Everything Else

Todd Little is the sole proprietor of LitterBoxCats.com. You can follow him on Twitter @toddlittle827. 

Been a disappointment for the Panthers this season, who some thought could make a playoff push. Is it just down to goaltending or is it more than that?
It’s kind of been a chicken and egg thing between the goaltending and the defense being the main culprit in the Panthers maddeningly slow start. There are times the goalies, James Reimer, in particular, let in Charmin-soft goals, but with the way the defense turns the puck over and yields countless high-quality chances to the opposition, one wonders if any keeper could shine in Florida’s crease right now. In addition to that mess, the only thing the Panthers have been consistent at in 2018-19 is being inconsistent.  Depending on the game or period, they look like one of the better teams in the league, and at other times they look destined for a top-five pick in the draft. One wonders if the Cats made the right choice in hiring the inexperienced Bob Boughner. His system and game management have both been called into question and it doesn’t look like the effort is there all time, and on top of that, players are allowed to make the same mistakes over and over with little to no consequences.
On the bright side, Jonathan Huberdeau is on pace to shatter his career high in points and assists. What’s been the difference there?
Now 25, Huberdeau is more mature and has worked on getting stronger the last couple of offseasons. Huberdeau got off a decent enough start while on the second line. Once he was reunited with Aleksander Barkov on the first line, along with new acquisition Mike Hoffman, was when he really caught fire and has put up 23 points in the last 13 games. If Huberdeau can keep this torrid pace up, he might be looking at his, and the franchise’s, first 100-point season.
What’s the deal with this blue line? Dale Tallon fought hard to keep some of the younger players, which obviously, frustratingly cost the Cats Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault. And yet it’s hard to see why. Fill us in. 
I wish someone could fill me in on this. The way that Tallon handled the expansion draft still has many of us scratching our heads. Sure, they wanted Vegas to take Reilly Smith’s contract, but exposing Marchessault was just plain dumb. There had to have been a better way. None of the defensemen they protected was worth doing so and that is becoming more and more obvious, painfully so, as time goes on. The Panthers defensemen don’t seem to have much interest in playing proper defense and are lacking in physicality. Not quite sure if the meat of the problem lies with the players, who are individually talented, or Bob Boughner’s system, but something is seriously amiss with this group.
How much has Vincent Trocheck’s injury been a culprit?
Before he was hurt, Trocheck was having a bit of a tough go of it. He was collecting points on the power play, but struggling in other areas. That said, Vincent is one of Florida’s better players, a true gamer, and it was just a matter of time before he turned things around. They miss him badly and will be a better team when he comes back.
So what does the rest of the season hold? And beyond?
The rest of the season likely holds more of the same. The Panthers have shown no sign of being able to win or even play well on a consistent basis. The five-game winning streak in early November looks like it might end up being the high point of the season. Throw that streak out and they have only won back to back games once… that’s right, once. Beyond that, hard to say. The Cats have serious issues on defense and in the net, not sure how that get fixed anytime soon.

 

Game #39 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Imagine dating a good hockey player in 2018. Imagine that the good hockey player you’re dating is teammates with a generational talent and face of the franchise for which they both play. Imagine that you, in your own words, “fall out of favour” with that generational player’s wife, based on “noticing fewer likes on Instagram and Facebook.” Imagine going online and anonymously harassing that woman for months, saying that her recently stillborn baby “didn’t have a chance” because she was “popping pain killer medication everyday [sic],” saying you wish this woman were dead, and wishing someone would end her husband’s career. Then imagine that the good hockey player that you’re dating has to be traded not once but twice because of what a gigantic piece of shit you are.

Thus is the story of how Mike Hoffman, a good if not great hockey player, ended up in Florida, a state befitting some of the biggest piles of human garbage America has to offer. We touched on what a sharps-disposal container Ottawa is as a franchise, but the Melinda Karlsson–Monika Caryk debacle probably outpaces everything else.

