into.  I know it’s still relatively early and there is a lot of hockey left to be played.  But as the past has shown us, a poor start is often difficult to overcome; and barring a huge shake-up, a really poor start is nearly impossible to overcome.  If you get into a funk early on, your confidence is destroyed and your ability and willingness to stand up to challenges decays. As much as it pains me to admit it, I think our guys may have lost their confidence, and once you lose your confidence, getting it back is no easy feat to accomplish. It’s been tough to watch them play listlessly and uninspired, because I know in their hearts they want to win as much as we want them to. I just think the losing has gotten into their heads, and they don’t know how to change the current state of affairs.

One way to alter our course is to come out and play consistently each night.  We’re nine games into the season and we’ve been bombed in four of them, narrowly lost three of them, and won two of them.  Consistent efforts night-in and night-out will not only earn the respect of the fans and other hockey clubs, but it will go a long way toward restoring the confidence we’ve all lost.  If our guys want to prevent this poor start from crippling yet another season, they’re just going to have to go out there and do it.  Play a full 60 minutes every night.  Stop letting these clowns camp out in our crease. Shoot the puck at every opportunity. Forecheck. Backcheck. Start laying some serious hits on people. And for goodness sake, start standing up for each other!  When David Booth gets shoved into the boards headfirst against Buffalo, or viciously (even if cleanly) knocked out in Philadelphia, one or more of his teammates should take pride in immediately going after the guy who did it, and making the most of the opportunity before heading to the box for five or more minutes.  Teammates are like brothers.  You have to stand up for your brothers. Family should be the most important thing in your life. If someone is going after your brother, you do your best to stop them regardless of the consequences…

I had to work last night, so I missed the entire game in Philadelphia. When I landed in Los Angeles, my voicemail, text messages, and email were full of comments about what had happened during the game against the Flyers. Two words that ran through nearly every single message were “gutless” and “heartless”. At first I was just stunned by the number of messages I’d received, and by the 5-1 score. Then as I read message after message, I gathered that there had been some pretty nasty hits during the game. After I got to my hotel, I started watching replays of the hit on Booth, and it reminded me of a similar hit a couple of nights earlier on Jonathan Toews. The key difference in the hits is the reaction of the aforementioned players’ teammates. Toews’ teammates mauled the offender a millisecond after Toews hit the ice. But our guys didn’t get in anyone’s face; nobody stood up for their brother… Even though the hit on Booth was clean, somebody should’ve stepped up and at least tried to take care of business. By that point in the game one Panther (Radek Dvorak) had already left the ice with an injury caused by a questionable hit, and now one of our top line wingers was lying face down unconscious just inside the blue line. How about it, guys? Where’s the love for the Boother? Not to mention Kulikov. The 18 year-old gets pasted into the boards by Daniel Carcillo and nobody does anything about it? C’mon! At that point in the game, it’s obvious we’re not coming back, so it’s gut-check time. Somebody has to take on the responsibility of making things right. Somebody has to let it be known that we’re not going to just stand around while you pick off our teammates one at a time. I don’t know who’s available to come in and add some toughness to our lineup, but we absolutely cannot keep getting pushed around. There has to be some retribution taken immediately after someone takes liberties with our players. If not, it’s only going to get worse.   
After so many years of losing, the fans of this team need, no, DESERVE a winner...But at the moment, I think most of us would just settle for a little hope. However, hope has been pretty hard to come by lately. Dropping six of our first nine games is taking its toll on our fans. It’s not just the poor start that has us in a bad way; it’s the poor start combined with the futility of the last decade. I think it’s come to the point where Panthers fans actually expect this team to lose. I love these guys like they were my sons, but so far this season, I haven’t really felt comfortable in a single game. Even when we had a lead, I wasn’t comfortable. And the truth of the matter is that I don’t think our guys have been comfortable either. Again, it comes back to confidence. It’s almost like we play as if we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like we’re passing the time until the other team comes back and takes our win away…

It’s tough being a loyal, die-hard fan of a team that perennially disappoints. And it’s equally tough to look at the schedule ahead and not see any relief in sight. We currently look up at 28 teams in the league, so there are not going to be any easy games in the near future. But as bleak as things may currently seem, I try to keep in mind that we are just one winning streak away from gaining some confidence. I really hope that last night’s game will light a fire under our team. We got creamed, and it was embarrassing. Embarrassing to the players, the fans, and the organization. Regardless of that, though, we have another game on Wednesday against Ottawa, followed by two quick games on the road in Dallas and St. Louis. I think a three-game winning streak would be just what the doctor ordered. Finish the month off strong and end it with 11 points. I simply refuse to use words like “must win” in October; but it certainly would be a nice shot in the arm to perform well in the coming days. 

On a completely different note, I’ve just purchased my tickets for the Panthers game in Dallas on the 30th of this month. So within a few days of the game I’ll be providing you with my first arena summary of the ’09-’10 campaign. I received a lot of positive feedback from the six I wrote last season, so I’ll continue to do them this year. With only two multi-game Western Conference swings this season, my opportunities to provide summaries from west of the Mississippi are going to be limited. I already have commitments for Halloween night, so I’m unable to attend the match-up against the Blues in St. Louis the night after we play in Dallas. That leaves the March 9th – 13th trip, which has us playing in Minneapolis, Denver, and San Jose. That was the only must-attend road trip I saw when the schedule was posted this past summer, because even though I’ve seen NHL games in all of those cities, I’ve yet to see the Panthers play in any of them. I’m excited about the possibility, and I’m really looking forward to the trip.

That about does it for this entry. Thank you to all of you who emailed and sent messages to me on facebook after my last submission. I enjoyed corresponding with each of you. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at: 

Thanks for stopping by the blog.

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