Florida Panthers First Quarter Report Card

Doug Pensinger

Does anyone else remember getting your report card? I remember bringing home straight "A's" when I was young, and being so happy to show my parents. Later on, I would be hoping they forgot. What kind of grades would you give these Panthers?

That's 21 games in the bag - and your Florida Panthers have five wins to show for it. What's going right - and what isn't going wrong? Where can we hang our hopes - and what is DT going to build on over the next few months into free agency?

To put a little order to the madness, I took each players total point shares, divided it by minutes played, multiplied by 10,000 and added 50, which gave me a "rating" between 0 and 100 (except for Ryan Whitney, go figure). For some of the players who haven't played much (and one Shawn Matthias), the aggregate point shares stand at 0.0. If you know how to read between the lines and already understand these metrics (and I know that most of you do), then you also know that anyone above a 50 in this system has positive point shares, and everyone below 50 has negative point shares. I'll start with the lowest rated first, and work my way up. Guess who's first?

Ryan Whitney - six games, minus-7 rating, 97 TOI, eight SOG, four PIM, -0.5 point shares, homebaked rating: -1.6

Whitney was pretty good at one point for Edmonton, but the St. Louis Blues obviously didn't think enough of him to keep him with the club. The Panthers FO picked him off the waiver wire at the last minute. He was averaging third pairing minutes through his first four appearances near the start of the season, but got healthy scratched for three weeks following his minus-3 rating in the Cats 7-2 loss to the Bolts on October 10th. He played twice more in Florida's first two games in November before the powers-that-be felt they had seen enough. Grade: F

Krys Barch - 11 games, 74 TOI, one assist, minus-4 rating, 22 PIM, four SOG, -0.2 point shares, 22.9 rating

We all know why Barch is here, and it's not to fill the scoresheet. He's been in three fights and taken four shots on goal in 74 minutes on the ice. He's not going to set any records. Grade: D

Sean Bergenheim - eight games, 75 TOI, one assist, minus-5 rating, two PIM, eight SOG, -0.2 point shares, 23.3 rating

Bergy took over a year to get back on NHL ice after an injury sustained during the lockout. After collecting an assist in the first period of his return to NHL action, he's been held scoreless in the seven games since. There is some concern amongst Panther faithful that maybe he isn't quite 100% yet, and his decreasing ice time would seem to support that theory. He was scratched in Florida's 4-1 victory over the Avalanche on Saturday night. When he's fully healthy, he's a constant threat with a nose for the net, with more goals than assists through his career to this point (71 to 62). Grade: I

Mike Weaver - 20 games, 379 TOI, one assist, minus-9 rating, 11 PIM, 13 SOG, -0.3 point shares, 42.1 rating

Mike Weaver has been a mainstay on the Florida blue line for four seasons now. With seven goals in 550 career games, he's not going to suddenly start producing like Kris Letang, but he's pretty good at shutting down opposing skaters, leading the team with blocked shots and ranking second in hits. He collected his only assist of the season on October 15th in a 4-3 loss to the Predators. After playing in every game through his first two seasons, he missed 21 contests last season with an injury. He played in every game this season except for the last. He's listed as a healthy scratch, but when have you known the #WeaverWagon to take a break unless he was injured. Maybe we'll see Petrovic soon. Grade: C

Erik Gudbranson - 21 games, 409 minutes, two assists, minus-10 rating, 51 PIM, 31 SOG, -0.2 point shares, 45.1 rating.

Guds was pretty raw when he first made his way onto the 2011-12 opening day roster. In the days since, we've seen him grow as a defenseman, a player, and as a leader. So much so that when new coach Peter Horachek arrived he affixed the "A" to Guds sweater. He's still got holes in his game, and does better when paired with a shutdown partner, like Weaver. He's 6'5", not afraid to hit, and he always leaves it all out there on the ice. Unfortunately, he also gets called for a lot of penalties, 51 minutes worth at last count. He's got a cannon shot that he hasn't yet learned how to aim correctly, but I have a feeling he'll figure it out at some point. Still just 21-years-old, he's got years to get better still. Grade: C

Tomas Kopecky - 21 games, 337 TOI, two goals, one assist, minus-3 rating, six PIM, 50 SOG, -0.1 point shares, 47.0 rating.

