Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 28-28-8   Panthers 33-25-6

PUCK DROP: 5pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

60% OF THE TIME IT WORKS EVERY TIME: Litter Box Cats

The Hawks wrap up this funeral dirge/death rattle of a road trip in South Florida this evening, before returning home to either an indifferent but possibly more cantankerous home crowd next week. They’ll find a Panthers team right in the middle of the East playoff grinder, trying to chase down both a wildcard spot or an automatic spot in the Atlantic if it’s there. The former sees them having to leap three teams, the latter only the Leafs who seem intent on making that a possibility. Oh, and the Hawks former coach is still on the other bench.

The story with the Panthers has changed a little since just about a month ago when they were at the UC. They’re still one of the higher scoring teams in the league. And they still get mediocre-or-worse goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky (OH BOB! YOU CAME AND YOU TOOK OUR MONEY! AND NOW YOU CAN’T SWAT PUCKS AWAY! OH BOB!). This is not a metrically sound team either, as you would have expected out of a Quenneville-led outfit with this much talent on display. They outshoot their problems for their record, which they can do with Huberdeau having a career-year and Barkov his usual brilliant self, along with My Kaufmann a line lower.

So as he is wont to do, Dale Tallon made some changes at the deadline, and some changes that take some figuring out. Vincent Trocheck certainly had issues staying healthy, but he was a genuine #2 center. But Tallon moved him out at the deadline for useful, bottom six pieces in Lucas Wallmark and Erik Haula. Some Panthers observers had said Trocheck’s defensive game wasn’t what it was, and Wallmark and Haula especially should bring more of that. The Cats probably need that if Bob isn’t going to bail them out regularly. And Eetu Luostarinen is considered something of a prospect, so maybe the numbers make it a better deal than it looks at first. Given Tallon’s recent history in Sunrise though…

You sort of wonder if Tallon shouldn’t have been looking for blue line help now instead of down the road. Ekblad and Weegar (I almost forgot my fellow babies…) have been effective on the top pairing, but pretty much everyone else has been going backwards. We know what Keith Yandle can’t do, and Anton Stralman is turning odd colors in the sun at this age. Mike Matheson is certainly rich, but anything beyond that is a mystery.

The race between the Panthers and Leafs for the third spot is certainly entertaining, as both teams attempt to stake their spot without really any goaltender they can count on between them. The wildcard chase is no less dense, though you’d have to figure the Rangers will eventually sink away and the pixie dust for the Jackets has to run out sometime. That leaves the Panthers tussling with the Canes, who also don’t have a goalie at the moment (almost literally). It would be a big disappointment for the Cats to miss the playoffs, given the investments in Bobrovsky and Quenneville and their recent history. Hoffman, Dadanov, and Haula are all free agents after the season, and the first two are in line for sizable raises. So will Weegar as an RFA. This might be as good as it gets for the Cats, which isn’t good enough.

As for the Hawks, not much to report. One would think that Crawford will finish out the road trip to build off his win in Tampa, and that Subban could possibly make his debut against the softer landing of the Ducks or with the back-to-back against EdMo and Detroit next week. Shouldn’t be too many, or any, other lineup changes with Strome back at center and Koekkoek back on the third pairing. Possibly Nick Seeler back in for Carlsson or Boqvist to waster all of our time.

Note: This seems to have fallen at a place on the calendar when all of us have schedule conflicts. So there might not be Twitter or a recap for this one, though we are currently efforting that. Sorry, just one of those things. 

Hockey

Let’s let our friend @Petbugs13 start this one for us:

 

We couldn’t do it any better.

Everything Else

When the NHL schedule comes out, it won’t only be Hawks fans and media circling the date that Joel Quenneville brings the Panthers to the United Center (and if you’re NBC, you’re pushing for that game to be something you can throw on during the Sunday broadcasts later in the season. That is if you cared. Which you don’t). Apparently Joel himself will be too. And that’s fair.

Q says all the right things here about it being a special place and the fans being great to him. And that’s all true. We certainly had our issues with Quenneville’s lineup choices at times, but never his tactics (other than the power play, which it looks more and more he just didn’t value, correctly figuring if his team was good at evens and had a strong kill it really wouldn’t matter. And for the most part, he was right). Or the man himself, really. And he deserves all that’s coming to him when he returns–the video package, the ovations, the adulation. There are three coaches in Chicago history that have multiple championships in anything resembling the modern era. George Halas, Phil Jackson, and Joel Quenneville. Clearly he stands in very unique company.