While 99% of the douchebaggery here comes from Monika Caryk—who, in case you haven’t pieced it together is Mike Hoffman’s now-fiancée—there’s enough shittiness to go around to qualify Hoffman as a douchebag here. To clarify and nutshell this story, here’s what happened:

  • Erik Karlsson’s wife, Melinda, alleged that Monika Caryk, Hoffman’s girlfriend at the time, harassed her and her husband in “over 1,000 negative and derogatory statements” beginning in November 2017, right around the time the Karlssons announced that they were having a baby.
  • The baby was stillborn in March 2018, and someone went online and accused Melinda of abusing painkillers, implying that that’s what caused the stillbirth. Melinda believed that it was Caryk who did it, and applied for a peace bond (basically, a restraining order) against Caryk in May.
  • Caryk and Hoffman denied that they had anything to do with any of it. Hoffman tried showing Erik Karlsson documents (obtained from an “IT contact” Caryk “reached out to”) that supposedly showed Caryk wasn’t making anonymous posts six days after the stillbirth (Karlsson refused to look at them).
  • Caryk was never served the peace bond.

So after all that, Hoffman gets traded to the Sharks, and then the Panthers. All the while, Hoffman goes to bat for his girlfriend, which in a case that seems like “she said she said” would make sense.

But consider the fact that five other wives and one girlfriend of Senators players—Kodette LaBarbera (Jason), Taylor Winnik (Daniel), Hayley Thompson (Mark Stone), Marlee Hammond (Andrew), Camille Pageau (J.G.), and Julie Turris (Kyle)—all shared some iteration of Caryk treating the Karlssons, especially Melinda, like shit. That’s an awful lot of independent accounts sharing a similar story, too many in my book to call this a “she said she said.” Consider too that Caryk has readily admitted to have made “unflattering observations about the Karlssons,” blaming it on her own drunkenness and “others twisting her own words.” My douchebag BINGO card just needs an “It was just a joke.”

But this is the NHL, where talent makes up for any number of character flaws a player might have. And wouldn’t you know it, appropriately named Panthers coach Bob Boughner took the lead in proving once again that the NHL doesn’t give a shit about women if you can score 20 goals, saying:

“All that stuff that happened in Ottawa, I don’t believe half of it.”

Of fucking course you don’t, Bob. Why believe the accounts of up to seven women when you can just sit down with people who have a vested interest in denying what happened because the guy you want on your team might get your wildly disappointing team over the hump?

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

“And the other half, I knew it wasn’t going to be an issue. I went down with my wife to Waterloo and took him and his fiancée out for dinner. It was a good meeting. I said to my wife afterwards: ‘They’re good people. They’re really good people.’ You could tell instantly.”

Never mind explaining what made them good people, because we all know that scoring 20 goals and putting up 60 points is what makes a man good in this urinal league.

And you better fucking believe Uncle Dale backed that up, calling Hoffman “a perfect fit” for the team because the Panthers have “a strong culture” and that “We feel that that’s in the past and the distractions.” THAT’S IN THE PAST AND THE DISTRACTIONS! In the most tongue-twisting corporate-speak this side of Bill Lumbergh, Tallon tried to justify trading for a guy who was locker room poison in motherfucking Ottawa, because the absurdity train of the NHL is never, ever fucking late.

Hoffman is a douchebag for haranguing Karlsson about his girlfriend’s innocence six days after his son was stillborn (because that’s foremost on Karlsson’s mind, you see) and supporting his now-fiancée who, by at least five independent accounts from other Senators’s players’ wives, went to extreme lengths to harass a woman who, in Caryk’s own words, stopped liking shit on her Instagram and Facebook.

I have a hard time believing that they would all tell similar stories about Caryk’s shittiness just because. Coupled with the fact that no one has provided an ounce of support for Caryk besides the guy who’s marrying her, it’s hard to disbelieve the douchiness Hoffman and Caryk share.

While the courts have sort of washed their hands of all this, there’s enough evidence here for the court of douchebaggery to warrant consideration for Caryk (for being a piece of shit) and Hoffman (for supporting this piece of shit). But how about that 17-game point streak Mike had for himself?

They’re good people. You could tell instantly.

