A few thoughts before the Panthers' 2011-12 season-opener

UNIONDALE NY - FEBRUARY 21: David Booth #10 of the Florida Panthers is checked by Radek Maretinek #24 of the New York Islanders during the second period of an NHL hockey game at the Nassau Coliseum on February 21 2011 in Uniondale New York. Islanders won 5-1. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

Finding it hard to settle in for the night.

Less than 24 hours from now we will have seen the essentially expansion-minded Florida Panthers skate off Nassau Coliseum ice; at this point the eventual score is irrelevant...all we ask is a roster which gives everything plus the kitchen sink. It's not too demanding for a fan of this club to ask, right?

We know the team - as it stands - undoubtedly features a number of current participants who will be playing elsewhere within the next two or three campaigns, paving the way for others deemed more integral (my word) to the future success of the organization as prescribed by The Blueprint. Conversely, quite a few likely will be present for that day when those forever-hovering dark clouds finally part, giving way to a plethora of gorgeous photo ops with a certain trophy on the beaches of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. Scratch that...put Lauderdale first, as it should be.

Enough with what may come years down the road. Far more so than twelve months ago, I'm seriously, ridiculously pumped for the season that awaits, come hell or high water (and there may be a bundle of both). A mother lode of talent and character (where have we heard that word before?) has been injected into the system, via free agency but more importantly through the draft.

That is what the club's success truly hinges on down the road; will Dale Tallon and Scott Luce's picks progress to the point of becoming NHL regulars or NHL fringers? Given the sheer quantity of what's been roundly regarded as multiple high quality selections - all specializing in a variety of roles beyond their stated on-ice positions - over the past two entry drafts, it's difficult to root against Florida's chances, as long as the plan is adhered to. And there's no reason to believe it won't be, as ownership ( the local kind) stands behind their most recent management hire. And they will.

Hard as fans may have tried to convince themselves otherwise, no one was ever fully convinced Jacques Martin or Mike Keenan was committed to building anything more than another bridge to the free golf available at the general mangers meetings in Palm Beach and Naples. Tallon - based at least upon his performance in 17 months of service with the franchise - has far larger targets in mind. As tough as times may get this year, as impossible as The Blueprint might appear to achieve after a loss to the Winnipeg Jets or Edmonton Oilers, as long as it might take to get this bunch to "gel", stand fast. The kids are blooming, the last remnants of a long-established country club culture is witnessing its last sorry days, and a genuine element of snarl will soon become the calling card for this organization.

Did I hear correctly that Melatonin works wonders?

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