Still, it’s going to be awfully awkward for the Hawks and especially their front office, especially if they don’t get off to a great start and one that’s better than the Panthers do. And the latter part is probably going to be tricky, because the Panthers already have a lot on the roster that’s been underserved or underperformed and as the rumor goes, they’re about to add The Russian Spies from Columbus. Clearly they’re all in.

Which is going to make for an awkward juxtaposition to a front office that didn’t think it needed the coach on the other bench, the highly decorated one, if the Hawks are sputtering and the Panthers are humming. And if their Coach Cool Youth Pastor continues to be a bit mealy-mouthed both in coaching and speaking. I’m kind of looking forward to it in some ways.

In others, I wish it were tomorrow to get it over with. We’ve seen how this town responds to returning legends, and that was when they were past their sell-by date. There’s going to be a lot of, “DEY NEVER SHOULDA FIRED Q DEY SHOULDA CANNED DAT BOWMAN” especially if the Panthers win that game. And maybe that’s right, though considering where things go there had to be a parting of the ways. You can argue with the Hawks’ hire, I certainly wouldn’t stop you, but the letting go of Quenneville came too late, if anything.

Another fascinating watch is watching Tallon and Quenneville work together for an extended period of time. Remember, they only really had one off-season together here, and not even all of it. That was the summer Marian Hossa came to town, Tomas Kopecky carried all of his belongings here, and there was also John Madden. The midseason acquisition that year was Sami Pahlsson, who seemed a Q player but got hurt somewhere along the line and was fine. If the Panthers go whole hog here and sign Bobrovsky and Panarin there won’t be much room for anything else, so we won’t get a true glimpse of a Tallon-Q ethos.

While Ditka got a win in Soldier Field with the Saints, marking the darkest day in Chicago sports history, his time with the Saints proved not too much more than a farce. For those of us who have known for a while that Ditka was pretty much an idiot along for the ride in ’85 and one of the main reasons that championship has no companions, his that New Orleans stay was affirmation.

Q’s duration in Florida, however long it goes, won’t be that. He’ll most likely turn the Panthers into a playoff team, though in that division you’re basically hoping for a wild card spot. If I had to guess, they won’t win a Cup. Maybe a round or two here and there. They’ll have a good run, and it’ll look like Q is a pretty good coach who can get you all the way given a world class base to build off of. I don’t think the Panthers have one. Barkov is. Ekblad seems to be a cut below Norris level, though maybe Q is the one to punt him up there just as he did Keith. I’d be surprised. Bobrovsky has it in him, but he’ll also be over 30 and recently paid. Rarely a good combination.

Still, it won’t keep everyone from reacting with heavy breathing. Might as well start preparing.

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

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Obviously, we’ll always have a soft spot for Uncle Dale around these parts. Fuck, we named the goddamn site after him, or his malfunctioning fax machine. The way he was torpedoed here in Chicago is still a mark of shame that McDonough will never answer for. And he’s still the architect of one of, if not the, most talented teams in this era of the NHL.

One wonders now how that ever happened.

Tallon has spent the past two years borking the Florida Panthers, seemingly in a quest to disprove the “Computer Boys” that ran the team for a season and a half when he was kicked upstairs. Except that involved gifting Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights for nothing, and they ended up forming two-thirds of one of the most devastating lines in hockey last year. He’s constantly bleated on and on about being tougher to play against, except the defense he’s constructed in incredibly easy to play against because they suck out loud. In true Tallon fashion, they’re all sizable. In true Tallon fashion, they can’t do much else but be big, aside from Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle, we guess.

In his time at the helm, Tallon has added Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Ekblad to the team. But they were all top-three picks, which is pretty much his legacy here in Chicago. He’s just competent enough to not fuck up a top-three pick, which really should be something just about anyone with the right amount of oxygen intake should manage. There hasn’t been much else. Vincent Trocheck is a good piece taken in later rounds, but the Panthers continue to languish. There’s been two playoff appearances in a decade, and nary a series win. Both seem to have been engineered on goaltending from either Luongo or Craig Anderson.

