Tag:Florida Panthers
Posted on: November 10, 2011 2:30 pm
 

Check out the Florida Everblades' new jersey

By Brian Stubits

If you think the Florida Panthers have it rough drawing teams to come watch them play despite being in a major metropolitan area, imagine how difficult it is for the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. As a result -- or maybe just from bad taste -- they have had some pretty interesting jerseys in recent times. Here is one. And then there's another here.

Well, they have another new design that's sure to draw plenty of attention.

A bit cartoony, you might say? Expecting to see Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star by a pineapple under the sea? Well yes, they are a bit cartoony, but that's because they were made by children. Literally.

Here is a little more from Woody Wommack of the Naples News in Southwest Florida.

The Everblades work closely with the hospital throughout the year, including donating toys from the annual Teddy Bear Toss and pairing players with patients for a special program called "'Blades Buddies." After Saturday's game on Nov. 19, the jerseys will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the hospital.

Perhaps they'll look better on the ice, but I'm told that the corresponding socks are also a little on the Wild side. Once the team debuts them in game action, we'll have more pictures.

While I imagine I would be a touch embarrassed if I were a player putting them on, I love the idea and after a minute or two, I would be beaming with pride.

Think of the kick those kids that helped design this uniform will get when they see it in game action. That's a great memory and a really cool way to give back by the organization. Bravo, Everblades.

Maybe the parent company across Alligator Alley will be inspired and try this next.

H/t to Icethetics

Photo: Naples News

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 3, 2011 3:11 pm
 

Jets' Enstrom to be out with a broken collarbone

By Brian Stubits

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom is out indefinitely according to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun. Enstrom sustained a broken collarbone in the team's 4-3 shootout win over the Panthers on Halloween night.

Enstrom's injury came near the end of the second period with the Jets ahead 2-1. Enstrom was chasing the puck after it was dumped into the zone, as was the fore-checking Jack Skille of the Panthers. The two approach the puck at the same time so Skille laid a brutal hit on Enstrom.

Here's the play.

The Jets were clearly unhappy as Dustin Byfuglien immediately tried to instigate a fight with Skille, who declined. Later, captain Andrew Ladd did the dirty work, giving Skille a good beating in the third period.

Folks in Winnipeg weren't happy with the hit. The feeling was that it was worthy of a suspension, but the league ruled otherwise. In this case I agree with the league's decision, I thought any head contact was incidental and that Enstrom's reaching for the puck contributed to the danger. Now Scottie Upshall's hit earlier in the game on the other hand ...

The loss of Enstrom is not an easy one for the Jets to take. In the last two seasons he has eclipsed the 50-point mark, including 51 points last season in just 72 games. This season he had a goal and five assists in 11 games. But more importantly, the Jets aren't necessarily loaded with quality defensemen. Mark Stuart is dealing with an upper-body issue at the moment himself while Johnny Oduya has shown he still has some growing to go.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 10:33 pm
 

Weekend wrap: Bruins' slow start staggers on

By Brian Stubits

Before the season, there was a lot of lip service given to the Stanley Cup hangover. While I could see the thinking behind it, I wasn't sure I believed it would really have a negligible effect.

While it could be pure coincidence, I'm beginning to believe in the power -- or more appropriately pain -- of the hangover. That's because the Boston Bruins are 3-7 to start the season after being swept in a home-and-home by the not-long-ago struggling Canadiens (by the way, that's three straight wins since the Habs axed assistant Perry Pearn). For those keeping track at home, that's good enough to be last in not only the Northeast Division, but the Eastern Conference.

“Honestly, this is so frustrating,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after Saturday's 4-2 loss in Montreal. “I don’t know. It’s like we can’t buy a break right now and we just keep getting deeper. We need to turn this around.”

Maybe this is a team that used up all of its breaks last season.

But I didn't see this hangover coming this harsh to start the season. I mean, this is the kind I'd get in college when I'd sleep through breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I was a believer in Boston last season, picking them to win the Cup before the playoffs began. I'm a sucker for plus/minus stats for teams, and nobody was better than Boston in that category a season ago. I took that as a sign of quality balance and partly the product of Tim Thomas' career year.

Thomas hasn't been the problem this year, even if he's not living up to the standard of a year ago. But nobody, and I repeat nobody, expected that season again. It was record-setting as far as save percentage goes, the best in NHL history. That's tough to repeat.

