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VanMurph's View: Acceptance

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.

VanMurph's View Blog Archive

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance... It’s taken quite a long time, but I’ve now made my way through all five stages of grief. Perhaps the hardest one to deal with was acceptance, but I’ve reached it. And judging from the letter co-Managing Partners Stu Siegel and Cliff Viner recently sent to Panthers fans, so has the organization. 

Coming to the realization that the team I love just isn’t very good (and finally allowing myself to openly admit it) was a lengthy process. I kept looking at the schedule and forcing myself to try to stay positive; thinking things like, “We have 50 games left, there is plenty of time,”  “We have 30 games left, there is plenty of time.”  Well now with only 21 games remaining, the Panthers are mired in the longest losing streak of the season and the trade deadline is looming. So for me it’s easier to just deal with the heartache right now instead of dragging out the seemingly inevitable. We’re only six points behind the eighth team in the conference, but with the moves expected to be coming in the days ahead, it might as well be 60 points. The rumors of a sell-off and a salary dump are persistent, and with only a couple of games to be played before the trade deadline, I have to admit that the rumors make sense. In almost any business transaction there is a timeline that has to be met. The trade deadline is akin to an expiration date; if your potential free agents aren’t signed by then, and you have an opportunity to get something in return for them, you have to make a deal. Otherwise you run the very real risk of losing them for nothing.

We have several valuable assets that, if traded, could easily go and round out a competitive team. And in return, any team needing their services down the stretch should be willing to bargain with us. Dennis Seidenberg currently leads the league in blocked shots and is a solid defenseman who could really contribute to a team heading into the postseason. Jordan Leopold falls into the same category. Both of those guys are free agents at the end of this season, and since the specter of the Bouwmeester situation is still fresh in the memory of everyone within the organization, I would not be surprised to see the Panthers make a move involving one or both of them, among others. If the opportunity is there to bring in draft picks, prospects, or any other resources that will help our club going forward, I have to believe that Randy Sexton will pull the trigger on a reasonable deal. Of all the pieces on our team that could potentially be used as trade material, only one has the ability to bring an instant return of mega-proportions: Tomas Vokoun. That one asset, if placed in the right situation, could be the difference-maker for a team in contention for the Stanley Cup. His play of late has turned the heads of many within the NHL, and the fact that his above-and-beyond efforts in net are for a franchise seemingly not making any progress toward improvement makes him a prime target for trade rumors. T-Vo has heard the rumors too.  While playing for the Czech Republic at the winter Olympics in Vancouver he said, "Obviously, I follow hockey, so I have read some things, but I haven't been approached by Florida. So until I hear otherwise I'll just treat them as rumors and I'm playing for Florida."  Look, you and I know that losing Vokoun would sound the death knell of our 2009-2010 season. He is the reason we are only six points out of the eighth spot instead of scrapping it out with Edmonton in the battle for Taylor Hall. But if the Panthers can get a high enough return for him, I’d wish him well as he moves on to a contender for the playoff push. With him in net for a team like Washington, I have very little doubt that the Stanley Cup would make a return to the Southeast Division.

From a personal perspective, throwing in the towel on yet another season, especially with a quarter of it remaining, isn’t something that I can very easily do. I want to believe. I want to hope that after the Olympic break we will come out and win 10-12 in a row and become relevant again. But after having been subjected to heartbreaking losses and frustrating intervals of apparent abandonment by the team for which I cheer every night, it’s difficult to hold onto that hope. The past few seasons we’ve been in it right up until the end, and we’ve all been able to stay focused on the possibility of making the playoffs. But this season feels different. Due to the lackluster play, the absence of scoring, and the large number of blown leads, I have become numb to the fact that we are still within striking distance of a spot in the postseason. As I watch the Panthers, their inability to help themselves by stepping up and winning the important games disheartens me. I find myself almost incapable of regaining the hope I have held onto all season long. Now having said that, should our guys come back and start winning after the break, I’m certain that my desire to see them do well will overcome any doubts I’ve had. Even if we just make a serious effort only to fall short at the very end, I will feel much better because it will seem less like I was quit on 60 games into the season.

While the failure to make the playoffs this year would most certainly sting, what troubles me more is the probability that after a decade of mediocrity it’s going to take another couple of seasons to rectify the underlying problems that caused the playoff drought. The first initiative in the overhaul is to create more room under the cap, and that can only be done by moving personnel whose contributions to the team haven’t lived up to the size and length of their contracts. In order to do that, however, you’re going to have to find a trading partner who is willing to take the contract you find unacceptable. You’re almost certainly going to get the short end of the bargain, but in freeing up that space, you allow yourself the opportunity to go out and build the team you want. And judging from the aforementioned letter from ownership, that appears to be the route we’re going to take. It’s frustrating to think about sitting in my seats and watching another season of rebuilding, but at the same time, someone has to step in and make the adjustments necessary to change the culture of this franchise. I honestly believe that’s what Stu and Cliff are seeking to do, and they deserve the opportunity to mold the personnel within the organization and to truly make this their team. It appears that their frustration with the state of the hockey club mirrors that of the fan base. Regardless of my distaste for the possibility of yet another makeover, steps must be taken to address the fundamental flaws within the organization. And those flaws are not confined to hockey operations. The first of these steps appear to be imminent…

Much the same as after the blog entry following last season’s victory over Montreal, the volume of email and notes on facebook I received in the days immediately after the most recent entry on that subject confirms that my feelings toward obnoxious fans are shared by many of you. I can tell by the general tone of the communication that you are just as fed up as I am, and that you too relish any opportunity to exact a little revenge on disrespectful out-of-town fans. As a passionate and loyal fan of this team, I have to say that it’s always refreshing to read the opinions of like-minded fans following my blog entries. It sometimes takes me a while to read and respond to all of the email, but I generally get back to everyone within a few days. Again, thank you for taking the time to send a message. I enjoyed corresponding with each of you.   If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, I can be reached at: 

Thanks for stopping by the blog.

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