Remember, Tallon’s major accomplishment in Chicago was adding Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, also both top-three picks. And he got lucky that the Penguins and Blues opted for players that weren’t Toews. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Marcus Kruger were nice, late-round additions as well, but that’s just about the sum of Tallon’s drafting here. And trading for Martin Havlat and signing Marian Hossa. Let’s give him that as well.

Tallon isn’t the worst GM in the NHL. Probably not even close. But he’s also far from a genius, and give anyone a couple of top-three picks and they just might create a dynasty.

But hey, he took those players. That’s more than Stan or McDonough can claim.

 

Game #39 Preview Suite

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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.

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You can get a pretty decent illustration of just how hockey works, and doesn’t work, via the journeys of Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault.

Let’s start with Smith. Back in the day, when men were men and all that, Smith piled up 58 goals in two seasons at Miami of Ohio. That’s suggests a natural goal-scorer, because you just don’t see players pile up 30-goal seasons in college, especially when they’re not obscenely overaged.

But hey, you gotta give up someone to get someone, and Smith found himself part of the Tyler Seguin trade. Of course, the Seguin trade was just an example of how dumb GMs can be, and Peter Chiarelli is at the head of that list. Smith put up a 20-goal season in his first year in Boston, and then a further 13 the next season. Not exactly a huge season but he’d already flashed secondary scoring talent and at the time was still only 24 and entering his prime.

Coming off those two seasons, the Bruins were certainly up against the cap but after 13 goals and a restricted free agent, the Bruins weren’t going to have to break the bank to keep him. Instead, they punted him to Florida so they could bring Jimmy Hayes home, and basically bringing him home was the only appeal because Jimmy Hayes sucks.

Smith would go on to score 40 goals over two seasons in Florida. Again, you can’t just “find” guys who score 20 goals per season. They’re kind of the whole point of the operation here. And while the Panthers might have their own internal budget, Smith was considered surplus to requirements by Dale Tallon, who apparently thought this was part of his “I’M IN CHARGE AGAIN!” warpath to undo anything that might have had to do with any sort of analysis. We’ll come back to Smith.

Marchessault didn’t quite flash the same way that Smith did below the NHL. Yes, his last season in the QMJHL saw him score 40 goals, but in that league if you can stand up and avoid sneezing during a game you probably get 40 goals. He put up three 20+ goal seasons in the AHL after that, which isn’t easy but also isn’t a neon sign that he has to be called up. He came up for air for about half of a season in ’16-’17 in Tampa, scored seven goals, didn’t really have a way to crack the lineup, and was moved to Florida last season.

There he popped for 30 goals. And while it’s easy to dismiss that, as he’d never hit 30 as a professional anywhere, a 15.5% shooting percentage isn’t stratospheric. And yet, Tallon thought he was expendable, too. A guy who just put up 30 goals.

And this is where things get really funny. In last summer’s expansion draft, Tallon chose the 4F-D model for his protection list. Which left Marchessault and Smith exposed, for the cause of Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk. Which doesn’t make any goddamn sense at all. Yes, championship teams can be built from the back and the Panthers are going to need something beyond Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad. But Petrovic and Pysyk? They’re ok, maybe even “nice” players. But we all know the adjective “nice” is at best a backhanded compliment. They’re also both 25. If they were going to be anything more than they are, we’d have seen some signs of it by now.

Making it worse, the Knights took Marchessault, because cheap 30-goal scorers just don’t arrive on your doorstep, and then Tallon handed them Smith for a 4th round pick. That’s it. Maybe the Cats needed to dump salary, maybe they didn’t, but Pysyk was making just about the same.

The Florida Panthers are 19th in the league in goals per game, just so you know.

And the story doesn’t end there. Marchessault and Smith have lit it up in Vegas, combining for 25 goals and 68 points so far. Now, if this were a normal world, they’d be doing this for an expansion team that wasn’t going anywhere was was looking three or four years down the line. Both were headed into free agency after the year, Smith restricted and Marchessault into unrestricted. They would have been prized possessions at the deadline for a bunch of teams, where the Knights could have collected high draft picks/prospects that will matter when this team matters.

Except the Knights do matter now. Or at least they think they do. Thanks to whatever you want to attribute it to–insane goaltending, dumb luck in dumb overtime rules, Vegas flu–they sit near the top of the division. So perhaps they thought it would be a tough sell to their burgeoning fanbase to flog two of their three top scorers.

