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VanMurph's View: NHL Premiere

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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As a guy who travels great distances for a living, I have an appreciation for the negative effect that operating in multiple time zones and climates can have on your circadian rhythm, cognitive functions, and your overall condition. Throw in a large amount of physical activity (such as a hockey game or practice), and you have a recipe for lethargy and a weakening of immunity. After traveling 14,000 miles and playing a total of twelve hockey games in a little over three weeks, the Panthers touched down in Ft. Lauderdale at 5:30 in the morning on Sunday after flying all night from Finland. With several of the guys suffering the effects of the flu, I’m hoping the next few days will be filled with relatively light practices, plenty of fluids, and a little down time. Hopefully the few days remaining before they head up to Raleigh will give them an opportunity to get some rest, and allow the injured fellas a chance to recuperate.

So what’d you think of the Premiere Games in Helsinki and Stockholm? Personally, I enjoyed watching NHL hockey at noon and three, instead of the usual 7pm and 10pm, and I especially enjoyed seeing the Panthers have an opportunity to stand in the spotlight for a change.  Needless to say, I found Friday’s game much more satisfying than Saturday’s, and so did the 50+ people who came to the watch party at incredible ICE. Looking on as the Panthers battled back three times from one-goal deficits and then went two-for-two in the shootout as Tomas Vokoun held his ground against some of the best in the business, the Panthers fans in attendance were high-fiving, hugging, and cheering. When the game ended, most folks went on about their business, but some of us stayed to watch the Blues-Wings game. The euphoria of the Panthers win kept us in good spirits throughout the afternoon, but it was a great feeling that only lasted about 21 hours…The following day, the tone was set early on as the Cats went on the Penalty Kill just 2:28 into the first period. That’s when Patrick Kane skated into position for a nice pass to Brian Campbell, who then skated backwards down the blue line to the point. He wound up and sent a monster slap shot screaming through a crowd in front of the net and right past a completely screened T-Vo. That goal put us in a 1-0 hole right out of the gate, and we never seemed to recover from it. It turned out that was all the scoring the Hawks needed, as the Cats were unable to get anything going against a stifling Chicago defense and a smooth-as-glass rookie between the pipes. By the time the game ended, the Blackhawks had netted four goals en route to a dominating shutout, and in the process had taken three of a possible four points in Finland. Still, I was happy to come home with two points. My friend, Carl, likened those back-to-back games to a playoff series. You want to come back to your arena having earned at least a split on the road. I couldn’t agree more. We went into Finland travel-weary and sick with the flu, and we scrapped for two points against a powerhouse Western Conference team. I’ll gladly take the points. Other than the final score on Saturday, the only disappointing thing about the game was the fact that it was considered a home game for the Panthers, so that’s one less night this season we’ll be able to watch our guys out at the BankAtlantic Center. I’m hoping we make up for it by being able to watch some additional home games during the playoffs…

A couple of entries ago, I said I thought it was time for the organization to remove the “Assistant” from Randy Sexton’s title of Assistant General Manager. On the afternoon of October 2nd, shortly before the team he helped construct took the ice in Helsinki, the Panthers did just that, and named him General Manager. It was a move that was met with very little fanfare, but on the bright side, it also was not met with the criticism and negativity that seems to taint most of the coverage of our team. I suppose that’s because most people realize what a terrific job Mr. Sexton has done, considering the state of the franchise and the miserable condition in which Jacques Martin left the roster. With all he’s been able to accomplish in the past four months, from being able to get something in return for Bouwmeester, to this week;s signing of Dominic Moore, Randy Sexton has proved his worth to this hockey club. I’m as eager as anyone to see how his efforts pan out on the ice.

A few notes:

- Earlier I mentioned the watch party at Incredible ICE. For those who were able to play hooky from work or school, it was a great way to spend part of an afternoon.  Folks were able to watch the game in HD on any of the many flat screens located throughout the establishment, and as always, Breakaways’ delicious wings were being eaten by the dozens. During intermissions, the Florida Panthers Booster Club raffled off an autographed Tomas Vokoun goalie stick, an autographed Anthony Stewart stick, and a Panthers backpack. 

I’d like to say a quick thank you to Wendy Fretwell, Secretary of the booster club.  Her efforts to organize the event, including seeing to it that Breakaway Bar and Grill would be open at a time they’re normally closed, were greatly appreciated by all in attendance.  Thanks to Wendy, Matt Redmond, and Michelle Brown, we had a place to congregate and watch the season opener with fellow fans, and we had opportunities to win Panthers merchandise.

Wendy Fretwell

- The Panthers Face-Off Luncheon will be held on Wednesday, October 7th at the Signature Grand in Davie from noon until 2:00pm. Individual tickets are $100 and will include a voucher for four club level tickets to a Florida Panthers home game in October during the 2009-10 season, excluding opening night. Tables of 10 are also be available for purchase for $900 and each guest will also receive a voucher for four club level tickets to a Florida Panthers home game in October during the 2009-10 season, excluding opening night.
- For those of you who haven’t heard, Craig Anderson has performed exceptionally well in Colorado. Coming away with a win against the Sharks on opening night, and then shutting out Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks in the second game, he’s done exactly what’s been asked of him in Denver…Watching their opener on Friday night, I couldn’t help but feel good for Andy, and to feel proud of him. He looked like a stud out there stopping shot after shot, and on several occasions he brought the Avalanche faithful to their feet. When the network showed crowd shots, you could see the relief and the joy on their faces. It was as if they were saying, “Man o’ man…  We’ve got ourselves a goalie!”

Craig wanted a shot at a starting position, and since it seemed like that wasn’t going to happen here, he took his chances in free agency, and so far it’s coming up roses for him. I couldn’t be happier about it, and I wish him the best of luck (except on December 2nd and March 11th). 

- Brett McLean was invited to camp with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was released from his tryout.

- Anthony Stewart didn’t have a very good camp for the Thrashers, and he was subsequently assigned to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. Although he never really clicked when given numerous opportunities here in Florida, I personally saw Stewie working hard in practices and morning skates, and giving a solid effort; at times showing signs of real promise. I hope he does well and is able to put together a strong showing in the AHL.

- Jassen Cullimore was released from his tryout with the Anaheim Ducks. I was really pulling for him to make it out there, but for the time being, he’s out of the NHL. 

Seeing our former players being relegated to the minors or released from their tryouts with other teams is actually sort of sad for me. But at the same time, it’s a positive reinforcement that the decisions of our new GM are squaring with the actions of the rest of the league. Keeping players around who can’t make it elsewhere will only prolong the resurgence of the franchise. There is still a lot of work to do if we’re to continue the righting of the ship. Letting go of players who don’t contribute, while giving Coach DeBoer the necessary pieces to position a winning team are among the first steps. If we’re to continue down the path we’ve set upon, we’re going to need Randy Sexton to carry on in the same manner he has this summer. Keep upgrading the roster.  Keep building our farm system. Keep on coming to work every day with the goal of improving the product on the ice.

Thank you to all of you who emailed me and sent me messages on facebook after the last blog entry.  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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