Who is the most frustrating Florida Panther?

1 Comment

olesz.jpgEvery now and then, Pro Hockey Talk will ask for insight from some of the best team bloggers out there. For this feature, we asked a simple question: “Who is your team’s most frustrating player?” Just for fun, I decided to throw my guess in the hat, too.

First, here is my guess for Florida.

Everyone? No, that’s not fair. Keith Ballard? Also, not fair. Instead, I’ll choose Stephen Weiss. To me, the guy represents the Panthers’ potential-over-production movement now that Jay Bouwmeester is gone and Nathan Horton is actually proving himself. Weiss was supposed to be better than a 60-point player. Wasn’t he?

For Florida’s perspective, I nabbed the great Donny Rivette  from The Litter Box (or is it Litter Box Cats? I never know.). His blog is the go-to source for all things Panthers.

Players who frustrate? In Florida? As Zelda Rubenstein’s character opined at a pivotal moment in Poltergeist: “This house has many hearts”.

As is the case with all clubs, the Panthers are not immune to carrying underwhelming or oversold assets who consistently leave fans with bald spots bloodied from chronic head-scratching. For every Dmitry Kulikov there is evidently a limitless supply of Anthony Stewarts, Branislav Mezeis, and Martin Lojeks. To name but a few.

Today’s variation of the team sports a few who’ve approached career bests (Weiss), others who undoubtedly would have if not for long-term injuries (Booth, Horton), youngsters taking that crucial next step (Garrison, Matthias), along with the expected setbacks (Stillman losing a step, Frolik’s sophomore slump).

Brushing aside the Cats’ annual struggles, ask any Panthers fan which player frustrates them above all others and you’ll get an immediate, instant answer: left winger Rostislav Olesz.

Jump for more on the oddly named frustration.

First, the disclaimer: There is no debating Rusty’s talent; his speed and agility are among the best on the club. He’s got heart, appears to work diligently, and no one’s got a better goal celebration. And he’s simply a nice guy. Unfortunately, none of those admittedly positive attributes have been enough to cover his deficiencies.

A 2004 first round (7th overall) pick by Florida, Olesz has redefined “enigma”, even for this franchise. Injuries have forced him to miss 101 games over his first five seasons. Point totals feature jagged peaks and valleys: 21, 30, 26, 9, 27. He’ll likely top his career-best 30 points, but by no means place money on it. One assist over his past 24 games (through March 28th) is warning enough. The entire league has the book on him in the shootout: he’s firing low from the backhand. Tends to lack adrenaline as the game wears on. Doesn’t use his body enough along the boards (though this has improved slightly in recent months). Gets beaten to the puck too often, regardless of his speed. Other than a four-game point streak in mid-December (1g), there hasn’t been much at all to cheer about. Imagine Radek Dvorak – another Florida product and similar to Olesz in many categories – minus the consistency and “go-to guy” status.

It’s one of those deals where Rusty gets the puck and you instinctively know something will go wrong. Miss the check. Break the stick. Run out of space. Or worse.

All those missed games obviously contributed to a somewhat stunted development, but he’s now passed the 300-game mark (March 29th), and that excuse no longer carries significant weight. He’s grown up in this organization, but he hasn’t broken out. Like so many former first-rounders the Panthers short-sightedly lost patience with, it would be a crime to see Olesz dealt and blossom elsewhere. He’s got the goods to do it here, but when? That’s the frustration among fans.

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
1 Comment

Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.

Flyers waive MacDonald, he of the $30M contract

Andrew MacDonald

In April of ’14, the Flyers signed d-man Andrew MacDonald to a six-year, $30 million extension.

Less than 18 months later, they’re placing him on waivers.

Philly GM Ron Hextall confirmed the move Monday morning, announcing that MacDonald would hit the wire at Noon ET. The decision comes with MacDonald still having five years and nearly $26 million left on his contract.

It’s a tough situation for both MacDonald and the club.

The Flyers acquired the 29-year-old from the Isles at the ’14 trade deadline and, at the time, MacDonald was one of the NHL’s biggest bargains, carrying just a $550,000 cap hit.

Philly thought it’d found a diamond in the rough, even though underlying possession metrics — and pundits that specialize in them — suggested otherwise. After watching MacDonald play just 19 regular-season and seven playoff games, then-GM Paul Holmgren made a big splash to retain his services.

From there, things went badly.

McDonald had a rough ’14-15 campaign, sitting as a healthy scratch on a number of occasions. Following the year, he expressed his dismay with how things went.

“It was disappointing,” MacDonald said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Obviously, it’s not nearly the way I envisioned things going and I was pretty disappointed in myself and my own play, and just felt like things kind of snowballed throughout the year and really just didn’t work out.”

As for the future, it seems highly, highly unlikely MacDonald will be claimed on waivers. Should he clear, Philly will have the option to send him to the AHL, and receive $950,000 in salary cap relief.

That would, however, still leave the team with roughly $4 million of dead money.