Instead, they extended both for $5 million a year until for the next four years in Smith’s case and the next six in Marchessault’s case. Both will have entered their 30s when their deals are up. It’s not scandalous, but it is curious.

Because if the Knights’ goaltending drops off next year, or they don’t get the overtime results, or visiting teams actually act like professionals, what are the Knights going to want with two scorers in their late 20s that they can’t move? They just eroded a lot of their value. On a normal track, by the time the Knights are really ready to contend, both will be past their primes.

But does anything work the way it’s supposed to now?

 

 

 

Game #40 Preview

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We figured not that much has changed in two weeks. 

Frank Rekas is the editor of PantherParkway.com. Follow him on Twitter @FrankRekas.

Let’s start with just what “the plan” is in Florida. They fired all the guys they hired to take the team in a more modern and analytic direction after about 12 minutes, and brought back Dale Tallon. But the team doesn’t appear to be any better and in fact there have been a couple bewildering decisions. What’s going on here?

The Florida Panthers are good at one thing: Being consistently inconsistent.  When Dale Tallon came to town in 2010 he had his “Blueprint” which was going to steer the Panthers in a winning direction.  Within two years the Panthers won the Atlantic Division and went to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.  It’s been said they they may have peaked too early, or that a lot of players had career seasons that year and it was just luck.  Regardless, that was as fun of a season as South Florida had seen in years.  But good things in South Florida don’t last forever and that season was followed by the lockout year, and then the wheels fell off in 2013-2014 and Kevin Dineen was fired because, why not?  It must have been his fault.  It was a roster that was put together with duct tape and staples.  Nothing went right other than re-acquiring Roberto Luongo at the trade deadline.  With new ownership in place, changes were going to be made and they were, starting with a new head coach Gerard Gallant.  The team improved by 25 points in Gallants’ first season behind the bench, followed by another division championship and playoff birth in 2015-2016. THAT’S when the demolition began.  The executives lead by what some of us call the Army Math Team and Pentagon Trading LLC decided that even though the team had it’s best season ever, they needed to make changes cause of analytics.  I’m personally not a fan of Corsi and Fenwick, but I do know that it’s a part of hockey.  They don’t measure however things like character, hockey sense and leadership.  After that season, the Panthers traded fan favorite and an up and coming leader in defenceman Erik Gudbranson.  This pissed off Gallant to no end, but he dealt with it. Until he was fired.  Replaced by then General Manager Tom Rowe, who is about as qualified for either of those positions as any one of us is.  We could likely have done better.  The 2016-2017 season was a dumpster fire.  Now to the present, where Dale Tallon is back in as the General Manager left to fix the mess that Rowe left behind.  The Tom Rowe experience in my mind has set the organization back at least two to three years.  The defense is young and inexperienced, except for Keith Yandle who doesn’t play much defense.  If you can stop the top line from scoring, you pretty much have the game won, and they aren’t tough to play against.  Beyond all this, things are great.  We’ve been told to be patient, which I responded with this,
On the plus side, Vincent Trocheck is over a point-per-game and on his way to a career year. Any difference in his game for this or riding the percentages a bit?
