Panthers fire up the coaching merry-go-round once again

BY RON COCQUYT

The Panthers failed to make the playoffs again in 2018-2019. I’ve been
coming here since ’05 and purchasing ticket packages to see the Panthers. Once again upper management lays the blame for the team’s problems on the Head Coach. I can’t say that I don’t blame them; I’m not sure
Mr. Boughner was ever the right guy, and I’m absolutely certain that his
staff was less than capable of dealing with the challenges they faced –
which was to make defensemen out of some really poor players and
attempt to cover up a goaltending problem that goes all the way back to
the Eddie Belfour days. The word is as of today is that Joel Quenneville
will be the next coach of the Panthers. What makes him any better than Mike Keenan, Rick Dudley, or any of the young up-and-coming studs that came through Major A, had a brief stint here in South Florida and have
since moved on to be successful in other cities in the NHL? Is Joel going to be more successful than Jacques Martin? Joel was successful in Chicago
because he had the ponies, and as soon as the salary cap issues and a
little “old” age crept into the Black Hawk organization, JQ was run out of
town and replaced by one of the young phenoms (please note:  the Black Hawks have failed to make the playoffs this year).

I’ve known Joel Quenneville since he played Major Jr. A hockey for the
Windsor Spitfires back in the late 70s. He was a terrific player as a junior, an excellent player as a professional, and has had two successful runs in
the NHL. But the problem with the Panthers is not just the coach. The
Panthers need a goalie. They’ve needed a goalie for more than a half
dozen years. If you look at their statistics at year’s end, they’ve given up
50 goals more than any of the teams that have made the playoffs. You
can’t simply will good goaltending. And good goaltending is dependent on outstanding defense. The Panthers clearly lack in this department. They
have three defensemen who would struggle to be effective in the
American Hockey League, let alone the NHL. They have one defenseman who is living on his laurels, and they have one young defenseman
around whom they need to build a four-man core. You cannot win the
Stanley Cup if your defensemen don’t understand simple principles and
execute the simple responsibilities that are associated with protecting the goalie. Defense, and especially team defense, is predicated on discipline
and hard work. It doesn’t depend on talent; it doesn’t depend on skill,
although both those attributes are sought after and cherished. Playing
defense as a core and as a team requires grit. This team hasn’t had any
grit since it let Gudbranson go some years ago.

Offensively, the Panthers possess one of the premier threesomes in the
entire league. For the team to be successful, Huberdeau, Barkov, and
either Dadonov or Hoffman need to produce (and did) in excess of 270
points. The team only scored about 275 goals, maybe 280, and one line of the four accounted for about 35% or more of the production .  .  . not
good enough.

Offensively this team came up short by about 50 goals. The Trochek
absence accounted for probably half of this, but worse, the remaining 2 ½ lines produced only one other offensive threat, and that was Vatrano. Not good enough. Look at the teams that will play for the Cup, and you will
see speed, skill, toughness, and solid goaltending. Not necessarily a
revelation, not something that’s new and innovative from a thought
process, but something that upper management needs to be held
accountable for. The New York Islanders leapfrogged the Panthers this
year because they got the right coach and found goaltending. Hell, they
give up one of the NHL’s most prolific scorers in John Tavares and still
saw a dramatic improvement in their play and in the final results. Once
again, South Florida will put all its hopes and dreams in a coach, one with a reputation and a track record and some rings on his fingers. But if
management doesn’t find the players and is unwilling to part ways with
players that simply don’t have what it takes, then we, the ticket-
purchasing public, will be in for another disappointing season in
2019-2020. Adding Joel Quenneville is a big plus and is big news. Now
find us a goalie and a couple of defensemen who put the fear of God in onrushing forwards, and we may finally get into the second round of the
playoffs next year. I’m waiting before purchasing tickets until I see who Mr. Tallon discards and what new additions he brings on board.
Remember, it takes 96 points minimum to make the playoffs along with a goaltending duo that has at least a .925 save percentage.

Ron Cocquyt
Hylander Management LLC
https://hylandermanagement.com/
586-246-4503
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