The Florida Panthers Need to Face Up to Reality

Robert YoungContributor IOctober 27, 2009

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 10: Stephen Weiss #9 and David Booth #10 of the Florida Panthers are checked into the boards behind the net by Paul Martin #7  of the New Jersey Devils on October 10, 2009 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The fans already have. The players: not so much.

They have not faced up to the reality that surrounds this club and what it takes to be successful here.

The more religiously inclined might call it a miracle, but the answer is much more down to earth than that…

The Florida Panthers need to suck it up.

Two devastating injuries in the last game to the Flyers need to be addressed. And at this point in time no one knows when Radek Dvorak and David Booth will be back, so we must do it without them.

“They’re going to be missed,” said coach Peter DeBoer of Booth and Dvorak on the Panthers’ official website. “They drive a lot of our offense and forecheck. It’s not something you replace easily, but we don’t have a lot of choice.”

No they don’t. All teams suffer devastating injuries and must find a way to get around the issue. The Panthers are no different and can’t use this as an excuse.

Indeed, it does seem as if the Florida players have been angling for excuses so far into the season. There has always been some ‘reasons’ behind the poor play: the tough preseason, trip to Finland, too many days off, exceptional opponents, yada yada yada.

Add these recent injuries to the equation and the Panthers could have enough excuses to slip behind Toronto in the table and still be able to look themselves in the mirror.

But there are no excuses.

The day the players accept this and start taking some responsibility on the ice; that’s when results will start to improve. Not before.

The main problem with the Cats this season is consistency. Hell, that’s been the problem for almost ten years now!

And it’s the lack of consistency and the myriad of excuses that trickle down from staff, players, and management; that inevitably leads to the dissatisfaction of the fanbase and its subsequent slow disintegration over the years.

Coach Peter DeBoer is right when he says that “we’re battling (to try and find) our identity as a team. […] We’re one of those teams that don’t have a big margin of error.”

The Panthers desperately need to find that new identity instead of clinging to the old one: an identity of having only one consistency—constant underachievement and a host of false hope coming from the occasional flash of inspired performances.

That is one characteristic this club would do well to shed and leave behind.

Perhaps the shakeup caused by these injuries is not the worst thing that could happen to Florida. A couple of energetic and speedy youngsters in the form of Michal Repik and Kenndal McArdle could help change a seemingly acerbic locker room spirit.

Whilst Booth and Dvorak are two wholehearted performers that always give their best for the club and thus will be missed, I nevertheless like the idea of blooding a couple of youngsters that still have everything to prove at this level.

They’ll be sure to bring some enthusiasm to the team and are as of yet untainted by the past underperformances of this club.

On the contrary; having started the season in Rochester of the AHL, Repik and McArdle would have seen firsthand how a club can rise from the ashes of its former self.

The Amerks had a dreadful last campaign and finished dead last in their Division. This time around, with a few astute veteran signings added to the roster, the team is 8-1-1 and top of the pile.

One would have wished the Panthers could have done something similar this year—or any other year since the summer of 2000 (last playoff appearance).

If this season starts slipping away, to any further extent than it already has, the Panthers need to be bold and start relying more on the young prospects and perhaps trade away some of the veterans that aren’t contributing.

The season is not over yet however and the game tomorrow against the Senators must become a statement game for the current Florida troops. 2-6-1 is a horrendous start to the campaign, and yet, quite well deserved.

The players have nothing to blame but their own effort, or the rather, the apparent lack thereof.

Suck it up and start playing as a collective unit; it’s the only way this club is ever going to overcome its problems. When certain individuals start realizing this wisdom—that’s when things can start changing for the better, not before.

It’s obviously also possible that the players simply aren’t any better than what they’re currently showing and are thus giving it their best. In that case it is job of the newly appointed General Manager, Randy Sexton, to spring into action and change things around.