Trocheck is one of those special players.  He’s not big by NHL standards, but he plays like he is.  Never takes a shift off and is probably the real heart and soul of the team.  As one of my favorite former NHL coaches would have said, he’s gone through the “maturation process” and he’s producing like he should.  He’s on pace for a career year at a point per game clip so far, and if he had any decent wingers to play with, who knows how much he’d produce.  But he needs help.  This pace that he’s on can’t last with the linemates that he’s been given.  Hopefully that changes cause Vinny is a good kid that deserves better.  It’s been fun watching him progress and develop into the player he is today.  He has a very bright future, but will that future be here?
We tend to separate NHL coaches and GMs on a binary scale, either Idiot or Not An Idiot and that’s it. What is Bob Boughner?  
Well I’m not fond of his attire, something I joke about on Twitter and have offered to take him shopping.  That being said, it’s 21 games into the season, and he doesn’t really have much to work with.  While it’s too early to say he’s one or the other, he’s made some questionable moves for sure, and insists on keeping Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad together as the number one defensive pair.  Do you remember when the Hawks had Doug Smolek and Brad Brown on defense?  Dirk Graham was the coach for the Hawks that year and we know what happened to him. For a coach that played defense during his career, Boughner hasn’t been much of an influence.  He needs a better roster, and there are a few players that need to look in the mirror.  Otherwise Boughner is trying to get blood out of a rock.  There are some nights he looks like he’s in over his head.  Learning on the job isn’t fun, especially in South Florida.
Jared McCann has some pretty impressive underlying numbers so far. Did the Cats steal this kid from the Canucks?
I think it’s too early to tell on this one.  Last season he clearly wasn’t ready, and this year, up until his recent injury he looked much better.  He’s been back for a couple games, but he’s also suffering from a mixed bag of linemates.  To be honest, I’d like to reverse the trade.  Gudbranson brings more to the table, despite his poor analytics, than McCann.  The Panthers need Gudbranson’s heart, soul, and toughness.  Let’s see a full season of McCann before we pass judgement on his value.
What’s it going to take for the Panthers not to just spasm a playoff berth every so often, but to be a consistent playoff team to build a platform to something more?
They need to stop with all the changes and decide on a direction, other than a consistent swirl down a drain, only to come up for air once every few seasons.  It’s hard to attract players and coaches to an organization when there’s so much change and a history of turmoil.  Yes, it’s sunny South Florida where there’s no state income tax, but honestly, why do you think so many over 35 year old free agents like it here?  No media attention, South Beach, perfect weather during the season, and a great place to retire. Which some players have done while still under contract.  But there’s no pressure to win.  Mediocrity and complacency are being touted as patience.  With the deal the team has with the arena, they aren’t going anywhere, yet with attendance down again, and the team unable to string together three consecutive wins, it’s depressing.  The owners haven’t been afraid to spend money, that’s not the issue.  It’s how they’ve spent it that’s the concern.  That unfortunately is a much longer discussion. The other issue is that the cupboard is thin.  No one in the minors appears to be ready to step in and contribute.  After having been touted as having a plentiful minor league system just a few seasons ago, there’s nothing.  The fan base deserves and wants more.  Patience is thin.  What’s it going to take?  It’s going to take an attitude that losing isn’t acceptable for starters.  Players will need to be held accountable no matter how much money they’re making.  And it’s going to take a change in culture.  The team has no chemistry and it shows.  They were on the way to respectability just two seasons ago.  But ownership apparently isn’t aware of one of the most common phrases:  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Unfortunately they thought things needed to be fixed and they were wrong.

