Friday, September 16, 2011

Florida Panthers Roster Talk

Matt O'Brien and I had an interesting and (surprisingly, for our average e-mail chatter) formal discussion on how the roster for the Panthers will take shape this year and what exactly that may mean for the future. We will be continuing this conversation on here, hoping to draw more insight from you the reader, through comments on this article. If you have anything to add, feel free.

My first email:

Here are the players I see that have an actual chance at the squad:
Forwards- Wilson, Weiss, Booth, Huberdeau, Skille, Santorelli, Fleischmann, Matthias, Upshall, Bergenheim, Bradley, Carter, Repik, Versteeg, Goc, Dadonov, Kopecky

Petrovic, Jovo, Gud, Weaver, Ellerby, Kulikov, Campbell,Garrison
(outside shot of Seabrook)

Here are how I think the lines will shake out:

Booth Weiss Dadonov
Upshall Fleischmann Versteeg
Kopecky Santorelli Bergenheim
Bradley Goc Skille
extra: Repik

            I think Huberdeau will be sent back just like Gudbranson was. Whether I agree with it or not, I believe Tallon wants to not rush his players. I think Huberdeau plays in a few preseason games and 4 or 5 NHL games then is sent back. I think Ryan Carter gets waived and they use Goc as the 4th line pivot, Bradley can also play center if need be. Repik may start the season as the 13th but slowly works his way in as everyday 4th line winger and Bradley finds himself on the outs by end of season and into the playoffs.

Soupy Gudbranson
Kulikov Jovo
Ellerby Weaver
extra: Garrison

I really want to see Petrovic get a good look, but right now he needs ice, and I would rather have Garrison sitting out than Petrovic.

With a lot of their prospects getting another year to groom, I think the Panthers will be making a final call on some of these guys. With Huberdeau, Howden, Bjugstad, Trochek, Petrovic, Wilson, Rocco G., Shore, etc... the guys on the big squad and the first few guys on call up duty have to impress or they will be replaced.

I honestly think Kopecky, Booth*, Santorelli, Matthais, Garrison, Weaver, Bradley and Goc could all lose spots next year if they don't play well all year and in playoffs (hopefully). The Panthers are that deep. It is not just some media spin. They have guys that will easily be competing for a spot next year, and could probably play now.

*I say Booth could be gone, because he may have some trade deadline value they could cash in. If he could fetch a 1st+, I would consider pulling the trigger as they have Howden, Bjugstad and Huberdeau getting ready for top 6 roles.

O'Brien responded:

I think you may be right with Huberdeau. Tallon may want to send him back to juniors strictly on the fact that he does not want to "rush" him like his predecessors rushed prospects. Although I fully believe that Huberdeau could make and have an impact on this team. As much as I like Booth, I think he may be traded because he could help a team that needs goals down the stretch if the Panthers are out of contention and could get a solid return.

I think they would put Versteeg on the first line over Dadonov though because of experience and Tallon's familiarity with him. Other than that I agree with the lines. I don't think Matthias will have room on the squad. I would think with the emergence of Huberdeau and Bjugstad within the next year or two they might be forced to get rid of two of Weiss, Santorelli, or Goc, or they could just as easily get rid of Kopecky and move Fleischmann to wing. Either way you would assume that your top three centers within three years are Huberdeau, Bjugstad, Santorelli/Matthias based on how those two develop in the next few years.

I also agree that it is not at all hype, the Panthers for the first time in about a decade have real competition going on for spots and if they are able to retain most or all of their prospects from this year this could be a very deep, young, fast, and talented  team in the next 3-5 years. It is certainly the most exciting time to be a Cats fan since they joined the league in '94.

Like I said earlier, I wouldn't count out Markstrom to really challenge for the starting role this year. The AHL goalie coach had said that despite not playing in a real game since February, his confidence is soaring and he appears to be ready to be a big time goalie. Remember, at 17 and 18 he dominated a men's league in Sweden and there's no reason why at 21 he can't begin to dominate the best league in the world.

I think at most he'll play about 20-25 games in the A before they realize that he is way too good for that league. They also say he has improved immensely from the beginning of last season and his rookie camp performances showcased that. I would expect him to get a few preseason starts and if he can shine in that environment I really would not rule him out to open the season against the Islanders. One thing I read today said that the goals that were scored on him in the rookie games were not mistakes on his part but just really good shots. Keep in mind that he has had a 2.something GAA average every year he has been a professional and would help keep their team GAA down despite the exodus of Vokoun, who as much as I hated him last year did play a huge role in keeping games close, something I don't see Theodore/Clemmensen being able to do for an entire year.

Well here is what I have to say in response:

As far as Markstrom goes, I think it would be smarter to play him in the NHL this year than Huberdeau. I would be very pleased to see Clemmer/Markstrom/Theodore split the season 10-15 games/27-32 games/ 40 games respectively. Theodore only played 32 games last year. He might be too far removed, and too old, to take a 55 or 60 game load. 40 games is close  to the 47 he played in Washington in 2009-10 where he went 30-7-7. If they can get him to come close to replicating those numbers, they have to realize that he can't be a "full load goalie." But he can be a good half load goalie.

Clemmer has shown that he can't handle too many games at the NHL level. In the last two years, he has played 54 games and only won 17 of them. He's a good guy but his out-of-nowhere year in New Jersey is not going to happen. Last year he played marginal at best in my eyes.

Markstrom, much like Sergei Bobrovsky, isn't going to be able to handle a full NHL starter load. Probably won't go over 50 games until 2013-2014. But he can win some games and get great experience. If he plays 30 games in the AHL, 30 games in the NHL he will really grow into a more mature goalie. He is at the point where just AHL will stall his progress. At some point you need to increase the competition level before a player gets bored.

An added bonus will be that Markstrom going 30 in AHL and moving up will give Tyler Plante more games in the AHL. Plante has the potential to be a worthy back-up for the Cats who can handle a load
if an injury comes up.

To your point about the future of some of these forwards, I don't think it is a stretch to say that some of the free agents who signed deals here this summer will be gone by next year. I think Kopecky, Goc and Bergenheim could find their way out if they do not play well.

I do think that Weiss will be a career Panther and will finish his career as 3rd or 4th line center if need be. I just can't see him leaving. If he wants to stay to mentor the young guys until he retires, I would be happy to have him. Although, if he does leave I think they have the talent to fill in his spot within the next 2 years.

What are your thoughts on Shawn Matthias? Do you think that if he doesn't make the squad or doesn't have a breakout year in the AHL his tenure with the Panthers is done? They have been waiting for him to solidify the 3rd line center role for a few years. They waited a long time to sign him and the reason why, I suspect, is the 2 way part of that deal. I am sure Matthais didn't want it and the Panthers did.

What say you, O'Brien?

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