No, instead it's been the offense. It's a group that doesn't seem to possess any elite scorers, but as the playoffs showed, there are numerous guys who are good enough. They have just 22 goals in 10 games. Defensively, there 25 goals allowed is the second lowest total in the East behind only Buffalo.

Claude Julien has tried to fix the issue. There has been line mixing. The team's best player has been sophomore Tyler Seguin, who has four goals and six points. Only five players have at least five points through 10 games.

For his part, GM Peter Chiarelli is not panicking yet. Why would he? This current roster is almost exactly the same as the one that won the championship a few months ago. Obviously it is good enough. But Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com reported that Chiarelli might be working the phones already, trying to perhaps find a player to come in and inject some life into Boston.

“I’m always working the phones, but I am a little more diligent these days," Chiarelli told ESPN.com on Thursday.

This is the part where we normally remind you that we're only 10 games into the season. There is still a lot of time for the B's to wake up and defend their Cup in earnest. But it's also worth noting that the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference are looking better this season.

They can't afford to sleep in too long until the headache goes away.

Any be-Leafers now?

When do you start believing in what the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing? Ron Wilson's crew is 7-3-1 begin the year. The last three games, including Saturday's OT win over the Penguins, have been with starting goaltender James Reimer injured. They did get tripped up by the Sens on Sunday night in a great game.

We chuckled at the uber optimism Leafs fans were feeling with the quick start and statements such as Phil Kessel is headed for Wayne Gretzky numbers. Now there is a bigger sample size of 10 games and Kessel has 10 goals with eight assists. It's still a small sample size, however it's easier to take big projections. Don't expect Gretzky numbers, but it could be a monster season nonetheless.

Speaking of monsters, Jonas Gustavsson has fared certainly well enough in Reimer's absence. With Reimer sidelined for a little bit, this was Gustavsson's chance to show he could handle the backup duties himself. So far so good. He was good enough on Saturday for Ron Wilson -- one of the few coaches on Twitter -- to pronoune him the starter for Sunday night's game against Ottawa, a loss.

"Great win. Monster was huge and gets start tomorrow. Komo keeps getting better. Dion and Phil are the best at their positions in NHL!"

If nothing else, let's just say it's time to take Toronto a little more seriously.

Streaking Senators

Raise your hand if you saw the Senators winning six games by Thanksgiving before the season began.

Forget Thanksgiving, the Sens have won six games in their last six outings after a great comeback win over the Rangers on Saturday and then a solid win over the Maple Leafs on Sunday. Things seem to be coming together quickly.

It doesn't come as much of a surprise, but Jason Spezza has been his usual spectacular self. He has 15 points through 12 games (7-8=15). But also joining him in the better-than-a-point-per-game pace are Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson, who has an NHL-high 12 assists.

Before the season, a lot of folks had the Senators as the preseason favorites for the Nail Yakupov (top draft prospect) sweepstakes. While they still could be, they are at least giving the fans some fun along the way.

A Star is born

Has anybody noticed what Kari Lehtonen is doing in Dallas? Judging by the attendance, the majority of the Metroplex hasn't.

The Stars are 8-3-0 after Saturday's 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. In those 11 games, Lehtonen is 8-1. He carries a goals against average of 1.75. He has been simply stellar for a team now being led not by Brad Richards, but instead by a bevy of young guns and veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray.

Lehtonen is at that magical age in sports when they are supposedly at their peak, 27. After playing in 69 games a season ago, he looks ready to carry the load again this season.

Just another quality goalie from Finland. Ho hum.

As for the attendance? Well Saturday night only 11.740 were announced to be in the stands to witness the win. I understood the reasons for low attendance numbers earlier this season, baseball's Rangers were fighting for the World Series and, well, the Stars lost their big star in the offseason. But with this kind of start and the Rangers now done, I hoped to see more than 11,740 in the crowd. Baby steps, I guess. Baby steps. If the Stars keep winning, they will come.

Night Caps

The Washington Capitals took on the Vancouver Canucks in the Saturday night cap and it didn't last long for Tomas Vokoun. The Capitals goalie gave up three first-period goals, two of them being on Canucks power plays, and was pulled by coach Bruce Boudreau to start the second.