 

Everything Else

Frank Rekas is the editor of PantherParkway.com. Follow him on Twitter @FrankRekas.

Let’s start with just what “the plan” is in Florida. They fired all the guys they hired to take the team in a more modern and analytic direction after about 12 minutes, and brought back Dale Tallon. But the team doesn’t appear to be any better and in fact there have been a couple bewildering decisions. What’s going on here?

The Florida Panthers are good at one thing: Being consistently inconsistent.  When Dale Tallon came to town in 2010 he had his “Blueprint” which was going to steer the Panthers in a winning direction.  Within two years the Panthers won the Atlantic Division and went to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.  It’s been said they they may have peaked too early, or that a lot of players had career seasons that year and it was just luck.  Regardless, that was as fun of a season as South Florida had seen in years.  But good things in South Florida don’t last forever and that season was followed by the lockout year, and then the wheels fell off in 2013-2014 and Kevin Dineen was fired because, why not?  It must have been his fault.  It was a roster that was put together with duct tape and staples.  Nothing went right other than re-acquiring Roberto Luongo at the trade deadline.  With new ownership in place, changes were going to be made and they were, starting with a new head coach Gerard Gallant.  The team improved by 25 points in Gallants’ first season behind the bench, followed by another division championship and playoff birth in 2015-2016. THAT’S when the demolition began.  The executives lead by what some of us call the Army Math Team and Pentagon Trading LLC decided that even though the team had it’s best season ever, they needed to make changes cause of analytics.  I’m personally not a fan of Corsi and Fenwick, but I do know that it’s a part of hockey.  They don’t measure however things like character, hockey sense and leadership.  After that season, the Panthers traded fan favorite and an up and coming leader in defenceman Erik Gudbranson.  This pissed off Gallant to no end, but he dealt with it. Until he was fired.  Replaced by then General Manager Tom Rowe, who is about as qualified for either of those positions as any one of us is.  We could likely have done better.  The 2016-2017 season was a dumpster fire.  Now to the present, where Dale Tallon is back in as the General Manager left to fix the mess that Rowe left behind.  The Tom Rowe experience in my mind has set the organization back at least two to three years.  The defense is young and inexperienced, except for Keith Yandle who doesn’t play much defense.  If you can stop the top line from scoring, you pretty much have the game won, and they aren’t tough to play against.  Beyond all this, things are great.  We’ve been told to be patient, which I responded with this,
On the plus side, Vincent Trocheck is over a point-per-game and on his way to a career year. Any difference in his game for this or riding the percentages a bit?
Trocheck is one of those special players.  He’s not big by NHL standards, but he plays like he is.  Never takes a shift off and is probably the real heart and soul of the team.  As one of my favorite former NHL coaches would have said, he’s gone through the “maturation process” and he’s producing like he should.  He’s on pace for a career year at a point per game clip so far, and if he had any decent wingers to play with, who knows how much he’d produce.  But he needs help.  This pace that he’s on can’t last with the linemates that he’s been given.  Hopefully that changes cause Vinny is a good kid that deserves better.  It’s been fun watching him progress and develop into the player he is today.  He has a very bright future, but will that future be here?
We tend to separate NHL coaches and GMs on a binary scale, either Idiot or Not An Idiot and that’s it. What is Bob Boughner?  
Well I’m not fond of his attire, something I joke about on Twitter and have offered to take him shopping.  That being said, it’s 21 games into the season, and he doesn’t really have much to work with.  While it’s too early to say he’s one or the other, he’s made some questionable moves for sure, and insists on keeping Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad together as the number one defensive pair.  Do you remember when the Hawks had Doug Smolek and Brad Brown on defense?  Dirk Graham was the coach for the Hawks that year and we know what happened to him. For a coach that played defense during his career, Boughner hasn’t been much of an influence.  He needs a better roster, and there are a few players that need to look in the mirror.  Otherwise Boughner is trying to get blood out of a rock.  There are some nights he looks like he’s in over his head.  Learning on the job isn’t fun, especially in South Florida.
Jared McCann has some pretty impressive underlying numbers so far. Did the Cats steal this kid from the Canucks?
I think it’s too early to tell on this one.  Last season he clearly wasn’t ready, and this year, up until his recent injury he looked much better.  He’s been back for a couple games, but he’s also suffering from a mixed bag of linemates.  To be honest, I’d like to reverse the trade.  Gudbranson brings more to the table, despite his poor analytics, than McCann.  The Panthers need Gudbranson’s heart, soul, and toughness.  Let’s see a full season of McCann before we pass judgement on his value.
What’s it going to take for the Panthers not to just spasm a playoff berth every so often, but to be a consistent playoff team to build a platform to something more?
They need to stop with all the changes and decide on a direction, other than a consistent swirl down a drain, only to come up for air once every few seasons.  It’s hard to attract players and coaches to an organization when there’s so much change and a history of turmoil.  Yes, it’s sunny South Florida where there’s no state income tax, but honestly, why do you think so many over 35 year old free agents like it here?  No media attention, South Beach, perfect weather during the season, and a great place to retire. Which some players have done while still under contract.  But there’s no pressure to win.  Mediocrity and complacency are being touted as patience.  With the deal the team has with the arena, they aren’t going anywhere, yet with attendance down again, and the team unable to string together three consecutive wins, it’s depressing.  The owners haven’t been afraid to spend money, that’s not the issue.  It’s how they’ve spent it that’s the concern.  That unfortunately is a much longer discussion. The other issue is that the cupboard is thin.  No one in the minors appears to be ready to step in and contribute.  After having been touted as having a plentiful minor league system just a few seasons ago, there’s nothing.  The fan base deserves and wants more.  Patience is thin.  What’s it going to take?  It’s going to take an attitude that losing isn’t acceptable for starters.  Players will need to be held accountable no matter how much money they’re making.  And it’s going to take a change in culture.  The team has no chemistry and it shows.  They were on the way to respectability just two seasons ago.  But ownership apparently isn’t aware of one of the most common phrases:  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Unfortunately they thought things needed to be fixed and they were wrong.