Despite appearing to be slowed by some sort of injury, TomoKop has played in all but three games since joining the Panthers in the Summer of 2011. Even though he is currently leading the team with 50 shots, he didn't pot his first marker until two games ago, in Florida's 3-2 loss to the Wild. He scored again on Saturday, in the Panthers' 4-1 victory over the Avalanche. A large portion of the fanbase seem to think his days are numbered, and the writing may be on the wall. The thing is, if you're hitting the net two to four times per game, as Kopecky is, eventually the numbers are going to progress to the mean. It probably would come as a surprise to those uninitiated, but Kopecky led the Panthers with 15 goals last season, on only 92 shots. So, he shoots around 8% throughout his career, and 16% last season, along with 4% this season. Which performance was the aberration? Lets hope for the latter. Grade: D

Drew Shore - two games, 19 TOI, plus-1, two PIM, one SOG, 50.0 rating.

A lot was expected out of Shore when he was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Denver. After scoring 11 goals with 22 assists with the San Antonio Rampage in 49 games over the last two seasons, the Panthers took a chance on him in a roster spot last season, and saw him register a minus-10 rating and three goals with 10 assists in 43 games. Panthers management didn't really give him that much rope to hang himself with this season - and he's since been relegated back to the Rampage, where he has put up seven assists in 14 contests. Grade: I

Jimmy Hayes - one game, seven TOI, 50.0 rating

Hayes is a 6'6", 220 lb. right winger from Boston. He was drafted back in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Leafs. After playing three seasons with the Boston College Eagles, he found his way onto the Blackhawks, and just came over to the Panthers in the Kris Versteeg trade. Widely regarded as a fourth-line plugger, he has some upside, and could concievably be a 30 point scorer in the near future. Grade: I

Joey Crabb - one game, 10 TOI, 50.0 rating

Crabb has played extensive minutes in Toronto from 2010 through 2012, and joined the Panthers as a free agent on a two-way contract back in July. He gives the Panthers more depth on the right wing, and is currently toiling in San Antonio, with two goals and three helpers in his first 14 games. Grade: I

Shawn Matthias - 21 games, 273 TOI, two goals, two assists, minus-5, six PIM, 32 SOG, 0.0 point shares, 50.0 rating.

Matthias, believe it or not, is currently Florida's longest tenured player, with 274 games to his credit. He's totaled 41 goals in seven seasons, and although he appears to have all the skill in the world when digging for the puck down in the corners and whizzing past opposing defensemen, he seems to lack a finishing touch. If I had a nickel for every breakaway chance that he couldn't convert this season, I'd have about 20 cents. Matthias seems to put out consistent effort game-in and game-out, but results often elude him. Grade: C

Dmitry Kulikov - 21 games, 413 TOI, one goal, two assists, minus-9, 29 PIM, 25 SOG, 0.1 point shares, 52.4 rating.

Kulikov is already in his fifth full NHL season, all with Florida. Still just 23-years-old, it's easy to forget that he's still maturing as an NHL defenseman, and he sometimes takes the brunt of the criticism. He's already given away a few goals this year with poor defensive choices in the Panthers zone, and at this point is playing his trade value southward. Like Guds, he excels mostly when paired with Mike Weaver. He's also blessed with a good slap shot, and is sometimes used in the shootout (two-for-five lifetime). He's making $3 million this season, and his contract expires when the Panthers hit the links.Grade: C

Scott Gomez - 15 games, 205 TOI, one goal, three assists, minus-4, eight PIM, 14 SOG, 0.1 point shares, 54.9 rating.

