Florida Panthers' Losing Streak Neither a Coincidence Nor Unfair

Robert YoungContributor IDecember 11, 2009

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 7: Bryan McCabe #24 ends up on top of Goaltender Tomas Vokoun #29 of the Florida Panthers after being tripped in front of the net in the game against the Edmonton Oilers on December 7, 2009 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Oilers defeated the Panthers 3-2 in a shoot out (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

After a miserable start to the season, the Cats turned their season around with a marvelous winning spell in mid-November, but now—once again—the wheels are coming off. The Panthers are looking decidedly tame at the moment, winning only one game in the last 10.

Yes, you can blame injuries to key players such as David Booth and Cory Stillman, but that excuse is starting to fall on deaf ears. All teams in the NHL are seeing their roster decimated by untimely injuries; Florida is merely one in a line of clubs feeling that pain.

The players called up from the AHL have done reasonably well, injecting some much needed energy and enthusiasm to the team. However, these players have not been able to contribute offensively to any great extent, only managing a handful of goals overall.

And of the regulars and veterans, very few have made any significant contributions offensively either. Only three forwards have any noteworthy numbers: Stephen Weiss (24 points), Nathan Horton (25), and Steven Reinprecht (23).

And of the defenders, only captain Bryan McCabe (15 points), Dennis Seidenberg (12), and rookie Dmitry Kulikov (12) have done well and contributed to any substantial degree. Tomas Vokoun in goal, meanwhile, has played very well and done what he can for the team.

It’s just not enough.

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Looking at the stats, it’s easy to see why the Florida Panthers are in a funk and unable to win themselves a game in regulation.

In goals per game, the Cats are ranked at No. 25 in the league, scoring an average of 2.48 G/G. At the same time, Florida is No. 27 when it comes to goals against per game with an average of 3.26.

When it comes to five-on-five for/against goals ratio, the Panthers are tied for 28th in the league with 0.75. Only Carolina is worse.

So, the power play and penalty kill must be the saving grace, right?

Not so...

The Cats are 27th in the league with a power play percentage of 15.2 and are 29th on the penalty kill with 76.4 percent.

To continue this glum list of failures, we need look no further than to shots allowed per game; Florida gives up an average of 35.1 shots, which, as you would expect, puts the Cats at the very bottom of the pile at No. 30. Our 28.6 shots on goals rank us in a slightly better at 26th place.

Do I really need to prolong this miserable recount?

Well, maybe just one more to really hammer home my point: The Cats are dead last in the league when it comes to finishing off games when leading after two periods: They are .500 when entering the third with a lead.

Seriously, it is hard to understand what the h*ll coach Pete DeBoer is talking about when he says that, “We're playing the right way, we're doing things the right way, we're not getting rewarded for it right now.”

Really? This is the right way to play?

I disagree. I think the Panthers are being rewarded amply the way they deserve to be rewarded. The results reflect fairly where the Cats are right now.

Sure, if the games had been 58 minutes rather than 60, we would probably be in a playoff spot right now. But since when is it not a crucial part of the game of hockey to see out matches without conceding in those last two minutes?

To do so, a team needs to have determination, grit, and the mental wherewithal to make the right plays at the right time. The Cats clearly don’t have these characteristics and are paying dearly for it—as they should.

This is no fluke, Pete.

I understand that you cannot give up and must try to be optimistic, especially when communicating to your players—even when there is precious little to be cheerful about. But, from a fan's perspective, it is hard to have confidence in a coach that is clearly delusional or lying through his teeth.

I like DeBoer, as I believe most Florida fans do, but I don’t like it when he won’t own up to reality. Don’t give us this B.S. and expect us to swallow it with a grin.

We have had enough of false hope from Florida management over the years. We are quite frankly stuffed—and fed up—with the cattle fescues we’ve been served, thank you.

Just be honest about it: “We’re not better than this at the moment.” That’s all we want!

Of course, a team that knows how to win wouldn’t be bad either. If we take a moment to wistfully wish upon a star...

It is obvious that this franchise desperately needs to reevaluate its philosophy, and hopefully the new owners can help in this respect.

However, don’t expect any miracles short term. There is only so much the new owners can do at this point in time, unless of course they can get down on the ice and show our current crop of forwards where the goal is.

The real work that they can do is to steer the franchise forward long-term.

The current mess has been handed down from the previous owner, whose name we shall utter here no more, and the Viner & Siegel combo should not be held responsible for it—although they are the ones that must, somehow, find a way out of this current prolonged state of hockey funk.

Perhaps the best thing now, if the Cats continue to struggle after Christmas, is to scratch this campaign and look to the trade deadline and draft instead. Certainly this is something that management must consider and plan for.

There comes a point where we must be realistic and say that maybe this team just isn’t better than the statistics clearly indicate. Take responsibility and then set in motion a far-reaching program of rebuilding, with a clear philosophy at the heart of the process of how to achieve long-term success.

We have tried that tactic before and failed, even if it was haphazard at best, but I see precious few other options available.

With the salary cap effectively making trades near impossible these days and big free agent signings not forthcoming, the draft is all that realistically remains.

This season is not over yet, however, and the Cats are a mere few points out of the playoff picture. But, unless a miracle happens, it is unlikely the Panthers will be able to turn this season around.

The stats plainly show that this team lacks substantially when it comes to cutting edge quality—at both ends of the rink.

After losing the first game 3-0 on the current four game road trip to Columbus on Wednesday, the Cats face an even trickier couple of games, as they are set to play New Jersey tonight, Pittsburgh tomorrow, and the NY Islanders on Monday.

Florida then faces Atlanta on Wednesday on home ice, after having lost both previous games to the Thrashers this season, and having gone 1-6 against Southeastern rivals overall. This could very well mean that the Panthers are effectively out of the playoff race by this time next week.

And perhaps being well behind the chasing pack of the East could turn out to be a blessing in disguise—as the franchise could firmly look to the future—rather than try to lure fans to games with false hope and dingy words of optimism whilst clinging to the sinking wreckage that is this team.


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