Everything Else

I suppose, and hope, one day that Roberto Luongo will become something of a case-study, if not a union martyr, of a player who becomes demonized simply because he accepted a contract that was offered to him. How evil.

Luongo retired today, and there will be some in Vancouver angry at him for not doing the LTIR limbo to save them from the cap-recapture penalty. Which is just the dumbest rule in hockey, if not sports, but then the dumbest rule in sports probably should exist in hockey. It’s definitely something the players’ union should come after in the next CBA negotiations, but probably won’t after their satisfied that they’ll get to go play in an Olympics no one will watch from Beijing and everyone will forget happened like three weeks after. It is their ball of yarn.

And it would be easy to just say, “Well the Canucks are at fault for offering him that,” (and fun, too) but they did it under a different CBA and all they were doing was locking down a team linchpin at the time. It’s a long time ago now, but Luongo signed that deal before the 2009-2010 season, when he was coming off a .920 season with the Canucks and was only 30 years old.

Luongo is lucky in some ways that that contract won’t be the only thing talked about as far as his legacy. He’s unlucky in that anything else that comes with it probably won’t shine all that bright.

It’s hard to discuss Luongo without discussing the playoff flameouts. There’s no way to coat the seven surrendered in Game 6 in ’09, or the 16 he gave up in the three games in Vancouver in ’10, or the .738 SV% in Boston in ’11. These are the facts of the case. But unlike anyone else on that team, Bob never really hid from it, and never tried to lower how much it hurt him that he didn’t come up big in the team’s biggest moments. And he could have used any of the Sedins no disappearing when it mattered, or the Canucks not having an actual top pairing d-man at any time. or Kesler’s body falling apart. You couldn’t find any of those guys when the questions came. Thing 1 or 2, or Kesler, or Bieksa, or Edler all were never heard from in a postgame dressing room. But Bob was always in front of a microphone.

It was that upfront, honest nature that eventually turned most’s opinion on him. A clear sense of humor on social media certainly didn’t hurt. It was bullshit that in the midst of the Vancouver meltdown, he had to tell the press his contract “sucked.” It didn’t suck. He earned that. And his departure from the city and team that no longer wanted him and where he didn’t enjoy playing was delayed merely because he’d played well enough to earn that deal before.

Perhaps there will be no bigger example of a player who was only viewed on his contract than Luongo. He’ll retire with the 10th best all-time SV%, which means he walks with giants. He’ll probably end up being a Hall of Famer, but in reality he should be in the Hall Of Very Good. Never won a Vezina, won only a Jennings, though did finish 2nd in the Hart Trophy once. He’s got a couple gold medals, one as a starter, so that’s something (though I would argue he wasn’t terribly great in 2010 but having a defense consisting of five eventual Norris winners certainly helps).

Perhaps now that contract won’t come into any discussion of Luongo’s career. Those playoff performances will, and that’s fair. Though I’d like to point out he’ll retire with a better playoff SV% than Pekka Rinne, yet nothing ever seems to be Rinne’s fault when it goes balls-up for the Preds. But ha, nothing ever bad happens in Nashville and everyone there is just so wonderful and perfect, don’t you know?

He certainly provided us with more than enough material. He was always an entertaining watch in whatever capacity. And that sort of honesty and personality should be something every player feels free to show but never does. The NHL will miss him, though I doubt it’ll realize it.

Everything Else

It’s rare that a two-time Vezina winner hits the open market. And there’s still a chance that Sergei Bobrovsky won’t, given that he could be dealt to a team and then signed immediately (like…oh we don’t know…Florida?). We can’t remember it ever happening. Generally, if you have a Vezina-winning goalie, you build around him. Yet there also hasn’t been a player with that awards-cabinet and this spotty of a record.

What we mean is that no position in sports, other than your star player in the NBA possibly, is judged harder than goalies and their work in the playoffs. You can rack up your Vezinas and regular season wins, but goalies will always be judged most by whether or not they backstopped a winner. Some of that is perception that goalies are still solely responsible for a team’s advancement in the spring, and also in recent years Braden Holtby and Matt Murray have come pretty close to doing that (strangely no one ever mentions Corey Crawford like this, even though his ’15 run was better than Holtby’s last year and the first of Murray’s, and Murray’s glittering ’17 playoff was only 11 games due to injury).