Gomez is yet another reclamation project for the Cats. Is he padding his wallet before calling it quits or does he stand a legitimate shot to find a second wind for his career? He tabbed 48 or more points in each of his first 10 seasons, once leading the NHL with 56 assists (in 2003-04). The noted playmaker was inked at a bargain basement $700,000 price tag, and really, what did the Panthers have to lose? He's capable of injecting energy into a tired bunch on occasion, and may yet surprise us.Grade: C-

Kris Versteeg - 18 games, 283 TOI, two goals, five assists, minus-9, nine PIM, 47 SOG, 0.2 point shares, 57.1 rating.

Versteeg skated himself right out of Florida, didn't he? A 20 goal scorer in each of his first four full seasons, he missed most of last season with an injury, playing in only 10 contests. He may not have been 100% just yet, but in 19 games this season scored twice on 47 shots. A lot of times, he tried to get fancy with the stickwork and turned the puck over in the offensive zone, effectively hamstringing Florida's struggling offense. He would turn the puck over, then skate leisurely back to the bench while the opposition potted yet another goal. He questioned the coaching staff in the forum of public opinion after getting healthy scratched two weeks ago, and after getting shipped off to Chicago went on record as saying that some other Panthers players are jealous that they are not going with him. I'm sure that he's a really nice guy and all, but he kinda sounds like a clubhouse cancer. If you weren't counting, btw, Florida is 2-2 since his departure. Look out Stanley Cup!!!! Grade: D

Jacob Markstrom - 11 games, 554 TOI, 1-5-3, .877 save percentage, 3.36 GAA, 0.4 goalie point shares, 57.2 rating.

Touted as "Florida's future in net" for as long as I can remember, Markstrom got his chance this season to log minutes as the 1b goalie with surprise partner Tim Thomas. In comparism to Thomas, "the Alien" seems rigid and easy to fool into a commitment. As I've stated before, he seems to let in approximately one soft goal per contest, which isn't an option if you're trying to win with the offensive talent in Sunrise. As of now, he seems to have been replaced with career backup backstop Scott Clemmensen. In the meantime, he's down in San Antonio, where he can get some serious ice time and work out the kinks in his style. Grade: D

Scott Clemmensen - three games, 136 TOI, 0-1-1, .877 save percentage, 3.09 GAA, 0.1 goalie point shares, 57.4 rating.

Clemmensen would not be on many NHL rosters at this point in his obvious decline, most visibly in the shootout. Still, it's better to have him with the big club than Markstrom, who could use the work in the AHL. Clemmensen is performing as well as we can hope for at this point, and is still capable of keeping the Panthers in the game as long as they're not giving up 30 or more shots. The aforementioned shootout problems - Clemmers was never elite, but less so now. He gave up an overtime goal to the Capitals on November 2nd, and failed to make a single save in the shootout loss to the Bruins five days later. Grade: D

Marcel Goc - 21 games, 348 TOI, five goals, two assists, minus-8, 21 PIM, 28 SOG, 0.5 point shares, 61.5 rating.

Traditionally one of the more underrated two-way centers in the NHL, Goc is the best faceoff man the Panthers have, winning 53.6% of them. He's never going to score 20 goals or 50 points, but he's a really good third line guy skating second line minutes on a last place club. He's sneaky good, knows how to get into position, and knows how to score once in a while. He potted two in the Panther's season opening win over the Stars, and had a goal and an assist in Florida's loss to the Oilers two weeks ago. Grade: B-

Matt Gilroy - 13 games, 220 TOI, one goal, one assist, minus-2, four PIM, 25 SOG, 0.4 point shares, 68.2 rating

Gilroy is another July free-agent signee brought to you courtesy of DT. After totaling just 15 games with the Rangers last season, he's already played in 13 for the Cats this season. Of course, his eight DNP's have been healthy scratches, as since-replaced head coach Kevin Dineen preferred to give veteran Ryan Whitney the first crack at the rotation. Gilroy didn't make his seasons' debut until October 11th, in Florida's win against the Penguins. He scored his only goal thus far against the Predators on October 15th. He seems to be part of coach Horachek's plans going forward. Grade: B-

Aleksander Barkov - 21 games, 344 TOI, four goals, four assists, minus-2, two PIM, 25 SOG, 0.7 point shares, 70.4 rating.