The reason? Boudreau wanted to give the team a spark. Well, his Caps did come back to the tie game, but it all got away from them again in a 7-4 loss. (On a side note, a four-goal performance won't do much to change the Canucks fans' feelings about Roberto Luongo either.)

Some are seeing it as a deal. Boudreau said Vokoun wasn't particularly sharp. Vokoun said he felt fine.

But I'd like to point out that Vokoun had played every game since Michal Neuvirth was given the opening-night start. If nothing else, Vokoun deserved a break.

We're going streaking!

As already mentioned, the Ottawa Senators now have a six-game winning streak going. But they're not alone.

The San Jose Sharks have also won five in a row. More impressively, all five of those games were on the road, including Saturday's shootout win over the Islanders and a win on Friday over the Red Wings.

Speaking of Detroit, it has lost four games in row since beginning the year 5-0. Maybe that 7-1 beatdown at the hands of the Capitals sent them into a funk?

The Islanders are also in an early tailspin. Make that five losses in a row for them after Saturday's loss to San Jose.

Last but certainly not least, the Edmonton Oilers are very quietly in first place in the Northwest Division, surpassing the Colorado Avalanche. That's because the Oilers have won five games in a row after weekend wins over the Avalanche on Friday and Blues on Sunday. The Kids in the Hall are getting a lot of attention for that, but Nikolai Khabibuln has been spectacular.

Quote of the weekend

Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was very happy with his team's 3-2 comeback win over the Sabres on Saturday night. He took it as a chance to talk a little, umm, anatomy.

Let's just say he appreciated the marbles his team showed by scoring twice in the final four minutes for the win.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 29, 2011 12:51 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Frans Nielsen: A bargain on the Island -- for now

Fn1By: Adam Gretz

This past week the folks at BusinessWeek put together a list of what they called the "smartest" spenders in sports. Simply put: the teams that spent the fewest amount of dollars per win.

In theory, it's an interesting premise, but it seemed to produce some very flawed results. For example, while the Nashville Predators topped their list, a team that definitely gets the most bang for its limited buck, some of the other teams in the top-10 included the Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Thrashers, and New York Islanders. Were these teams smart about which players they signed, or were they simply not spending money on any players of any value? After all, when you think of front office efficiency the Pirates or Thrashers (now the Jets) probably aren't the first teams that come to mind.

The Islanders, on the other hand, are a little more intriguing. At least potentially.

A team in transition, stuck in a rebuild that's been going on for about five years now, The Islanders are probably not quite ready to return to the postseason this year. But they are building something interesting on Long Island, and do have quite a few bargains on their roster for this year and in the future. The quartet of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson, for example, are all signed through at least the 2013-14 season for a combined cap commitment of just around $14 million. I've said this before, but for all of the criticisms the Islanders front office has taken for handing out bad contracts in the past, those look to be examples of very smart spending going forward.

One of the often times most overlooked members of this Islanders team, and perhaps one of their biggest bargains this season at a cap hit of $525,000, the lowest on the team, is Frans Nielsen, their checking center that finished in the top-six in voting for the Selke Trophy last season as one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. It's not uncommon for him to be one of their best players on any given night.

Usually playing on a line between the speedy Grabner and Okposo, Islanders coach Jack Capuano seems to use the trio in somewhat of a defensive role and more often than not sends them out there against the other teams top lines whenever he has a chance, especially during home games when his team has the last line change before faceoffs.

So far this season Nielsen's line has drawn regular assignments against players like Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi from Minnesota, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan from the Rangers, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos from the Lightning, and Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg from the Panthers. Through the first eight games of the season the Islanders have allowed 14 goals during 5-on-5 play, and Nielsen has been on the ice for just three of them (two of them were scored by Stamkos in separate games, the other was a goal scored by Brandon Prust during a 5-2 Islanders win). If you're a believer in plus/minus, he's finished as a plus-player in each of the past two year on a team that's been outscored by 35 and 42 goals during the season while playing against the other teams best players.

Following a 3-2 shootout loss in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Capuano told me he was probably their best player on the ice that night. It was a game that saw him score a goal, create two chances on two different penalty kills, block three shots, record a takeaway and win a couple of defensive zone faceoffs. And that's pretty much just another day at the office for him.

"He's played a strong game throughout the year for us," said Capuano. "Obviously the numbers haven't been there but he's been pretty strong for us."

He also referred to Nielsen as "dominant" and commented on how he's always positionally sound when he doesn't have the puck.