Well, Sergei Bobrovsky sucks in the playoffs. Yeah, we said it, and he does. Bob has had four cracks at the postseason as a starter, totaling 23 games. He’s got five wins. His save-percentage is .891. His goals-against is 3.49. The last two have come behind what are good Blue Jackets blue lines, and one that got him a Vezina. So he can’t have won the Vezina by himself and then throw his teammates under the bus when it doesn’t work when it really counts.

What’s funny is that this is exactly why Roberto Luongo will probably never be judged fairly, and yet his career SV% in the playoffs is a more than respectable .918. He’s even won a series, which Bob can’t claim. And yet Bob is most likely going to replace Luongo in South Florida. Which is just about perfect, because the Panthers never get to the playoffs anyway, and when they do they don’t win. What a perfect match.

The Panthers, or someone, will hand Bob the eight years he seems intent on. At 30, he’s got a few more prime years left. But rare is the goalie who already has an established track record of turning into cold piss in the playoffs who then comes good. Marc-Andre Fleury already had a Cup before he reversed a rough few years with Pittsburgh and then Vegas. Holtby was already a proven playoff performer.

Good luck, Uncle Dale. We think we know where this is headed, but the crash is always fun viewing.

 

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 vs. 
Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: WGN Ch. 9, ESPN+, WGN-AM 720
Taking Their Talents To South Beach: Litter Box Cats

It took damn near til Christmas and halfway through the season, but the Hawks are riding their first three game winning streak of the season, and have an legitimate opportunity to extend that to four tonight at home against the equally struggling Florida Panthers.

Everything Else

He won’t start tonight, so Hawks fans may not get another glimpse of Roberto Luongo. This also may be the final time he steps inside the United Center, which will be something of a relief for him. He’ll also take some of our best memories with him.

Luongo has battled injury problems this year, and he’s already 39. When he has been in the lineup, he hasn’t been terribly good, barely clinging onto a .900 SV%. He hasn’t been helped by a Panthers blue line that would be the equivalent of button-mashing, but .900 is .900.

The confusing part for Luongo and the Panthers of course, is that he’s coming off a superb year. He was .929 last year. So did the injury take that much of a toll? Has he aged in just a few months? Does it happen that quickly? No one’s going to have the answers.

There are contract considerations. Luongo has one of those extra-special cap-circumventing deals. His hit is $5.3M, but his actual salary is only $3.8M. That drops to $1.6M next year, and $1M the following two seasons. $3.6M is a lot of money to you and me, but is it when you’ve already banked $60M of a $64M contract? We don’t think Bob is going to come up with a skin problem like some others who had similar contracts, but…

The Panthers won’t mind much if Luongo heads for the hills. The recapture penalties are mostly going to hit the Canucks, who signed him to that deal. So they won’t be pressuring him either way.

What Luongo will be taking with him, should he retire after the season, is one of the more remarkable goaltending careers in NHL history. He’s already put up two of the best seasons a goalie over 35 has. He’s had nine seasons over .920, which not even  Dominik Hasek managed.

Sadly, Luongo won’t end his career with much hardware. He never did win a Vezina. He famously never did get that Cup, and a Jennings Trophy is all he’ll have. Those playoff meltdowns are going to mark whatever he does, be they the surrender in Game 6 in ’09 to Patrick Kane or the series-long dissection by the Hawks in ’10 or the Game 7 spit up in ’11 when the Canucks were on the precipice. Luongo will retire with career .918 SV% in the playoffs, which is hardly embarrassing, but is anyone going to remember that? Life in sports is rarely fair.

He’ll also go as one of the biggest Hawks foils from their golden era. It was the Canucks own craziness that churned Luongo’s brain, and the ovation welcoming him into Game 6 in ’11 when Cory Schneider got hurt, after Luongo had been pulled as starter, is one of the louder ones in United Center history. It was as if he tried to escape and couldn’t. He thought the demons were excised in Game 7, but were they really?

His battles with Kane and Dustin Byfuglien will live in Hawks history forever. Those series against the Hawks and the ’11 Final poisoned the water for him in B.C. for pretty much ever, which led to his trade to Florida. Strange that the Canucks haven’t won a playoff series since.

Luongo probably deserved better. One wonders if anyone will ever recognize it.

 

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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.

 

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  vs.

RECORDS: Panthers 8-9-3   Hawks 8-10-5

PUCK DROP: 6:00 p.m. Central

TV: NBCSCH

Lift and Sift: Panther Parkway, Litter Box Cats

If all you ever read were press releases and interviews with front offices in denial, tonight’s tilt between the Panthers and Hawks would be as must-see as a hockey game at six o’clock on the Saturday after Thanksgiving could possibly be. We’ve gone over the tipped-over porta-potty that is John McDonough’s “remodel, not rebuild” philosophy for the Hawks, and the Panthers seem to find themselves in a similar mind-set for different reasons.

