At the time, I think everyone knew that the Panthers were going to get screwed in another trade. Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek and a 6th round draft pick sent to the Vancouver Canucks for Alex Auld, Todd Bertuzzi, and Bryan Allen. Heads all over the NHL and the rest of the sports world turned. Huh?? Did the Panthers just trade their “franchise goaltender” for a wash up, and unproven backup goalie and an overrated blue liner?
But at the start of the next season, I was there in section 401 cheering on the Panthers with my little brother on opening night. We watched Alex Auld, Allen, and Bertuzzi make their debut’s and were stunned by the outcome. An 8-3 Panthers victory. Well now… maybe this won’t be so bad. Seven games into the season and Todd Bertuzzi had 1 goal and 6 assists. Things were looking good……
… And then
Injury. As a fan of any team in any sport, you hate the word. But when Todd Bertuzzi got hurt during the 8th game of 2006-2007 season, the Luongo trade was dubbed the “worst trade” of all-time. Alex Auld began to slip further and further down the depth chart, while the Panthers lost game after game. Bryan Allen did have a good season however, contributing 4 goals and 21 assists for 25 points, his highest point total ever. Ed Belfour did the best he could to hang onto the season, and Craig Anderson made his debut. But… at the end of the season the Panthers were on the outside looking in, a familiar place…
… One day
After the season was over, we traded Bertuzzi to Detroit for Shawn Mattias. A young, up and coming prospect from the Red Wings organization didn’t sound like such a bad thing. However, after what seemed like 70 GM’s and coaches, Shawn Mattias never really got his chance. He scored 2 goals in his first career game against the Caps, but was sent back down to Rochester to “condition”. He began this season in the AHL… again… only this time I think we all knew he would be back up. Looking at the roster on opening night, it didn’t even look good on paper. It was almost like we were built to fail. It took some injuries and some trades, But Mattias finally made it to the “big club” a few weeks ago. He and the other young guys who are having “tryouts” to see who is going to remain on the team after the season, have impressed. Repik, Garrisson, and Mattias all look like promising; but it is Mattias who is standing out the most. He has learned a lot, and is turning into a future NHL main stay. Strong on the puck and smart on the boards, he is just one of the many promising young talents the Panthers’ have waiting in the wings. Yesterday IN San Jose, he notched a goal and an assist to help the Panthers beat the Sharks in overtime. Yes… the Sharks. Heatley, Thornton, Marleau… same team. Mattias fought all night long for the puck. He got a beautiful “dirty” goal in front of the net, and won a faceoff in overtime that allowed Bryan Allen to score the game winner.
So Shawn Mattias. He has promise. He is the prospect I am most excited to see bloom here in Florida. However. Mark Parrish was pretty exciting too… and he was traded as soon as he bloomed. But Mattias is here now, and it lets me believe that we didn’t totally get screwed out of the Luongo deal… it just took a few years for it to pay off for the Panthers.
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Written by Robert Uzzo