48 – The number of games the Florida Panthers will play in a lockout shortened campaign.
99 – The length, in days, of the 2013 National Hockey League season.
Those two numbers combined leaves little to no room for error, especially when the Panthers are on a mission to prove that last year’s SouthEast Division Championship win, the first in team history, was not a fluke. Every game from opening night on will be important, and every single point will matter. Florida must find ways to win, more importantly, they must do so consistently if they want another shot at the playoffs.
Before breaking down the forward, defensive, and goaltending positions of the Panthers roster let’s look back at who departed and arrived during a lockout lengthened off-season.
Krystofer Barch – RW
Jason Garrison – D
Bracken Kearns – C
Jonathan Matsumoto – C
Mikael Samuelsson – RW
Sean Sullivan – D
Bill Thomas – RW
Wojtek Wolski – LW
Two names stick out on this list, Jason Garrison and Mikael Samuelsson. There is no doubt that these two will be missed, especially on the powerplay. It will be up to the new comers, such as Filip Kuba, to fill the holes left by Garrison and Samuelsson.
Andre Deveaux – C
Jean-Francois Jacques – LW
Alex Kovalev – RW
Filip Kuba – D
Peter Mueller – C
George Parros – RW
Casey Wellman – C
The Panthers had two major issues last season, one of them being toughness. Erik Gudbranson tried to defend his teammates when needed but GM Dale Tallon and head coach Kevin Dineen probably did not like seeing their top defensive prospect put himself in danger on a nightly bases. The addition of George Parros will take the pressure off of Gudbranson and the other players not known as “tough guys” this year. Parros will also be a great protector for the rookies that earn roster spots, such as Johnathan Huberdeau.
Two other names on the arrivals list that deserve attention are Alex Kovalev and Peter Mueller. Both forwards, along with Johnathan Huberdeau, will make up Florida’s second line. Putting these three skilled players together could pay off big time for the Panthers and should take some of the offensive pressure off of their top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss, and Kris Versteeg. Also, Kovalev should be a good mentor for Huberdeau, even if it is only for the 2013 campaign.
Florida Panthers 2013 Opening Night Roster
* Indicates players on IR.
#9 Stephen Weiss “A” – C
#11 Johnathan Huberdeau – C/LW
#12 Jack Skille – RW
#13 Mike Santorelli – C
#14 Tomas Fleischmann – LW
#18 Shawn Matthias – C
#19 Scottie Upshall- LW
#20 Sean Bergenheim – LW *
#22 George Parros – RW
#25 Jerred Smithson – RW
#27 Alex Kovalev – RW
#32 Kris Versteeg – RW
#57 Marcel Goc – C *
#82 Tomas Kopecky – RW
#88 Peter Mueller – C
The weakest link from last season was clearly the offensive production from Florida’s forwards. In the span of an 82 game season the Cats lost 18 games in overtime and had a -24 goal differential. If the Panthers would have been able to score one extra goal during some of those 18 OT/SO losses they would have had more wins, a better differential, and they probably would have ran away with the SouthEast Division weeks before having to beat Carolina on the last night of the regular season to clinch. Thankfully Florida was able to do so, which means none of that really matters now, but that may not be the same case this season. The Panthers will need more offensive production from their forwards, especially the new comers and those who did not meet expectations last year. Isn’t that right Scottie Upshall and Mike Santorelli? Florida also needs to hope that their top line of Fleischmann, Weiss, and Versteeg produces as well as they did last season.
#4 Keaton Ellerby – D
#7 Dmitry Kulikov – D
#17 Filip Kuba – D
#23 Tyson Strachan – D
#43 Mike Weaver – D
#44 Erik Gudbranson – D *
#51 Brian Campbell “A” – D
#55 Ed Jovanovski “C” – D
Defense on most nights during the 2011-2012 season was not an issue for the Florida Panthers. Head coach Kevin Dineen put a system in place that worked well almost every game, making Florida’s defensive play their biggest strength last year. Florida also enjoyed some offensive production from their D group as they registered 151 points from the blue line in 2011-2012. The good news is that almost all of those point producing defensemen have returned. The bad news? Their biggest powerplay threat, Jason Garrison, left for Vancouver during the off-season. It will be up to the returning blueliners, as well as Filip Kuba, to fill the void left by Garrison on the PP. This would be a perfect time for youngster Dmitry Kulikov to finally have a big breakout year and establish himself as a true top 4 defenseman.
#30 Scott Clemmensen – G
#60 Jose Theodore – G
What is there to say that has not already been said about Florida’s goaltending last season? Jose Theodore exceeded expectations and proved to everyone that he still possesses the skills to be a starter in the National Hockey League while Scott Clemmensen did an admirable job as backup. These two goaltenders can clearly keep pucks out of the net until Jacob Markstrom is ready to take his rightful place between the pipes, which should be in the very near future.
Player to Watch: Johnathan Huberdeau
Does it really surprise anyone that Huberdeau is our player to watch this year? Florida’s top offensive prospect will finally make his debut in South Florida this season. The rookie will have to prove that he is ready for NHL hockey right from the start since he will lose a year off of his contract if he is not returned to his junior team after just six games instead of the usual ten. Thank the lockout shortened season for that rule. Hopefully being on a line with three-time National Hockey League all-star Alex Kovalev and highly skilled forward Peter Mueller will jump start Huberdeau’s offensive production as soon as possible.