Since that 103-point campaign and first-round playoff loss in 2015–16, the Cats have missed the playoffs twice, though last year was by the skin of their ass. Yet, you can’t help but wonder what this Panthers team would look like if they hadn’t gone Biff Tannen and replaced their analytically minded front office with HOCKEY MEN. This year has been even worse than expected for the Panthers, and after a 2-4 road trip, they return home to host the Hawks much worse for wear.

In the crease, the Panthers made the superb decision to entrust 39-year-old Roberto Luongo with the bulk of the starting responsibilities. Bobby Lu has been hurt a lot more than not, but even when he’s been healthy, he’s been wildly inconsistent. In his first four games back from his opening-night knee injury, Luongo posted a sparkling .951 SV%. He then followed that up with a .826 over the next four, good for a .902 overall. Not great, Bob.

And he hurt himself again last night, leaving James Reimer in charge of the crease. James Reimer is not someone you want in charge of the crease if you have playoff aspirations. While his .920 at evens is good, Reimer has gotten hosed on the PK to the tune of .791. The Panthers have given up the sixth-most goals on the PK despite playing the least amount of PK time in the league this year.

On the forward lines, there’s some on-paper potential for the Panthers that can never seem to get over the hump. After brain genius Dale Tallon cut Jonathan Marchessault loose for literally nothing last year, he had to go out and find himself a new scorer in Mike Hoffman. Despite the high school drama that brought him to Florida, Hoffman has been the Panthers’s most consistent offensive weapon, with 20 points on the year (10 G, 10 A) through 20 games and a recently ended 17-game point streak. He, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov round out a formidable top line despite their lack of possession as a unit (48+ CF% together).

After that top line, things start to get dicey. The Panthers lost the well-rounded Vincent Trocheck earlier in the week after his ankle took the road less traveled. Trocheck did a bit of everything for the Cats and played consistently on both the PP and PK in his 18 games. That leaves you with a second line of Nick Bjugstad, the talented Jonathan Huberdeau, and, fuck, Denis Malgin? Frank Vatrano? Any of these names doing anything for you?

After that is a veritable who’s-who of what ifs, maybes, and retreads. Jared McCann has a ton of two-way potential, but tends to defer. He might end up tossed onto the second line to fill in for Trocheck at some point. Troy Brouwer plays on this team. The fourth line includes the name-generated Dryden Hunt and Colton Sceviour, who are both fine and perfectly suited where they are, but don’t really provide the much-needed scoring Florida lacks beyond the top line.

The Cats’s blue line hinges on Aaron Ekblad, who turns the ice at a 53+ CF% despite a 47+% oZ start rate. He’s done it primarily next to Mike Matheson, who after a slow and plodding start to the first year of his eight-year, $39 million contract has turned up his offensive contributions, with five points in his last five games (all assists). Still, Keith Yandle takes the mantle as the Cats’s most offensive D-man, with 19 points over 20 games. After that, you’ve got Alex Petrovic—who is definitely “a guy,”—fucking Bogdan Kiselevich, something called Mark Pysyk, and young MacKenzie Weegar, who looks exactly how you’d imagine a guy named “MacKenzie Weegar” would. That’s a whole lot of #6 D-men spread across that blue line.

For the Men of Four Feathers, Colliton ought to consider kicking his Marlboro 72 habit before New Year’s, because Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have looked like dogshit together. Though there’s not much to work with on the blue line—remember when Brandon Manning was StanBo’s BIG DEFENSIVE SIGNING?—the one thing that seemed to work best was Keith–Jokiharju. Keith might not want to play mentor, but too fucking bad. Henri Jokiharju the best thing they have, so Colliton needs to put the kibosh on his “We’re sitting him for his development” bit and let him breathe. Erik Gustafsson’s spurs have been jingling and jangling far too often, Gustav Forsling still looks lost in this own zone, and Jan Rutta blows. So fuck, I don’t know, 2–28, 56–7, 42–44? Somehow, it looks even worse when you write it down.

You probably won’t see too many changes up front, though we probably should. Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane sounds nice, but the chorus we’ve been singing is “If they aren’t dominating, split them up,” and after last night, it would be hard to describe them as dominant. We’re still waiting to see 12–8–88 at some point, and what better time than tonight? The FortinKampfKahun line is at least fast, but you’re tempted to see Anisimov centering it and just having Fortin and Kahun aim for him instead of the net. Suckbag Johnson, Chris Kunitz, Andreas Martinsen, or John Hayden will round it out on the fourth line because someone has to.

