When Dale Tallon came on board, he brought a long term project plan with him. At the draft he added an impressive new stable of prospects headed by Eric Gudbranson, Quinton Howden, Nick Bjugstad and John McFarland.
Unfortunately, none of these new faces are ready for the NHL yet. They will be closely monitored and are vieing for positions on the depth chart for injury callups and for next year and the year after as the long term plan kicks in.
Nothing is certain with this team. Captain Bryan McCabe is a UFA at the end of the year, and how he plays will determine whether he will be a part of the long term plan or whether Tallon will move him and his huge salary and continue stocking up on prospects.
Stephen Weiss, not being a protypical Tallon kind of player, may end up getting moved in the process as well. Chris Higgins is a UFA at the end of the year, and is another question mark, depending on whether he can turn it around and show some of the promise he had when he was a Montreal Canadien.
Goaltending is another huge question mark. With Tomas Vokoun becoming a UFA at the end of the year, the question is will Jacob Markstrom be ready or not or will we opt to resign Vokoun? Surely Scott Clemmenson will not be expected to be more than a backup. On a team with limited scoring, goaltending is that much more important.
The new additions Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner will vie for ice time on the top six, and neither of them are expected to carry this team. On defence, Dmitri Kulikov will be counted on and McCabe, Dennis Wideman and Bryan Allen will have their work cut out for them handling the majority of the ice time with these forwards.
Steven Reinprecht will be overmatched on most nights trying to play the role of second or third line center when he is really a fourth line center at this point in his career.
Rostislav Olesz has not lived up to expectations and will be hard pressed to not be one of the casualties as the young players vie for top line minutes.
In short, none of the new additions will not have enough immediate impact to propell the Panthers into the playoffs, and the Panthers can look forward to another high first round draft pick.
The many questions surrounding who will be included in the future plan will be answered by player’s performances this year. Peter DeBoer has a big challenge on his hands to try to win as this team transitions and waits for the young guns to mature.
About the Author
Written by Marvin Miller
Freelance Sportswriter for many years. Hockey coach for 10 years up to Bantam AA. Certified Level 2 in both hockey and racquetball. Works now as a Senior Technical Writer. Hobbies, racquetball, playing guitar, and following hockey, particularly the NHL Draft.