Untitled Document
CMHL Award Winners

Untitled Document
Today's Games - 5
- 2
- 4
- 2
- 5
- 2
- 6
- 4

Untitled Document

Player Search

(Advanced Search)
30 Teams in 30 Days (Almost) - Florida Panthers Written by habsfan93 - October 2nd, 2009

Over the course of 30 days or so, yours truly is going to take a look at each team in the league, examine their off-season moves, assess the biggest issue facing the team, highlight a player or two to watch for, and finally give an outlook on the season.

Next up, the Florida Panthers.

Florida Panthers
Season 5: 33-39-7-3 (12th East, 4th Southeast)
GM: chriscmb (3rd Season)

Currently Projected Season 6 Roster:
(Incoming Player in Bold, Rookies in Italics)

Morrow - Malkin - Cheechoo
Paille - Spezza - Shanahan
Richardson - Filpulla - Willsie
Arnason - A. Stewart - Parros

Bouwmeester - Redden
Yandle - Kubina
Jones - O'Byrne


What They Did In The Off-Season:

Season 5 was a big step back for the Florida Panthers, as they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. There doesn't seem to be any particular reason for the falling out - just a case of a team not finding its chemistry on the ice. There is no question that Florida has some talented pieces in the lineup, but with nothing working on the ice, most of those pieces had career worst seasons. So the goal this summer for Panthers GM chriscmb had to be to evaluate what went wrong and figure out how to fix it.

Of course, the one advantage to not making the playoffs is the boost that you get in the draft as a result. The Panthers possessed 4 first-round picks, including #2 overall, as well as an additional very early 2nd rounder. As a result, they managed to nab highly touted defenceman Victor Hedman, as well as Louie Leblanc, Scott Glennie, Nick Leddy and Anders Nilsson. Prospect depth is something that the Panthers have always excelled at, and this year's draft only adds to that group, which includes last year's #10 pick, Josh Bailey.

With the draft behind him, GM chriscmb set about making some changes to the existing roster, first shipping out defenceman Mike Komisarek to the Habs for center Jason Spezza, who is coming off a disappointing year after his breakout 93 point campaign in Season 4. Spezza provides the Panthers with some additional depth at center and combines with Evgeni Malkin to form quite possibly the best 1-2 punch in the league at center.

In order to replace the loss of Komisarek, the Panthers then dealt Mikhail Grabovsky to the Sharks for up-and-coming youngster Keith Yandle, who is expected to be given a real chance to prove his worth in the CMHL. Yandle has had offensive success at the minor league level, and its believed he could turn into a 30-40 point guy on the blueline. Grabovsky was rumoured to have issues with fellow teammates the Kostsitsyn's, and the last thing Florida needs right now is infighting as they try to find team chemistry. Feeling the weight of the salary cap, and wanting to be a player in the free agent market, the club offloaded winger Todd Bertuzzi to the Dallas Stars for a pair of prospects and a late pick. This opened up some room for the Panthers to go after 1 or 2 key players who could fill a gap on the team.

But first, chriscmb had to take care of his own players, most notably, defenceman Jay Bouwmeester. J-Bo has put up 3 consecutive 35+ point seasons for Florida, and with the departure of Komisarek, knew that he could be the undisputed leader on the back end for this team. After a lengthy negotiation, the two parties settled on a 3-year deal, just shy of $4,000,000, a mark that would set a precedent for several other defenceman in free agency this summer. With J-Bo locked in, the Panthers targeted two key weaknesses in Unrestricted Free Agency - the lack of a quality backup or tandem goalie to go with the underwhelming Rick Dipietro, and the lack of a veteran forward responsible at both ends of the ice to be a mainstay on the 3rd line. The Panthers made serious bids on players who could fill both roles, Jose Theodore and Brendan Shanahan, thinking that likely only one would sign. But boy, were they ever surprised when both players decided they liked the beach and agreed to the contract offers. The cap space that had been freed up by the Bertuzzi deal was swallowed and then some, leaving the Panthers with a serious salary issue.

In order to solve this, the Panthers bought out Jose Theodore, putting him back on  the Free Agent market, where he will surely be snapped up by a team looking for a goalie in a pinch. Quite the payday for Theodore this year! The club also decided to free up some space by dealing star forward Rick Nash to the Minnesota Wild who were desperate for a franchise player. Nash was coming off a career worst season, limiting his trade value, but while the Panthers didn't get any spectacular players in return, they addressed some major depth needs by picking up Dan Paille, Brad Richardson and Matt Jones. Paille and Richardson are 40 point players who could realize 60-80 points with some good ice time, and Jones will help alleviate the weakened defence corps. The club then continued to address a gap at defence by dealing the Kostitsyn brothers to the Canucks for defenceman Pavel Kubina. Kubina is a former CMHL offensive star, and he'll get plenty of opportunity to both mentor young Yandle and play major minutes.

Biggest Issue Facing the Team:

Goaltending. Rick Dipietro is coming off a horrendous year, in which he went 18-28-3 with a 3.04 GAA. Those are not numbers that inspire confidence, yet Florida is entrusting their year to him in nets as they chose to release Theodore over Shanahan. If Dipietro can't rebound back to the level of his career numbers (.500 record with a sub 2.8 GAA), it could be a long season in Florida. Marek Schwarz is a young untested backup, who may or may not be ready for 30-35 games a year. However, if GM chriscmb is committed to moving down a semi or full rebuilding path, it might be to his advantage to give Schwarz as much playing time as he can handle to further his development.

Player To Watch:

Evgeni Malkin - With all the potential in the world, it is widely believe that Malkin has underperformed in the CMHL in his first five seasons. Yes, he has 285 career points in 396 career games, not too shabby. But many believe Malkin has the potential to be a 100+ point player. Unfortunately, the loss of Rick Nash takes away a major playing partner for Malkin. Brad Richardson and Jonathan Cheechoo are decent scorers but not at Nash's level. With Nash, a 100 point season would not have been unreasonable for Malkin - without him, it will be interesting to see what kind of offence Malkin can generate, in this a contract year.

Season 6 Outlook:

Unless the Panthers make some major changes throughout the season, they will likely miss the playoffs for a second straight year. GM chriscmb appears to be embracing the new CMHL, and the opportunity for change. He has some very talented pieces on the team (Malkin, Spezza, Bouwmeester). The foundation is there to build around, and this could be a very quick turnaround rebuild for the Panthers, but this season will likely be one of building and growth for Florida.

Submit A Comment -

CMHL © 2004-2013
Logos designed by and used with permission of Icethetics
This site is best viewed at resolutions of 1024x768 or bigger, and has been designed for best use in Mozilla Firefox.