This shortened season is a tough one to predict for any team, including the Florida Panthers. Personally I think a 48 game schedule will help the Cats, especially considering the fact that during the second half of last season they looked burned out and struggled to produce offense on a nightly bases. With that said, I see Florida having another successful year but I do not see them winning the SouthEast Division in 2013. The Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals have all made significant improvements, and the Winnipeg Jets will be just as competitive as before. Who do I think will win the SE? That will be revealed in a different article later today. Even though I do not think the Panthers will win their division I do believe they will make the playoffs again, but it will take a complete team effort, just like last season.
We hope that everyone enjoyed our 2013 Florida Panthers preview. Thankfully, the time for talk, and all of the guessing games, ends tonight when Florida plays host to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. Good luck to all 30 National Hockey League teams, and most importantly, let’s go Panthers.
We are back for day two of our top 10 moments of the 2011-2012 season countdown. Before revealing the #9 most memorable moment on our list we would like to point out the we have added a new section on the homepage to the right of this article (over there —>) containing all of the items from this top 10 list. This new feature will be updated daily after each reveal, granting our visitors easy access to all of the memorable moments in one place. With that important announcement out of the way it is time to show our readers what we picked for #9 on our list.
#9 – Tallon fills out roster and giant table with new players (July 8th, 2011)
When Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon cleaned house during the 2011 trade deadline everyone knew that he would have to spend a lot of money during the free agency period to even reach the league’s salary floor. Tallon did not disappoint, signing seven players on July 1st, including Jose Theodore, Thomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim, and Ed Jovanovski. Florida’s General Manager also acquired the likes of Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, and Tomas Kopecky leading up to the first day of free agency.
After finalizing all of the off-season transactions it was time for the organization to introduce their newly acquired team. What transpired on the day of the press conference was truly entertaining, especially when seeing most of the new faces sitting at one of the biggest tables ever used during an introduction related media event. We say “most of the new faces” because some of the players were unable to attend the event for personal reasons.
Be sure to watch the video below and click through all of the links for full coverage of moment #9. We will be back tomorrow to reveal #8 on our countdown of the top 10 moments of the 2011-2012 season.
Hopefully last night’s win didn’t cause everyone to forget about the opening night W against the Lightning at the BankAtlantic Center. If it did we completely understand and will help our fellow Panthers fans remember by providing a slideshow of images from that night. Most of these shots were conducted during warm-ups before Florida donned their new jerseys. Either way these are some great shots taken by Sunshine State Hockey’s own Ana Lopez.
It seems that Sunshine State Hockey might be a little late to this prediction party. Is that going to stop us from sharing our opinions on how we think the Panthers will do during the 2011-2012 NHL season? Of course not. Each member of the SSH writing team was asked to submit their take on how Florida will fare this year after all of the major off-season changes. Read below to see what Ana, Rob, and I had to say about the Cats and their upcoming season.
In my opinion, the Panthers will come in 3rd in the Southeast division and 8th or 9th overall in the Eastern Conference when all is said and done. If Florida misses the playoffs it will be only by 2-4 points. My reasoning for this? I think we have a solid team core now, but a big gray area for me is how the goaltending will turn out to be with Clemmensen and Theodore in net. I wasn’t really impressed by their performances during the pre-season and I am hoping that they were just a little rusty from the off-season.
The Panthers picked up a lot of new faces this off-season and one of the main concerns was how long it would take for them to gel. Over the past few pre-season games it seems we’ve gotten our answer as we see teammates sticking up, fighting, and all around just caring for each other. Will this be enough to put Florida back into the postseason? probably not, and I say that because there’s still far too many questions left to be answered. Will Jose Theodore step up and be the number one goalie he was in the past or will he show signs from a darker time in his career? Will Jovanovski step up and be the workhorse on the back end he’s been known for his entire career or will he be riddled with injuries like in the past two seasons? The forwards look better on paper and have more depth than they have in a very long time, but can that transition from the paper to the ice this season?
Only time will tell, and as far as a prediction for the season at this current time I’m going to have to say that Florida will definitely be improved from the past few seasons, but they won’t be making the playoffs. I hope they surprise me and prove me wrong because I would be one of the happiest fans if they made it, but until then I’d see them finishing around 85 points this season, putting the Cats around 10th in the Eastern Conference.
By now everyone in the hockey community knows what General Manager Dale Tallon did to the Florida Panthers this off-season. All of the new faces brought in means two things for this team, improvement and question marks. There is no doubt that this is the most talented team that Florida has put on the ice in the last decade, but with all the new faces comes a lot of questions, many of which were covered by Rob in his prediction.
The biggest question mark for me at this time is the goalie situation. It’s been ten years since Jose Theodore was one of the best starting goalies in the National Hockey League, so it comes as no surprise to hear that a lot of people are nervous about Florida’s goaltending. Scott Clemmensen is going to have to step up after he returns from the IR because the only way Florida survives this year with a chance to make the playoffs is if both netminders split time between the pipes.
As far as my prediction goes I believe the Panthers do have a chance at making the playoffs. I don’t see Florida being any higher than 8th place this season, so they will have to battle all year long to make it. There is no doubt in my mind though that this year will be just the beginning of good hockey returning to south Florida.