You figure Cam Ward gets the nod tonight after Corey Crawford chose to finish out last night’s game rather than sit after the first.

With the Blackhawks in the denial stage and the Panthers teetering toward anger, this game will be a case study in grief. With Reimer in net and Trocheck out, the Panthers look eminently beatable if the Hawks can shut down their top line.

Let’s go Hawks.

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Frank Rekas has been our Cats guy for as long as we can remember (which admittedly is only a few days). You can follow him @FrankRekas. 

The Panthers started out the season rough, but seem to have turned it around. What was the problem earlier?  

In typical Florida Panther tradition, the season started slowly. As it always does. Last year took the Florida Panthers approximately 30 games to figure things out under a new coach, with a new system.  The second half finish was tremendous and most thought that it would just naturally continue into this season. Knowing that another slow start couldn’t happen, they did just that.  First of all, no one could have predicted the freak leg injury to the ageless wonder, goaltender Roberto Luongo that occurred in the season opener. We all know a team plays differently depending on who’s in net, and the Panthers are no stranger to that. The play of James Reimer and Michael Hutchinson was below average to poor depending on the night. The inability to make a key save, or steal a game was missing. While there weren’t many games that the Panthers were blown out of, one of the goaltenders needed to find a way to make that “key” stop. Additionally, playing a full 60 minutes was also a trouble spot. Specifically the Panthers had issues with the second period.  For whatever reason the middle frame saw them become lethargic, mistake prone, and defensively erratic. Taking poor penalties at inopportune times  and defensive mistakes led to the downfall of games during the middle frame. It’s kind of funny in a way that it took a 39 year old goaltender to return from injury to get things back on track.
Evgenii Dadanov and his extraneous I might be the quietest player to be averaging over a point per game. How good is he?  
In his second tour of duty with the Panthers after playing in the KHL for 5 years, Dadonov has come back more rejuvenated, and skilled and fun to watch than anyone could have imagined. He was a huge question mark when Dale Tallon signed him prior to last season as a free agent. But as Tallon often does, this signing earned Dale a gold star. “Daddy,” as Panther faithful often refer to him as, has been nothing short of brilliant.  He’s not afraid to shoot, plays with energy and passion, and scores goals that count at the right time.  He’s been one of the Panthers most consistent players in the past two seasons, and is averaging almost a point per game so far this year. 22 of his 28 goals last season came 5×5, and 7 of 9 have been scored that way this season. He finds the right areas to be in, and never seems to take a shift off.  His consistency is a breathe of fresh air. No reason he can’t keep that pace up playing with Aleksander Barkov and Mike Hoffman.
First impressions of Mike Hoffman? 
My first impressions of Mike Hoffman when he was playing for Ottawa were, if the Panthers (or Hawks for that matter) ever had a chance to get him, they should as he caught my eye a while ago. That being said in another “kidnapping” by Tallon, Hoffman arrived with a background as a player that has skill, a dandy wrister, and a goal scorers mentality. So far, he has not disappointed. He loves to shoot, and on this team that’s a great sign because there are a few players who aren’t as “selfish”.  He got off to a bit of a slow start, and at one point saw himself on the 4th line. But that’s old news now, and as I prepare this on Tuesday night, Hoffman has put together a 1- game point streak. Not at all surprising for a guy that’s known as a goal scorer. He’s displayed a nasty shot on a few occasions, and that’s what this team has needed for years. When the puck touches his stick it has a pretty good chance of getting on net, and possibly going in. He’s going to be huge part of the success of the Panthers, and now that he’s on the top line, his numbers could become even better.
 Nick Bjugstad seemed to have something of a breakout year last year. Is he a full-time winger now?

Now that center Vincent Trochek has had an unfortunate leg injury, it would have appeared that Nick Bjugstad would have gone back to centering the second line. Surprise as that’s not the case at least in the game against Tampa on Tuesday night as “Big Nick” as some like to call him was on the wing with Jared McCann getting promoted to take Trochek’s place. Center is Nick’s natural position and he’s performed rather well there in the past, especially during the 2014-2015 season. But a back injury and concussion derailed his progress. Until last season, when the Bob Boughner line blender was looking for the right combination, found that putting Nick on the wing with Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov seemed to be the perfect recipe. Bjugstad produced his best season to date playing the wing, and was extremely effective in his role. There are some questions though that seem to linger. Does he have a higher gear? Can he or why doesn’t he use his big body more? He has a good shot, but it’s not accurate at times.  Why?  The subject of trade rumors during the past two offseasons, Nick is a player that he Panthers believe in, and are hoping that he reaches his potential. One of the most likable players on the team, Bjugstad is talented, and is someone that everyone roots for.  It’s up to him now, as he is being given a chance to prove how good he can be.  And with Trochek out for an extended period of time, Nick is on the list of players that bigger things will be expected from.