The 18-year old Barkov is a bonus right out of the chute. You just don't expect this kind of maturity and production from a kid this age. I mean, picture it: most of us here on LBC have been 18 already. What were you doing at that point? I know, right? Anyway, Barkov seems to have a handle on this whole "hockey" thing. I'm kind of hoping he'll start to pull the trigger a little more, as he ranks third on the team (behind Goc and Jonathan Huberdeau) with a 16% shooting percentage. He doesn't seen lost skating at the NHL's advanced pace, and seems to also be able to deal with oversized NHL defensemen. And did you SEE that shootout goal? Grade: B

Mike Mottau - three games, 48 TOI, 0.1 point shares, 70.9 rating

Mottau is a 35-year old veteran originally out of Boston College. He played 313 career games at the NHL level prior to this season, with the Rangers, the Flames, the Devils, the Islanders and the Bruins. The Panthers called him up last week, where he paid immediate dividends with a diving poke check at a puck destined for an unguarded part of the net in Florida's surprise one-goal victory over the Ducks. I don't know how long he'll be with the big club, but he's an able plugger who always gives it everything.  Grade: I

Tim Thomas - 11 games, 586 TOI, 4-6-0, .908 save percentage, 2.87 GAA, 1.6 goalie point shares, 77.3 rating

We were all prepared to see the Panthers go into the season fielding a Markstrom/Clemmensen combo in net. Thomas was a surprise 11th hour signing by D, and has clearly been the Panthers best option in goal. His style is unorthodox and - pulse increasing. When he's hot, he stops almost anything. Even better, when he gives one up, he gets really mad - and plays better. He owns four of Florida's five victories on the season, while playing half the time in net due to two separate stints on the IR for a hamstring issue. If Florida does not wind up in the lottery this season, it will be powered by the polarizing ex-Bruin. Grade: B+

Jonathan Huberdeau - 21 games, 373 TOI, five goals, six assists, minus-2, 10 PIM, 30 SOG, 1.1 point shares, 79.5 rating

Last seasons' Calder Memorial Trophy winner started out on the right skate, collecting an assist on opening night. After a 13-game goal scoring drought, he's netted one in each of the Panthers last two games, and has tabbed a point in six of the Panthers last eight games. On the down side, opposing goaltenders seem to have figured out his "move" in the shootout (hey - it was a good move). He's currently third on the Panthers with 11 points, and tied for second with five goals. The coaching staff seems to like putting him on the top line with Aleksander Barkov (maybe hoping some of that ROY magic rubs off on Barkov, no doubt). Grade: B-

Scotty Upshall - 18 games, 266 TOI, three goals, six assists, minus-3, 16 PIM, 26 SOG, 0.8 point shares, 80.1 rating

It seems like only yesterday that you couldn't walk more than three feet into LBC without tripping over some permutation of an "Upshall is fragile" joke. Yeah, maybe it wasn't exactly unfounded, he missed 80 out of his first 132 opportunities to contribute to the cause as a Panther. With six goals and four assists in 53 games overall, he wasn't exactly setting the box score ablaze, either. This season, he's missed three games as a "healthy" scratch, although a little caution should be in order when dealing with his ice time. He's come through pretty good so far, skating about 15 minutes per contest and averaging half a point-per-game. After an assist in the season opener, he was held scoreless through his next eight appearances. Since then, he's figured into the scoring in five out of his last nine games, with three multi-point efforts. He potted two goals on two shots in the loss to the Oilers on November 5th, and made two assists in Florida's last game, the win in Colorado. Is Scottie turning the corner? We can all hope so. Grade: B

Tomas Fleischmann - 20 games, 359 TOI, three goals, nine assists, minus-1, six PIM, 53 SOG, 1.1 point shares, 80.7 rating

