Sports Outside the Beltway

Costly mistake- Blackhawks waive Rostislav Olesz

Chicago is probably praying right this second that somebody takes the ex-Florida Panther off their hands. IMHO it is very unlikely to happen. Olesz gets 3.4 million this year and that amount will rise over the next two seasons till it reaches 4.25 million. This for a defensive specialist/4th liner who will score at most 30 points in a season. At the 18 game point of this year, Olesz has no points for the 6 games he suited up as a Blackhawk. If noone claims Olesz, he will play for Chicago’s AHL affiliate, Rockford Icehogs. Unless something miraculous takes place, I bet Chicago buys out Olesz’s contract at the end of this season. Rusty will most likely go play in the KHL or somewhere else in Europe.

I’m well acquainted with Olesz from his Florida days. He isn’t a bad player, but Florida took him far too early in the 2004 NHL Draft(7th overall) and then gave him an outrageous contract. Florida dealt him to Chicago for Defenseman Brian Campbell. Another player with a huge contract. The difference is- Campbell has 17 points this season, tied for the most among defenseman in the NHL. Campbell is also helping to lead a surprising Florida team this year which at this moment is tied for the Southeast Division lead. Washington has tiebreaks. The trade made still go sour for Florida, but right now Florida

The Campbell-Olesz trade, which I thought was a good trade for Florida from the start, could still go sour for both teams but at this moment the Panthers look to have made some of the smartest personnel moves of the last NHL offseason. Trading for Olesz, plus signing free agents Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann.


Puck Drop- Florida Panthers start the 2011-12 NHL season

Tonight I’ll be back to watching my favorite hockey team. The cats open the year against the New York Islanders on Long Island.

Florida is almost a brand new team from last year. Considering that the Panthers were 30-40-12=72 last year and last in the Eastern Conference, the turnover should be for the better.

The new faces include Scottie Upshall, Kris Versteeg, Jose Theodore, Tomas Fleischmann, and Brian Campbell. Departing players- Cory Stillman, Tomas Vokoun, Rostislav Olesz, Darci Hordichuk, and others. I think the new additions are for the better with one exception.

Hockey pundits have weighed in on Florida. With one exception, none have picked the Panthers to make the playoffs. That would be 11 straight years without a post season appearance if they’re right.

I think Florida won’t make the playoffs. My prediction for them this year- 36-33-13=85 or 10th in the Eastern Conference.

Florida has the makings of a good offense. David Booth and Kris Versteeg have scored 25 goals before and I expect them to do so this year. Mike Santorelli had 20 goals last year but had little support. I expect him to up it to 25 at least. One of these players will get it 30, and I expect it to be Booth who did score 31 goals in 08-09 before he suffered a serious concussion the next season. Booth started slow last year, but looked back to his prior form at the end of the season. Stephen Weiss should be in the low 20′s in the goals scored department.

Besides those four players, Evgeny Dadonov, Upshall, Tomas Kopecky and Scott Mathias should be more than solid contributors. Dadonov is the sleeper, he being one of the few Panthers to impress me last year. He could be up in Santorelli-Versteeg territory on a full season.

Florida I think is in good shape Defensemen wise. They’re a mixture of youngsters (Dmitri Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson. Florida’s first round selections in 2009 and 2010 respectively) and veterans (Mike Weaver and 2nd time around Panther Canada Ed Jovanovski.)

The biggest problem Florida faces right now is their goaltending situation. Vokoun was one of the best goalies, but he is gone. In his place is Theodore who I have derided on multiple occasions. My opinion on Theodore hasn’t changed now that he is wearing a Florida uniform. He played poorly in the preseason and I’m not expecting good things from him in the regular season.

Florida’s #2 Goalie was supposed to be Scott Clemmensen. Who I used to deride on a scale similar to Theodore but I warmed up to him based on his play last year. That said, Clem isn’t more than a serviceable #1 Goalie and to make matters worse he will be out the first month of the season due to injury. So instead of Clem being on the opening day roster, Florida Panther Goalie of the future Jacob Markstrom, will be in the NHL rather than the AHL to start the season. I think Markstrom still needs minor league time, but Theodore has the potential to be an absolute bomb(He played poorly in the preseason, including a 7-goal disaster against Dallas) as starting goalie and that could cause the Swede to get the starting job earlier than anticipated and while he is still in need of more pro experience. The Florida Goalie situation is questionable at best and could be terrible this year.

Florida has a new head coach in Kevin Dineen. He and General Manager Dale Tallon look to have the Panthers going in the right direction. There are the usual skeptics, but hardcore Panther fans for the most part are more optimistic about the team than they have been for 5 years at least.

