Opinion: A rebuttal to recent Bleacher Report article

J Pat Carter/Associated Press

For those of you who have read the recent Bleacher Report story as to why the Panthers need to trade the first overall pick, here is a dissection of the article that insists the Cats throw their future away.

The Florida Panthers have the number one overall draft in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.  This much is old news.  Dale Tallon is openly shopping the pick around; this also, is old news.  Recently, Bleacher Report published an article titled "Why the Florida Panthers Should Be Shopping the No.1 Pick in 2014 NHL Draft".  I read the article, expecting to see several NEW, well written, legitimate arguments as to why the Panthers should trade their pick this year.  Instead, I was bombarded by reasons that were old, muddled, and weird.  The further I got into the article, the more disgusted I became, and it prompted me to write this.  I'm not saying that I disagree with the idea of trading the pick.  I'm saying that the writing done here just presents things that aren't really there, and places way too much importance on a trade that won't fetch an explosive return.   And for that, the article deserves a second look.

(Note: The opinions I give are mine, and mine alone.  I don't mean to call the writer of the article stupid, or to say that everything Bleacher Report says is baloney.  Nor do I stand on behalf of the wonderful people here at LBC.  I am simply presenting a response to a written work, and no matter how critical or scathing it is, it is simply that; a response to a written work.)

Let's start from the top, shall we?

Dealing the No. 1 pick would give the Panthers a chance to receive an impact player, a prospect and another pick.

What?  The biggest return I've heard for the pick is either Jordan Eberle and Edmonton's 1st rounder or Dion Phaneuf and Nazem Kadri, as well as the Leaf's 1st rounder.  In the Eberle deal, we only get an impact player and another pick, not a prospect.  And in the Leafs deal, we also give up Ed Jovanovski and a prospect, meaning that we swap picks, give up a prospect and an old player in return for two impact players, no prospect included.  Again, only two out of the three returns that were listed.  Not quite sure where those were pulled from, but it's borderline impossible the Panthers get that type of return in a trade unless they give up some impact players or prospects of their own.

"...considering the Panthers are in dire straits financially, according to the Sun Sentinel."

That link is to an article written in March, which was three months ago.  Though I do applaud the research, which was clearly thorough, I'm not so sure that an article written on how the Panthers are trying to squeeze more money out of the county from three months ago is a clear indication that they're losing boatloads of money.  It's more likely that Viola is just a shrewd businessman trying to save himself (or make himself) some more money.  I highly doubt he would have bought the team if it would have resulted in him losing that much money.

"It is no secret that the NHL may consider expansion at some point, considering the fact that there are 16 Eastern Conference teams and 14 Western Conference teams, but a relocation of an East team to the West would make more sense."

Again...what?  Why would the NHL move a team that has shown it can hold up in a Sunbelt market and have solid attendance to balance out its Conferences, especially when it's coming off of a RECORD SETTING YEAR and it would be able to expand it's influences to places in the States that haven't yet been touched? (ex. Vegas, Seattle.)  It seems like more of a Canadian argument that is for some reason rooted in bias against the Sunbelt teams that are making splashes in the NHL.

"The reduction in attendance will do nothing to help the team financially, and if the team continues to remain in the red, relocation would become a realistic option."

This was in response to the fact that there will be covered seats next season.  There won't be a reduction in attendance.  There already was low attendance, hence why they're going to be covering the seats...  They aren't covering the seats to keep people out of the building, so I'm not entirely sure how closed seats is going to mean a reduction in attendance. Not quite sure where this one came from.  Also, one thing we have learned, is that winning puts fans in seats.  So yes, if the team continues to remain among the NHL's worst, they will stay in the red, and moving them might make sense.  Interestingly enough, though, the team is loaded with young talent, and won't be bottoming out the NHL much longer, unless all of the prospects unexpectedly bust and Tallon sells all the talent away.  Which is highly unlikely.

"...the fact that Florida may not be able to support two NHL franchises. The Tampa Bay Lightning are also situated in Florida"

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, here, but the Tampa Bay Times Forum (home of the LIghtning) is 3 hours and 34 minutes away from the BB&T Center (home of the Panthers). By comparison, the United Center (home of the Chicago Blackhawks) is 4 hours and 35 minutes away from the Scottrade Center (home of the St. Louis Blues).  Proximity produces rivalry, and Tampa already has a solid hockey fan base while the cities of Miami, Sunrise, and Ft. Lauderdale have a combined population of 650,000+ bandwagoners (look at the Miami Heat if you need an example).  Win, and they will follow, along with a more heated rivalry within the state.  Fun thing about rivalries is that they drive up ratings and bring more viewers to the league, something that's really more desirable than moving the Cats out of Florida.

