Sometimes bad seasons for a team can overshadow impressive seasons for individual players. In baseball you hear players remark that they’d rather win the game then hit a home run, and for a team that is measured by a string of playoff-less summers, surely every member of the Florida Panthers would rather trade individual points for a trip to the post-season. For most of the season, playoffs were a long shot, but a few players did put up some career highs in several categories.
David Booth: Following a disastrous season limited to 28 games by two concussions, David set a surprising milestone that should give some relief to fans; Booth played in all 82 games for the first time in his career. Of all players suiting up with the big clubs this year, only 10% would play the full 82 games, and for a Panthers team that lost approximately 300 man-games to injury, Booth’s comeback from last season is a remarkable feat. Booth also set a career high in shots taken (280) to lead the Panthers.
Joe Callahan: Callahan was given his first real chance in the NHL, setting career highs in games played (27) penalty minutes (12) and shots (21). Callahan played an interesting role this season, often unnoticed as the 6th defenseman, but ended his season (most of which came during the horrendous post-deadline stretch) with a -1 +/-
Ryan Carter: Late joining the team after rehabbing a neck injury, Carter turned some heads in the crowd and smashed some heads on the ice. Though his only career high was with shot percentage at 14.3% (small sample size: 22 shots total with the Panthers) Carter deserves some praise for general awesomeness in his 12 games. Expect Carter back for next season.
Evgeni Dadonov: ‘Dandonoff’ was given a huge chance to shine midway through the season, and shine he did. Evgeni played in 36 games (split between a late season hand injury) but set career highs in games played, goals (8), assists (9), points, penalty minutes etc. Dadonov was almost always a threat on the ice and often created scoring chances. Not a bad rookie season.
Keaton Ellerby: Like Dadonov, Ellerby was given a chance midway through the season and simply could not be sent back to Rochester. Keaton set career highs in games played (54), goals (2) assists (10), points, penalty minutes and shots. Recently resigned to a one year contract, Ellerby showed flashes of brilliance when paired with Dmitry Kulikov and ate up the minutes after the trade deadline.
Jason Garrison: Arguably the Panthers best defenseman last season, Garrison set career highs in games played (73), goals (5, 3 of which were game winners), assists (13), points, penalty minutes and put an impressive 116 shots on goal. Garrison became a mainstay on the Panthers roster while producing offensively, and pending a UFA addition this summer, will probably start as next season’s number 1 defenseman.
Dmitry Kulikov: Kuli extended his solid play into his second season with the Panthers setting career highs in games played (72), goals (6) assists (20) and penalty minutes. Kulikov had a season of ups and downs, but when paired with Ellerby, was a force on ice difficult to contend with.
Shawn Matthias: Matty had a frustrating season cut to 51 games after a season ending injury. Despite this, Matthias matched a career high in points (16) and put up 90 shots. Although he doesn’t have much to show for, Shawn played his games with heart and showed character shaving his head with Jack Skille for charity. Matthias certainly fits the Tallon mold for character.
Rostislav Olesz: Say what you want about Rusty, but he’s still making 3.125 million dollars and looking damn good doing it.
Marty Reasoner: One of Tallon’s most brilliant acquisitions (and least mentioned) of the 2010 summer was Marty Reasoner. At 34 years old, Marty set career highs in games played (82) matched a career high in goals (14) a career high in points (32) and game winning goals (4). In twelve seasons, Marty Reasoner put up his best numbers with the offensively dry Panthers, not to mention showed the leadership necessary to become an alternate captain. All that for Jeff Taffe.
Michal Repik: Repik wasn’t exactly given prime ice-time in his 31 games this season, but he certainly deserves the chance to battle for a legitimate roster spot under a new coach. Michal set career highs in games played, points (8), penalty minutes and shots. Also to note; the first Panthers goal I’d ever witnessed in person was scored by Michal Repik this season versus the Senators!
Sergei Samsonov: Although he didn’t set any milestones with the Panthers, he put up 14 point in 20 games after he was acquired at the trade deadline. One could argue Sammy was the Panthers best player after the deadline with his playmaking abilities, but one thing is certain, Samsonov wants a roster spot with the Panthers come this October.
Mike Santorelli: Santorelli’s breakout season with the Panthers impressed many, Mike posted career highs in games played (82) goals (20) assists (21) points, penalty minutes and shots. Santorelli finished second on the Panthers with 41 points this season and looks to be a big part of the Cat’s future. The pickup of Santorelli cost only a conditional 5th round draft pick for this year’s draft. Can we all give assistant GM Mike Santos a hand please!
Jack Skille: Skille played hard in his 13 games with the Panthers, and though he only scored one (albeit beautiful) goal, Jack deserves mention for fitting the role the Panthers desperately needed, a grinding right winger.
Bill Thomas: The very overlooked Bill Thomas was often the first choice Rochester call-up for good reason; Thomas made the most of his time with the big club. Thomas matched a career high in games played (24) and set a career high in game winning goals (2). Bill Thomas scored the last goal of the 2010-11 season giving the Panthers a 1-0 victory over the uber-hot Washington Capitals to give the fans a
joyous frolic in confetti rain collective sigh of relief ending a 10 game winless streak.
Mike Weaver: Despite his small stature, Weaver formed a dominant defensive line with Garrison and earned the leadership role of assistant captain. Weaver set career highs in games played (82), assists (11), points (13) penalty minutes and shots. Weavsy was another golden acquisition by Tallon and Co. and deserves all the praise he can get.
Stephen Weiss: Weiss did not set any career highs but demonstrated why he should be
traded to Toronto immediately the Panthers next captain. When Weiss was not in the lineup, the Panthers looked more disorganized and offensively challenged then usual. Weiss is a true warrior and leader of the only team he has ever known.
Dennis Wideman: Although he ended the season with the Capitals, Wideman should be mentioned for scoring a career high 9 power play goals (8 with the Panthers) to share the lead for most PP goals for a defenseman this season.
Clay Wilson: The once obscure Clay Wilson set a career high in games played (15), goals (3), assists (2), points, +/- (+5), penalty minutes and shots. Wilson stated his case very thoroughly as to why he should be on the roster next year.
It was a disappointing year for the team, but it is apparent that the kids (and even some grizzled veterans) benefited from this season. Given the ice-time they need for development and a new coaching environment, there is good reason to believe things are looking up for the still very young Panthers club.