With one of the smallest salary cap hits in the NHL this season, Nielsen is a tremendous bargain for the Islanders, but that could soon change as he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency following this season. And there should be no shortage of teams lining up to give him the rather large pay raise he's earned over the past three years if something doesn't get worked out with the Islanders. There's a ton of value in a matchup center that can chip in around 40 points (while playing a defensive role and being put into mostly defensive situations) and play Selke-caliber defense.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 27, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Video: Panthers announce Gudbranson staying up

By Brian Stubits

Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson has earned himself a spot with the team full-time. Coach Kevin Dineen made the announcement in front of the entire team at the morning skate before Thursday's game in Ottawa.

It led to some great moments both on and off the ice.

First, there was this. Gudbranson being congratulated by his teammates and then doing the old riding the stick across the ice. It's awesome to see a moment like this, which is usually done privately, caught on camera.

“I was wondering how I was going to deliver it," Dineen said. "A lot of times in this business you’re delivering bad news, so it’s nice to let someone know that’s a heck of an occasion, not only for him but for his family, his minor-league coaches, a lot of people can really enjoy that. “Playing in your hometown there’s enough stuff going on already so I picked the right call to let him know and let him know in front of his teammates."

Gudbranson's family was in attendance at the skate, so obviously they were around when it was announced Erik was staying in the NHL. His dad, Wayne, could hardly contain himself. From Harvey Filakov at the Sun-Sentinel

In the stands, Gudbranson’s father Wayne broke down and couldn’t even speak to reporters because he was overcome with emotion when witnessing the on-ice celebration. It’s also special because Gudbranson grew up nearby and skated on this ice as a 5-year-old Pee-wee player when he was rooting for the Sens. His whole family will be in the stands tonight, except for brother Alex, who plays for his old junior team the Kingston Frontenacs.

Gudbranson was mobbed by the Ottawa media.

“It’s exciting and I’m really pumped," said Gudbranson, who doled out about 25 tickets for tonight’s game. “It was nice my dad was in the crowd for morning skate, so he got to see it. As much as it’s a dream for me I’m pretty sure it’s twice as exciting to see his kid do that and I give [my family] all the credit in the world."

Gudbranson was the top pick by the Panthers two seasons ago, taken third overall behind Taylor Hall by the Oilers and Tyler Seguin of the Bruins.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:58 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 2:13 pm
 

Panthers sticking with Theodore over Markstrom

By Brian Stubits

Before the season began, if there were talk about a goalie controversy in Florida, most would have assumed it would be over the ineptitude between Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen.

But a funny thing happened to start the season. Knee surgery forced Clemmensen to the injured list so the Panthers had to keep top goaltending prospect Jacob Markstrom with the NHL club instead of sending him back to the AHL for a little more seasoning. It was assumed when Theodore signed for two seasons, he'd be there to stem the tide until Markstrom is ready and pass the torch then.

Well "then" appears to be now to everybody watching the Cats. Everybody except for new head coach Kevin Dineen.

"Theo's our starter and a great player," Dineen told the Sun-Sentinel. "He's going to get back in there soon. Jacob not only earned that start but earned that victory."

In the meantime, however, Dineen hasn't said yet who will start Thursday in Ottawa, saying it is a "good decision to have.''

Markstrom rode the pine for the first four games of the season behind Theodore before Dineen gave the Panthers' first pick in the 2008 NHL Draft his first career start. His Panthers were thoroughly outplayed by the Capitals, but Markstrom was brilliant, keeping the Panthers within striking distance, allowing just two goals in a 3-0 loss (one empty-netter). He then relieved Theodore in the third period of a game against the Islanders when Theodore got a little dinged up and closed like Mariano Rivera, stonewalling all 18 of the Islanders' shots.

Then came Monday night in Montreal when Markstrom received his second career start. All he did there was stop 40 of the Canadiens' 41 shots, including some spectacular stops (see for yourself) on seemingly sure goals. The Panthers needed every one of those 40 saves, too, as they won just 2-1.

That brings his season total to 87 saves out of 90 shots. It also prompted one of the postgame quotes of the year from teammate Scottie Upshall.

"He’s like a Transformer," Upshall said. "We’re not sure if he’s human or if he’s part alien."