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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.

 

Everything Else

He won’t play tonight, which will deprive both Roberto Luongo and the United Center faithful another night together. Which we both know they love so much. And it could have possibly been Bob’s last appearance in Chicago. Yes, he’s signed for four more seasons after this one. Yes, before going down with a serious injury Luongo was once again excellent, and doesn’t appear to be in need of the big blue curtain. But still, Luongo will turn 39 in April, and you can’t help but ask just how much longer he wants to play. Especially if the Panthers continue to be in the “making up the numbers” category.

And it’ll still sound strange to some, but Luongo will go down as one of the greatest goalies of all-time. And it’s the longevity of his career that’s truly astounding.

Because of how the position has changed as time has gone one, it’s nearly impossible to judge goalies across eras. Luongo is has the 9th best career save-percentage of all-time, but everyone around him is a contemporary. Except for the career leader, which is Dominik Hasek. And Hasek is really the only one who played to Luongo’s age and beyond and maintained an above-average SV%. Hasek had a .925 in 43 games for Ottawa the first year out of the lockout before getting hurt in the Olympics at the age of 41. At 37 Hasek had a .915 for the ’02 champion Red Wings, still above the league average of .908.

And that’s about all there is compare Luongo to. The other one is Henrik Lundqvist. Career-wise, you can’t split them. Luongo’s career SV% is .9192. Hank’s is .9196. Luongo is three years older, but has maintained a higher level the past three years. The worry in New York is that Hank is already on the donkey end of his battle with Father Time, and he’s only 35. Hank hasn’t had the same workload as Luongo either.

You run out of comparisons after that. The only other one you can think of is Martin Brodeur. Brodeur fell off the truck and had it back over his head at the age of 38. His SV% went from .916 to .903 and never got above .908 again, four points below the league average then. You can debate Martin Brodeur all day, but his SV%s never got above .920, something Bobby Lu has done eight times. In reality, there’s just no way to argue that Brodeur was better than Luongo. Roberto just never got to play behind a Lamoriello-inspired Devils defense. Or really, Scott Niedermayer.

Sure, Tim Thomas bested Luongo in 2011 when he was 36, but he never came close to that again and wasn’t even a starter in the league until 32. He just doesn’t have the longevity. Maybe a higher peak, but the mountain isn’t as big.

Luongo is clearly a first-ballot of Hall of Famer, and yet he’ll never live down that 2011 Final when he couldn’t stop a shot in Boston. But it wasn’t Luongo who froze on the first line in the spotlight, and he didn’t cause Ryan Kesler’s hips to fall off.

What will also argue against Luongo is that he hasn’t been on a team to win a playoff round since that 2011 Final. No position is judged harsher on playoff success/failure than a goalie, because goalies can win Cups, or at least a series or two, by themselves. Luongo has a .934 in the Panthers’ last appearance in the playoffs, but they still lost to the Islanders in six games. He never managed above a .915 in a playoff run before that.

And obviously, the meltdowns have been so spectacular. It wasn’t just that he lost. It was the seven goals in ’09 to the Hawks. It was the touchdown surrendered in every home game to the same Hawks in ’10. The capitulation in three games in Boston. No one’s going to forget that.

It sucks that the Panthers appear to be a basketcase organization and won’t get Luongo one more chance to at least set a record straight. He’s not going to get that Cup, but goalies who perform like this around the age of 40 just don’t come around much. And maybe Luongo’s injury shows you why.

Game #31 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

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Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Wade County: Litter Box Cats

As if Florida in and of itself isn’t fucking weird enough, this is the first year in nearly anyone’s memory that the Hawks are out east over the Thanksgiving weekend thanks to the long overdue demise of the animal rights violation spectacle that was the Ringling Brothers circus. So it’s a little odd that the Hawks are in Sunrise tonight to take on the Panthers (who are also weird) rather than catching the ass end of a back to back in LA after a Friday afternoon in Orange County, but again, Florida is inherently weird to begin with.