"Huberdeau is great, but he can't do it all by himself."

Fun Fact: Huberdeau did very little last year.  In fact, it may be safe to say that Huberdeau's performance was one of the biggest disappointments of the season.  Definitely not something I would call "great"...  But, if he actually is great next year, the team won't end up in last place.  Not only that, but there are other players (Bjugstad, Barkov, Gudbranson, Hayes, Pirri) who will most likely contribute next season along with Huberdeau.  So yes, he can't do it all by himself, but hey, guess what? He won't have to.

"The Panthers need players who can help them now, not prospects who will be decent this year and not fully matured and ready to be a factor until three or four years from now."

Last I checked, this is a young team.  Grooming a championship roster takes time and development through the draft, smart trades and some shrewd free-agent signings along the way.  The majority of the players on the team, however, should be in their prime all around the same time if the team really wants a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup.  Aiming for "help now" players when there is still so much work to be done with the young guns on the team could wreck all the work Tallon has put in over the last three years in constructing his blueprint.  Teams can't be bought anymore.  They have to be built, and built by your own organization.  Also, on a side note, doesn't every team need players who can help them now?  Seriously, doesn't Chicago need players to help them now that they aren't on top of the league anymore?  Doesn't Boston need players who can help them get back to the Stanley Cup Finals?  I don't quite get why the Panthers are tagged with the "need help now" label when it can be applied to pretty much every team in the league.

"Getting a top player back would strengthen a lineup already featuring some good young players and a team set in net with Roberto Luongo. While getting a top-end prospect would be nice, the Panthers most likely don't have the time to play a waiting game considering they may be in danger of relocation in the next few years."

Yes, it would strengthen the lineup, but sacrificing top-end potential to get a quality player (hate to break it to you but you're not going to be able to trade the pick for a top player, there would have to be other assets thrown in there) now just means that you're sacrificing the team's chances to be legitimate Cup contenders for a number of years just so that the team can be a little bit better than it would have been and you can make a few extra bucks on the business side and "avoid relocation".  If an owner sacrifices hockey for the sake of business, he really has no right owning an NHL team.  Own the team to grow the sport.  Love of the game should come first; the business side should come second.

"Maybe then the Panthers will compete, make the playoffs and start making money again. These are all good things in theory, but that's exactly the problem. They are "maybes," "but ifs," "if onlys" and other conceptual things. In order to be successful, the Panthers need tangible things, and Bettman is going to only give them so much leeway if they continue a downward spiral."

Still don't get where this is going.  Do you want success, or money?  Success in the current NHL comes from drafting and developing, not going out and selling the future for "help now" players.  And last I checked, Jonathan Huberdeau won the Calder Trophy two years ago.  Aleksander Barkov made Finland's Olympic team.  Nick Bjugstad led the team in points last year.  The young guns have given us tangible things, tangible things that are only glimpses of what is to come.

"However, Tallon needs to make a decision on the No. 1 pick, because dealing the pick for a worthwhile package could launch a meaningful period of growth for the Panthers that saves them from relocation and puts them back into the playoffs."

So much wrong with this... 1) there isn't going to be much return for the No. 1 pick.  We went over that already. 2) meaningful period of growth?  You mean, like, when the prospects develop?  Something that's going to happen whether or not the pick is traded? 3) the team isn't in that much danger of relocating.  Sure, it's possible the team continues to bottom out, though it's incredibly unlikely.   I don't see the Cats being at the bottom of the NHL standings next year, and I certainly see them back in the playoff within the next three years, regardless of what happens with the pick.

Overall, I'm still undecided as to what to do with the pick.  Aaron Ekblad is going to be a top-notch NHL defender, but there is similar talent to be found further down in the draft.  If the value is there, Tallon should make a trade, especially if we don't lose much and gain a lot.  The only problem is that not many teams are going to give up what would make trading the pick worthwhile, and forcing a pick just because it feels like the right thing to do is a bad idea.  So long as Tallon is reasonable about it,  I'll be fine if the Panthers trade the pick; I'll be fine if they keep it.

Just let it be known that they do not absolutely, positively, HAVE to trade the pick because this draft lacks anyone capable of producing at the NHL next year, to save their franchise from relocating West, so the NHL can have balanced conferences.

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