Game #24 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

In yet another litmus test between old school hockey red asses and the computer boys, the Florida Panthers chose to revert to entrusting their future once again to the former in the person of this site’s namesake, and all it got them was sitting at home again in the spring once again. For the most part the Cats have remained quiet this off season in part due to financial constraints and also due to the fact that aside from the big ticket item that came to the division, the free agency market mostly sucked out loud. But given the landscape of things within the division and the conference, being judicious still might not be enough.

’17-’18 Season: 44W-30L-8OT 96PTS 248GF 246GA 18.9%PP 80.2%PK 49.19%CF 7.63SH% .9236SV%

Goaltending: Roberto Luongo enters this season having just turned 39 in April, and even at this age, still posted a .929 overall save percentage propped up by a .933 rate at even strength. Borat’s longevity has now become another attribute on what is a surefire hall of fame resume, playoff collapses be damned. However, unfortunately for the Panthers, he started 33 games last year due to a variety of aches and pains commensurate with being able to soon qualify for AARP. James Reimer got the bulk of the action and was slightly below average with a .913 overall and a .915 at evens, which simply isn’t going to cut it in the modern NHL. Reimer is capable of more, as his career mark at even strength is .925 even factoring last season’s dip, but it’s any guess how much he’ll be asked to play given Luongo’s health status or if his play understandably drops off this late into his career. The Cats are carrying a third goalie this year in the form of one-time New Sensation Michael Hutchinson after Connor Hellebuyck finally took the full time gig in Winnipeg. Hutchinson at this point is going to be a career backup but has been known to find the Devil Inside on occasion (particularly against the Hawks), but if he needs to be relied upon too much Florida is going to need a serious Kick elsewhere in the lineup.

Forwards: Over the past few years, the Panthers have compiled a very solid group of forwards that seem to produce both on the score sheet and territorially, and none of it ever seems to make a damn bit of difference. They added to that corps this year by trading for another player like that in Mike Hoffman, fresh off the drama behind the scenes on the set of The Real Housewives of Ottawa. Regardless of who is to blame in that sordid affair, the Panthers added another solid scoring winger to a group that already has the positionally dominant-if-ouchy Sasha Barkov and running mate Jonathan Huberdeau, and one of the more unhearalded #2 centers in the game in Vincent Trochek, whose 71 points nearly earned him a spot on the All Who-Gives-A-Shit team. The Panthers get solid contractual value out of all of these guys as well, having committed them all to reasonable long-term paper, but there’s no transcendent star here, and this is more of a star driven league than most observers are willing to admit. Nick Bjugstad certainly has all of the tools and the behemoth size to become one, but he hasn’t put it all together yet, and the questions are now beginning to get louder regarding if he ever will. The bottom six features a smattering of bums and has beens such as Troy Brouwer and Jamie McGinn and Micheal Haley, and of course franchise fixture and GRITHEARTFART captain Derek MacKenzie. If a forward grouping can manage to be top-heavy while also lacking gamebreakers, it’s this one.

Defensemen: Obviously this group begins and ends with former #1 overall pick Aaron Ekblad, who is entrusted with the most difficult assignments and zone starts and expected to also produce offensively. Ekblad was below the team rate in shot attempts for the first time this past year at 48.01%, but he spent the vast majority of his time covering for the cowboy tendencies of partner Keith Yandle, who can still slightly outscore his positional deficiencies, but at 32 as of tomorrow, his wheels could soon not even get him to the places he wasn’t sure he needed to be in the first place. The Cats are high on both Alex Petrovic (as evidenced by letting Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith go in the expansion draft to be able to sign him) and Mike Matheson, but it’s not exactly clear what either of them do, and Matheson somehow just received nearly $5 mildo against the cap for eternity to ply whatever his trade is.

Outlook: While it’s unclear whether or not Bob Boughner is a Moron or Not yet (and his playing career would heavily suggest the former), what is clear is that he’s going to need to get a lot more than the sum of the parts that he has here to threaten for a playoff spot let alone advance. Counting on a nearly 40 year old goalie to continue to defy his age and mileage is also not a long-term recipe for success, but that’s never been something that’s been synonymous with the Panthers anyway. The same thing that always happens will more than likely transpire this year, where the Cats will make it interesting in mid-March, but ultimately miss out on the post season by the hair on their ass once again.