As an ardent Cats fan and dedicated blogger who covers the Panthers, a recap of Thursday's embarrassment in Washington would prove to be a pointless exercise. No offense to the Capitals, who played a masterful game in all zones; it's simply time I vented.
So for that reason (and about a dozen others) I'll let loose what's on my mind.
We'll get the positives out of the way first: I firmly believe - and will defend to the end - that every member of the Florida Panthers cares.
All of them has a burning desire to win. Each will go to war for the other, and do everything within their power to be victorious; against all odds and deficits, to bring two points to his club in the standings and carry this team to a place it hasn't tasted since before many of their fans were able to walk independently: the postseason. We've all seen the heart and soul each of them bring to the table every game. The new ownership appears to be solidly behind the hockey operation - at least in words at this early stage - which was highly questionable during the latter portion of Alan Cohen's regime. Coach Peter DeBoer is a winner, just not yet at this level. General manager Randy Sexton has presumably done all he's been allowed to do.
I've spoken, emailed, and IM'd with many employees of the organization. They'd stop just short of giving their first (and in some cases second) child if it would help the club win. Dedicated to a fault; even those who were thrown to the ground by previous regimes. And there are more than a few.
This team has a lot of fans within - and so many more just outside the large bay windows ringing the BAC.
On the negative side: this team sucks. As currently constituted, they cannot compete in this league, much less their own division. Speaking of the Southeast, here's their record: 1-6 against the division, the lone win coming against a reeling Carolina club. This is no way to blaze a glorious trail to, well, anything even approaching prosperity. Got to be better news within the stats, right? Attend: through Wednesday's games (and it's worse now), Florida was 24th in wins, 5th in losses, 21st in goals scored per game, 27th in goals allowed, and it snowballs from there.
They can't hold a lead...in any period. Power plays should be declined, as has been suggested time and again. They ended a five-game winless streak Wednesday by blowing four two-goal leads and getting lucky - yeah, I said it - in the shootout after Stephen Weiss won it in the fifth round. Fifth round. He scored a natural hattrick in regulation and was shelved until the fifth round. What is that??? Which blackboard was DeBoer reading from?
Far too many nights they spot the opposition a freebie lead, which typically ends up being too high a mountain to overcome. Leaving out the anomaly that was the 3 for 3 performance against Colorado (get the impression the Avs' collective brain just wasn't in it?), the Cats can't buy a special teams goal. They did against Washington on Thursday, in the form of a shortie, but along with 75-cent seats, the Panthers are quite generous.
What about individuals? "Cats aren't tough enough!" we screamed, leading to the re-acquisition of hard-hitting forward Steve MacIntyre. Got his claws on Donald Brashear and Colton Orr, but following that quick spell, he was reassigned to Rochester. Smells a lot like quickie fan-favorite Wade Belak. We're all aware DeBoer does not prefer giving a roster spot to 3-4 minute guys who won't contribute in any other way, but the Cats have been pounded otherwise. Think Weiss or Steven Reinprecht is gonna go with some of the monsters employed around the East? And what of Mike Duco, just called up from the "A", getting a billion penalty minutes against the Caps (at a point which ultimately didn't matter on the scoreboard)...wanna bet he's on a one-way Greyhound back to rural New York?
Lost in all the recently announced partnerships - imagine an empannage embedded anywhere but at BankAtlantic Center - is the hockey team. Dreams of shopping, dancing, dining, and who-knows-what-else have overshadowed the presence of the item that made all of the dreaming possible.
Florida's hockey fans deserve far better than what they've been handed. We continue to tune in, show up, buy the goods, shout across the web, tell our friends, recruit coworkers, blog till we're blue, and endlessly accept the manure that's been strewn our way. And there's been a lot of it.
Why? Because we're hockey fans. Slavishly loyal and fiercely proprietary over "our" team, we're no different than any other group of followers in the NHL. Treat us as such. The players deserve it, the employees of the club deserve it, and the fans deserve it.
We're fed up, we're tired, and we've got lots of options to spend our money on in this part of the world. For one small moment in time, give us a winner.
It may just be cost-effective.