Kris Versteeg and the Florida Panthers might not be the best-kept secret in the NHL much longer.
Versteeg’s hat trick (plus an assist) gives him a resounding 17 points on the season while his new team just vaulted over the Washington Capitals for the top spot in the Southeast Division.*
That’s a pretty stunning development since: 1) Versteeg has been traded four times in his career and three times since June 30, 2010 and 2) the Panthers took this division lead on Nov. 10, 2011. (Sure, anytime between 2013 and 2015 sounds about right, but now?)
The Dallas Stars and their rookie head coach Glen Gulutzan are getting a lot of press for their hot start – and rightfully so – but what bout the job that Kevin Dineen is doing? Going into the season, it seemed like he had a misshapen roster with a glorified backup as his starting goalie, yet it’s all falling into place so far.
There are plenty of reasons why the Panthers could falter. The Washington Capitals won’t just fade away, Florida will face the second heaviest travel schedule in the NHL and they might just run out of magic. Even so, you’d have to be a true cynic not to tip your cap to Dineen, Versteeg, Dale Tallon and the rest of the Panthers for what they’re accomplishing right now.
* – The Panthers have eight wins and 19 points in 15 games while the Capitals have nine wins and 18 points in 13 GP, so it might not last long … but still.