Theodore, meanwhile, hasn't been bad for the Panthers, but he hasn't been as good as Markstrom. Theodore's states on the season show a 2.62 goals against average and .913 save percentage as well as a shutout in his debut.

Thus, Dineen put the speculation to rest on who his No. 1 goalie is. But it doesn't answer the question of what happens to Markstrom when Clemmensen is healthy to return, which isn't far away? Do the Panthers carry three goalies a la the Isles with Evgeni Nabokov, Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro? Do they send Markstrom back to the AHL even though he's shown he's more than capable of playing at the highest level?

At this point, the AHL doesn’t seem to be in play, no? How do you justify sending down somebody playing so well? Instead, you could see Clemmensen become expendable, although it’s unlikely there would be much of a market for him.

File this in the good-problems-to-have folder.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 24, 2011 6:03 pm
 

David Booth meets Vancouver media, talks trade

By Brian Stubits

David Booth met the Vancouver media for the first time since his surprising trade to the Canucks on Saturday. Let's just say it was a far cry from an attention standpoint than any interview he did in Florida.

“No, maybe for the Miami Dolphins, but not for the Florida Panthers," Booth joked.

Much was made over the weekend about Booth reportedly shedding some tears when he was told of the news. Inevitably, the jokes about tears of joy for leaving Florida poured in, but Booth explained why it was so tough for him to hear he was leaving Florida.

"It was an emotional time for me," Booth said. "I live with my brother down in Florida and it's hard to leave him. He's one year younger than me and I grew up my whole life with him.

"It was tough to say goodbye and it is going to be tough for a while.

"I am very close to my family. My dad was down there, too, for the weekend and I'm glad he was. It was good to see him. I have another brother and I am very close with him. My little sister is 16 and a hockey player and she wears No. 7. That's why I chose to be No. 7."

One thing that will help him adapt will be some familiar faces in Vancouver, particularly those who he'll be sharing a line with. Booth goes way back with Ryan Kesler as the two played together growing up in the Detroit area. The other member of his line, Chris Higgins, spent time with the Panthers last season before he, too, was traded to Vancouver. Add in Byron Bitz, Alexander Sulzer and Keith Ballard -- all of whom had stints in Florida recently -- and Booth rightfully joked that if he began the season in Vancouver, he probably would have known more teammates there than in Florida.

As for why he thought he was traded from Florida, where he seemed to be a franchise cornerstone?

“I know they’re turning around the organization. It takes some time. [GM Dale Tallon] has his way of doing things and I wasn’t part of it. That’s all right. You can’t please everybody. ... There are 28 other teams I could’ve went to. I’m glad I came here."

For those counting at home, that leaves Stephen Weiss as the only player who played significant time with the Panthers during the 2008-09 season.

Booth is scheduled to make his debut with the Canucks on Tuesday night in Edmonton.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 24, 2011 3:08 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 3:17 pm
 

Jaroslav Spacek to return for Montreal

Spacek1By: Adam Gretz

Finally, some good news for the Montreal Canadiens. Well, some potential good news anyway.

When the Canadiens take on the Florida Panthers on Monday night they will be getting one of their injured defenseman back as Jaroslav Spacek is expected to be in the lineup for the first time since the second game of the season when he went out with a rib injury in a 5-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets.

The Canadiens, plagued by injuries for much of the season, especially on their blue line, haven't won since that night in Winnipeg and carry a five-game losing streak into Monday's home game with the Panthers. That losing streak has caused a bit of a panic in Montreal, and head coach Jacques Martin seems to be sitting on the hot seat whether it's justified or not. When you've been without two of your top defensemen for all but two games of the season, as well as missing players like Michael Cammalleri and Chris Campoli, some struggles should be expected. Maybe not as many as they've had over the first two weeks, but some.

In the absence of Markov and Spacek a lot of the pressure has fallen on P.K. Subban and he's struggled so far, recording just two assists in seven games. A disappointing start for a player that scored 14 goals to go along with 24 assists as a rookie just a year ago.

Peter Budaj is expected to start in goal for the Canadiens, giving Carey Price the night off. Scott Gomez, out with an upper body injury, is not expected to play.

In other news, the Panthers will be without Mikael Samuelsson in this game as he's still in Vancouver dealing with some soreness according to TSN's Darren Dreger. Samuelsson, of course, was acquired over the weekend, along with Marco Sturm, in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for forward David Booth.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com