Flash is probably Florida's best forward above the age of 20. He's always been a gifted stick handler, and can at any point turn a game on the head of a pin. He's tied for the team lead with 12 points and with nine assists (both with Brian Campbell). In Florida's win over the Penguins, he scored a goal with three assists. He's also proven in his NHL career that he is capable of scoring a point per game (21 in 22 games for Colorado in 2010-11). He's remarkably durable in that he has missed only one game in three seasons for the Panthers (earlier this season with the flu). This is even more impressive considering his diagnosis of pulmonary emboli in January of 2011, a possible life-threatening condition. He's not often listed as one of the Panthers "untouchables" when we talk about trades, but I think he should be. Grade: B

Tom Gilbert - 21 games, 453 TOI, seven assists, plus-4, four PIM, 32 SOG, 1.6 point shares, 85.3 rating

Gilbert is second on the team with 21:33 ATOI. He's taken 32 shots without finding gold, but does have seven helpers to his credit. He's also accrued only four PIM in 453 minutes of ice time, a ratio better than anyone else on the team save Barkov. He did have 40 assists for Edmonton back in 2008-09, so has been counted on to head the second PP unit. Grade: B+

Nick Bjugstad - 15 games, 213 TOI, two goals, five assists, plus-3, eight PIM, 25 SOG, 0.8 point shares, 87.6 rating

BjugSTUD got his first action of the NHL season on October 15th against the Predators, and started out looking a little lost and unable to properly throw his considerable weight around. After scoring his first goal, against Tampa Bay on October 27th, incidentally, he seems to have started to figure things out. He's graduated from the fourth line to the third, to the first, and has points in five of his last six games. If he can figure out how to properly camp that giant body of his in front of the net, he may at some point start to score piles of goals. Grade: A-

Jesse Winchester - 18 games, 266 TOI, four goals, four assists, minus-1, 25 PIM, 38 SOG, 1.0 point shares, 94.9 rating

If there's one player who's been playing, as we army folks would put it, above his paygrade, it's been Jesse Winchester. He matched his prior career high of four goals (achieved in 72 games with the Senators in 2011-12) in his first 16 games with the Panthers. He's also pitched in with four assists. His eight points came in a span of 11 games, culminating with an assist against the Wild in his return from a three game suspension. Oddly, the Panthers have never won a game when Winchester scores (0-8). They're 4-6 when he plays and does not score, go figure. Grade: A

Brian Campbell - 21 games, 545 TOI, three goals, nine assists, plus-2, six PIM, 26 SOG, 2.5 point shares, 95.8 rating

Soupy has taken up his customary role as Florida's playmaker extraordinaire, sharing the team lead with nine assists and with 12 points. Of course, he leads the Cats in ATOI, with 25:57, over four minutes more than second place Tom Gilbert. He knows how to shoot when needed, scoring three times on 26 shots, although he prefers not to join the rush ala Kulikov. He also leads the team with 2.5 point shares, and ranks second in my little goulash of a formula. Although his $7 million cap hit is kind of an albatross, the Panthers are better equipped to deal with it than most other teams, sitting as they do near the cap floor. His contract runs through this season and the next two, and I sincerely hope he can enjoy at least one more playoff run with this team. Grade: A-

Brad Boyes - 20 games, 296 TOI, seven goals, two assists, plus-1, six PIM, 44 SOG, 1.4 points shares, 97.3 rating

Brad Boyes leads the Panthers with seven goals on 44 shots. The former Shark, Bruin, Blue, Sabre and Islander is no stranger to lighting the lamp, with a 43 goal season and a 33 goal season on his resume. He hasn't scored more than 17 since 2008-09. He could easily eclipse that total this season, as he seems to have rediscovered his nose for the back of the net. In Florida's six goal performance against Pittsburgh on November 11th, he scored twice on three shots and pitched in an assist. He's scored two goals in his last three games, both wins for the Panthers. Grade: B+

Thanks for reading the first quarter Florida Panther player-by-player recap. I don't know about you, but I think that things are looking up for this team. Florida doesn't even have to be very good to make the postseason in the East, in fact they sit only eight points out of the last spot as of this writing. Make sure you tune in tomorrow for the Cats as they get ready to dance with a lot of old friends in the Pacific Division in Vancouver.

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