Continuing with our hit series of pre-brawl questions to size up our opponents, we next hear from the good folks at Litter Box Cats, SB Nation's Florida Panthers community.
Double the pleasure on this edition, as two of the writers from the excellent Litter Box Cats, Whale4Ever and DolPhanDave, both weighed in for us.
Their excellent and well thought out answers are after the jump:
BSH: 1) The Panthers started the year with a win and a loss in Finland. How was that experience for the team, the fans, and those in Finland? Even with nearly a week off between games, were there any lingering issues leading to the team's poor game upon return?
Whale4ever: The team - publicly - has declared the trip a great success, at least collectively. Local fans appeared generally happy that their club was featured in such a high-profile "tournament", though some missed the opportunity to see more of training camp. The games in Helsinki were well-attended, so I'll say the Finns were pleased with the chance to see NHLers up close. A side note: fans were blessed with the coverage of the trip given them by the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Their writers really came through at a time when many teams are losing local MSM representation. As for lingering issues from the travel, a few players got rocked by a flu bug, but generally everyone arrived back home in game-shape.
DolPhanDave: The trip to Finland was tough on the Panthers because half the team came down with the flu. There was even talk of what it would take to bring a couple of their AHL guys over, but thankfully it never got to that point. You could tell during the 2nd game that guys were struggling, and a lot of that carried over after they returned to the states. At this point, there is no way they can use the Helsinki trip as an excuse for bad play as its been almost 2 weeks since the team returned. We’re hoping that the ship will get righted soon, because for a team that put an emphasis on getting off to a good start, they’ve certainly let that goal get away.
BSH: 2) Last year, the Panthers held onto Jay Bouwmeester at the deadline and still managed to get something (Jordan Leopold and a third rounder) in return for him after the season. How is that trade working out so far, and would you have preferred any of the rumored deals involving Philadelphia?
Whale4ever: Leopold is still settling in, so it's a bit early to speculate; he's a pro, and will respond as such. He's currently paired with college buddy Keith Ballard, so a certain level of comfort has probably already been achieved. No one is expecting Jordan Leopold to replace Jay Bouwmeester; it's a matter of spreading responsibility around the defense. I was never too hot on Joffrey Lupul, so none of the rumors leading to the deadline lit a fire for me.
DolPhanDave: So far Jordan Leopold has played well for the Cats. Obviously he is no Bouwmeester, but after passing on several trades during last season, it was nice to get such a solid defender with offensive skill. With that said, I would’ve preferred a trade that got the Panthers a top 2 line forward instead. This is a team that has been starved for offense for years, and I think the Bo to Philly in exchange for Lupul and vanRiemsdyk deal would have been a little better for the Cats.
BSH: 3) In the offseason, a lot of people were interested in Craig Anderson. He's now off to a great start in Colorado (1.99 GAA, .940 S%) while Scott Clemmensen hasn't played yet this year. Has that put any extra pressure on Tomas Vokoun this year and what do you think about Clemmensen?
Whale4ever: You'd be hard-pressed to locate a soul in South Florida who would find a single negative in Craig Anderson. Lots of folks were sorry to see him go, but the organization is figuratively married to Vokoun, and as such weren't going to give up on his abilities as a starter (such as they have been). "Andy" wanted a legit shot at a starter's spot, and got it elsewhere. Clemmensen plays his first game as a Panther tonight; I'm excited to have him in the fold after the year he put together for New Jersey, but let's not push Vokoun out the door just yet.
DolPhanDave: Last year I was screaming at the Panthers front office to trade Vokoun for a scorer and sign Craig Anderson to a long-term contract. Andy is an amazing goaltender and I am not surprised at all to the great start he’s gotten off to in Colorado. Vokoun on the other hand (in my opinion) gives up way too many weak goals for a guy who is always put into the top tier of NHL goalies. He plays a very funky style that often leaves him out of position, and it seems a certainty that he’ll give up at least one bad goal a game. Sure, he’ll stop the majority of the shots that come at him, but where is the stat for giving up a crap goal at a time when your team is trying to hold a lead or make a comeback?
As for Clemmensen, we’ll get our first look at him tonight and I’m hoping he plays so well that Panthers Coach Peter DeBoer has no choice but to ride the hot hand. I don’t think Vokoun will feel any kind of pressure until he finds himself losing starts to Clemmy, who despite not playing yet this season, was brought in to keep Vokoun fresh (meanwhile, The Panthers have already played two weekends with back-to-back games, and Voky has started every one of them).
I’ll wrap up with this, something that kinda sums up how it feels to be a Panther fan. We had Roberto Luongo, arguably the best goalie in the league, and instead of paying him the money that he absolutely deserved, he was traded for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld (Allen is the only one still with the team, though he’s missed a ton of games due to injury). Then the Panthers acquired Vokoun and are paying him the same amount of money that Luongo is making. If I told you that for the same price, you could have Luongo or Vokoun, which one would you pick?
Huge thanks from us here at Broad Street Hockey to both Whale4ever and DolPhanDave for their awesome participation. If you haven't yet checked out the excellent work they do at Litter Box Cats, do yourself a favor and pay it a visit.
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