The Florida Panthers finished off a 4 game road trip Saturday losing to the Washington Capitals 5-0, however the Panthers managed to collect 5 of a possibly 8 points on the road. On Friday the Panthers traded defenseman Keaton Ellerby to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a 5th round pick previously acquired from the New Jersey Devils. Panthers fans shared mixed emotions on the trade, some (myself included) were happy to have traded Ellerby and to gain assets in return, such as draft picks where we are lacking this coming draft. Others were upset of the deal, stating that he’s young and still has big potential.
However looking at his play recently, you can see that Ellerby had become expendable, with the improved play of Tyson Strachan and Erik Gudbranson returning from injury. The trade came down to team needs in the end for both sides as L.A. was already without two of it’s defenseman due to injuries.
On Tuesday Florida would have a rematch with the Washington Capitals, scoring 5 goals to break it’s offensive slump. Only to lose the lead and eventually the game in overtime dropping back to back games to the Capitals. Rookie Drew Shore who has been playing great hockey for the Panthers finally capitalized, scoring his first career NHL goal and assisting on another, and rookie Jonathan Huberdeau continued to add to his point totals collecting his 4th and 5th goals of the season. The line of Shore, Huberdeau and new Panther Peter Mueller has easily been Florida’s top line this season and is pacing the team with 10g 9a and being a combined +4.
Prior to Tuesdays game Florida President Michael Yormark and General Manager Dale Tallon held a “Town Hall Meeting” with season ticket holders to discuss upcoming Panthers news. Florida has one of the oldest scoreboards in the NHL and Yormark stated how it’s one of his top priorities to acquire a new one in the offseason. However reminded everyone that it will be costly ($4 million) and that because of this SOME ticket prices will be raised for season seat holders. Before I had a chance to ask the question I was dying to get out, time had ran out and I wasn’t given the chance. However I’d like to point out that last off-season Yormark requested a $7.7 million loan from the county to fund “Club Red” an upscale (high priced) section with all inclusive food and beverage, for the “low” cost of $25,000 per season. Why is it that he can go to the county for funds for issues such as this, but not for something that would greatly improve the arena as a whole? Also during the playoffs last season the club began charging for parking once again ($20 per game) however the ticket prices will still go up to fund a new scoreboard while these funds vanish into someones pocket.
Overall in my opinion the “State of the Union” is not good, and a lot must be done to improve things or Florida may very well find itself where Washington or Pittsburgh once were. Despite having a very good crop of young players in it’s system unlike the two teams mentioned above, the fan base is definitely lacking and one way to ensure fans won’t show is to raise prices prior to getting them “hooked”. At the meeting Dale Tallon also mentioned the prospects in our system and how well they are doing, including the play of highly touted netminder Jacob Markstrom in San Antonio of the AHL, stating they hope to get him some ice time this season. After Tuesdays loss after giving up the lead fans took to social media crying for Markstrom to be recalled immediately as we are in desperate need of goaltending help. Granted Florida’s problems aren’t just with goaltending, when the defense seems to collapse the goaltenders need to be able to cover the mistakes occasionally, which has not been happening.
Overall, look for something to happen in Florida soon if things don’t improve over the next couple of games. Who knows, maybe Stephen Weiss is on his way out sooner than fans had hoped for, but apparently Ryan O’Reilly of Colorado is now available and it’s rumored that Florida is interested.