Frank Rekas is Senior Editor of The Rat Trick and the NHL Director for the FanSided Sports Network. There is no getting around it. Frank had a rough season. His Panthers finished fifth in their division, going 30-40-12 with 72 points. That disappointment was followed by his hometown heros, Chicago Blackhawks, falling to the Canucks. Caniacs understand your pain Mr. Rekas. Hold in there, just 15 weeks until September.
1. Sum up your 2010-11 season in one word.
Effing frustrating. I know it’s two, but, well, emphasis makes it better?
2. What was your favorite moment from this past season?
When the season finally ended. Ok, really, beating the Washington Capitals 3-0 on December 9th. That was the game that prompted the Bruce Boudreau f- bomb tirade on the HBO special. So glad that the Florida Panthers were the cause of that, as Washington was in the middle of a mid season slump, and the Panthers were playing as though they thought they could make a playoff run.
3. What player(s) on your team should be feared next season and why?
I don’t think anyone on the current roster puts a scare into the other team. That said, if first round pick from 2010 Erik Gudbranson makes the roster for next year, I have a feeling that people should watch out. This kid has leadership, heart, grit, as well as skill. He’s a big defenseman with a mean streak that will stick up for his teammates. Something that has been lacking from this team for quite some time.
4. Going into 2011-12, what do you feel will be your team’s strengths / weaknesses?
Weaknesses: We need scoring. Lots of it. We haven’t had a pure goal scorer since Pavel Bure which was over 10 years ago. That area of the Panthers game has hurt them tremendously. Not only five on five, but on the power play as well. Especially this season, when we were at or near the bottom of the NHL for power play success. Or should I say power play futility. We also need a number one center. A guy that can play the tough minutes against the other top centers in the league and provide the necessary passing skills to set up his wingers. Another void that needs to be filled if this team is ever going to have playoff success.
Strengths: If the Panthers can sign Tomas Vokoun we’ll have one of the top netminders in the game. His numbers aren’t always that great, but if anyone pays close attention to this team, they’ll know that he has kept them in more games than he has let get away. Most of the bad looking goals that he’s given up have been because of the defensemen who have been out of position, or because of a mistake that was made by a forward, leading to a scoring chance. Many people are still crying about losing Roberto Luongo. I’ll take Vokoun any day.
What player/staffing changes have happened/forecasted for the upcoming year?
First and foremost with the firing of coach Peter DeBoer, the Panthers need a head coach. I’m hoping that the one that is hired is someone that can be respected by the players, and has a positive yet determined attitude that can be instilled into those players. Hopefully he’ll have a system that will be more exciting than the “paint drying” we’ve been watching the last few seasons. This is the one area that will determine of the Panthers can ever take that next step. Personally, I don’t want some guy from juniors, or some assistant from the AHL. If you’re gonna do that, they can hire me, and for a lot less money. Seriously though, the guy I want needs to be a winner, be no nonsense, and be someone that we can all say, yea this is the one.
As for players, the Panthers have 30 million to spend. My wish list includes as I said, a top scoring winger or two, a legitimate number one center, and a veteran defenseman who can guide the younger d-men on the roster. I don’t mind overpaying for one of these positions, if it helps getting the others filled. At some point, ownership and management have to make a statement that they want to win. I believe they do, but until we get the right players, it’s talk.
You are missing out on informative puck news, rumors, opinions, and hilarities if you are not follow Frank on Twitter @TheRatTrick and on Rink Side Rants.