Welcome to our offseason initiative — 30 teams in 30 days.
From July 16 until Aug. 14, we’ll be dedicating each day to a new team by recapping the offseason and looking ahead to 2012-13.
There will also be a series of posts looking at key stories, player profiles and burning questions regarding each squad.
Today, we move on to the Florida Panthers.
Last season was a breakthrough season for what has long been the NHL’s most hapless franchise (or at least one of them). After more than a decade of early summers, the Panthers finally made the playoffs – and won the Southeast Division too. Sure, they got booted in the first round by the New Jersey Devils, but it was still a huge step in the right direction for GM Dale Tallon and first-year coach Kevin Dineen.
Unless you feel especially strongly about Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson, the Panthers’ roster is largely unchanged (all apologies to Filip Kuba and Peter Mueller) – for now. Much like the New York Rangers with Rick Nash, Florida’s outlook could change significantly if they bring back Roberto Luongo.
Will the Panthers prove that last season was a stepping stone, not a fluke? Stick around PHT today for more on that.
Among stats nerds, Braden Holtby’s small sample size of success* has made him something of a punchline. The Washington Capitals must hope that he can regain that spirit, however, as Michal Neuvirth went down writhing in pain during tonight’s big game against the Washington Capitals.
Then again, there might actually be a nice indirect effect to Neuvirth’s potential leg injury, which came when former Cap Marco Sturm fell awkwardly around his knee. (Obligatory joke: Sturm isn’t content to simply hurt himself anymore.)
Alex Ovechkin scored a 2-0 goal shortly after Neuvirth was injured, and while this could just be a coincidence, I got the feeling that Washington saw its goalie go down and decide to nix the “sit on a two-goal lead” plan. (And just as I was about to publish this post, Brooks Laich made it 3-0.)
The Capitals have been guilty of trying to get by with flimsy leads an awful lot lately, although they’ve managed to squeeze out some shootout wins in all but an ugly loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
There’s still plenty of time for Washington and Florida to swap fates – if you are a committed follower of the NHL’s stretch run races, you know that weird things can happen – but there might be at least a short-term shot in the arm advantage to this injury.
Still, the longer-term worry is undeniable: the Capitals might just be down to their third goalie as the playoffs approach if Neuvirth’s issue ends up being serious. (Many believe Tomas Vokoun’s Capitals days are already over.)
* – Some Caps fans based a tiny body of work last season as proof that Semyon Varlamov was the team’s third best goalie at the time. Cute.
In a vacuum, the trade that sent Mike Ribeiro from the Montreal Canadiens to the Dallas Stars was one of the most lopsided in recent years. Context might change that up in the same way that revisionists might view the Joe Thornton trade,* but either way it was a rather one-sided deal.
Ribeiro hasn’t exactly let bygones be bygones since that Sept. 30, 2006 deal, as you can see from the way he celebrated both his goal and being named the first star of the Stars’ 3-0 win over the Habs.
Check out his reaction to the tap-in tally:
Then bask in the glow of his first star celebration, which wasn’t exactly … humble.
So Ribeiro got his revenge. Still, when you talk about the talented-but-polarizing center’s time in Montreal, Canadiens fans have the ultimate video trump card. Check out his embellishment of a penalty during a 2004 playoff series with the Boston Bruins, which is basically the textbook definition of unsportsmanlike conduct:
Never change, Mike Ribeiro. Never change.
* – If you ask some Boston Bruins fans and some others, they’ll say that trading Jumbo Joe allowed them to move onto the Marc Savard/Zdeno Chara era. You have to get kind of abstract when Marco Sturm’s so-so Bruins days were about the best that came from that swap for Boston, after all …
The Florida Panthers have a slim lead over the Washington Capitals for the Southeast Division lead – and the place in the East’s top eight that comes with it. They’re doing so with solid backup Scott Clemmensen, but the Panthers would prefer to have at least one of Jacob Markstrom and Jose Theodore in the fold as well.
The Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov reports that both goalies are making solid progress with their knee injuries. In fact, Theodore might even have a chance to start against the Capitals in tomorrow’s important game.
Fialkov believes that Clemmensen’s more likely to play on Tuesday, but the Panthers must be pleased that their effective No. 1 goalie and his talented understudy are getting healthier.
(Oh, and in it-hardly-seems-like news, Marco Sturm’s parade of injuries continues with minor knee surgery.)
After all the rumors and the reports, John Madden is officially a Florida Panther.
Madden signed a one-year deal with the Panthers to finish up the rest of the season with the team and give them another veteran presence up the middle. Madden will slot into the lineup thanks to a host of injuries in Florida. With guys like Scottie Upshall, Marcel Goc, Sean Bergenheim, Jack Skille, and Marco Sturm all banged up and slow to get back to action, Madden gives them another guy they can put at center to give them some help defensively.
The 38 year-old Madden also joins a host of former Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks in south Florida. Skille, Tomas Kopecky, Kris Versteeg, and Brian Campbell were all part of that 2010 team with Madden. They’ll be looking to bring some of that magic to the Panthers who sit atop the Southeast Division and are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Of course, if the Panthers start playing “Chelsea Dagger” after goals, we’re going to need to have an intervention for GM Dale Tallon.