I’m being optimistic in predicting a 36-33-13=85 finish for the Panthers because I expect them to start poorly unless someone steps up at Goalie. The Panthers should get better as the year goes on and finish the year with a rosy future ahead of them as Jonathan Huberdeau, Quinton Howden, and others make it to the NHL. In a few minutes, we’ll begin seeing how my predictions will work out. Go Florida!

Hat tip- John at The Litter Box from whom I borrowed the above photo from.


NHL Referees beat Florida Panthers 3-2

The definitive proof of what I say is up above. Would you believe four game officials ruled that as not a goal?

Watch the video, particularly at the 2:25 point where Atlanta’s Goalie plucks the puck out of the net with the rules officials around. Were there four blind mice wearing stripes last night in Sunrise?

The NHL has a review system in place when a goal or non-goal was questionable. It was never used last night. Why? This Panther blogger wonders openly if the NHL has two sets of rules and Florida is on being judged by the bum set. There is a mounting pile of evidence from this season’s games that says just that. The kick in Edmonton to open the season, the tackling of Panther Goalie Scott Clemmensen by a Toronto player and the NHL rules official clearly said the referees that night blew it, and then this. Florida lost 15 games this year to other teams, and had three more games taken from them by scandalous rulings on ice. What the hell is going to be the NHL’s excuse this time?


Hat Trick- Florida Panthers NHL Team fails to live up to free Yarmulke Promise

Oi Vei

SUNRISE, Fla. – Sunrise Sports & Entertainment announced today that the Florida Panthers Hanukkah Celebration presented by The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 7 during the Cats-Avalanche game at the BankAtlantic Center. Prime Time Stubs, Inc. is an associate sponsor for the event.

Fans are encouraged to join the biggest Hanukkah party in South Florida through a number of initiatives including:

- A giant menorah lighting on the JetBlue Tarmac at 6:45 p.m.

- Jewish music provided by Avimagic Entertainment

- Kosher food available throughout the game in select locations

- Panthers yarmulke given to all ticket-buyers

The Panther website clearly says all ticket-buyers. Fans arrived for tonight’s game and were told it only applied to group ticket buyers. I got wind of it at The Litter Box where one commenter let everyone know. George Richards of the Miami Herald has also confirmed it in his live feed of the game.

The Panthers don’t have a very good rep in South Florida and this sure isn’t going to help it. It is Hanukkah after all and this region has one of the biggest Jewish populations in the nation.

On a side note this particular Panther game isn’t supposed to be broadcast because it is NHL night on Versus. They have exclusive rights on these nights. Well, I’m watching a video feed with Florida Panther radio announcers doing the audio. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is in Sunrise tonight. Maybe he would be interested in knowing all of tonight’s screwups but he’s a screwup himself so I bet he’d shrug it off.


Kicking mad- Edmonton beats Florida Panthers 3-2

The Florida Panthers played their first regular season NHL game last night. From the Sun-Sentinel-

The Panthers began their 17th season and first under General Manager Dale Tallon with a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Sunday night.

Those watching saw a different Panthers team from years past.

Sure, they were still offensively challenged against last season’s worst team, missing point-blank shots that should’ve given them a 2-0 lead after one, instead of a scoreless tie.

Throughout the first two periods, Tallon and third-year coach Pete DeBoer watched their charges, including seven newcomers, dominate the game with smothering defense and solid forechecking, but still trailed 3-2 on deflected goals by Dustin Penner and Ryan Jones, as well as a goal by Shawn Horcoff that appeared to have been kicked in, but stood after a review.


“It looked very clear to me. I don’t know what else a kicking motion is. … That’s what I saw. … It didn’t surprise me they count it. They’re trying to get the scoring up.”

The Panthers outshot Edmonton 23-7 after two periods (28-13 overall), but three Edmonton shots got past Vokoun. The Panthers fell to 7-7-3 in season openers, including 2-7-1 on the road.

“It’s frustrating in that we didn’t get rewarded for the effort we put in,” DeBoer said. “It looked like a kick to me. The interpetation of that rule I don’t understand. I don’t know if you have to take a punter’s kick at it for it not to count.”

Thanks to two new Panthers forwards, Steve Bernier and former Oiler Marty Reasoner, the deficit was cut to one heading into the third. Bernier, a major part of the draft-day trade with the Canucks involving defenseman Keith Ballard, stole the puck and set up Reasoner for an open wrist shot that he buried from the faceoff circle.

Then with 2:09 left in the period, Bernier fed left wing David Booth, who, showing no ill effects from last year’s concussions, ripped a shot at veteran goalie Nikolai Khabibulin that popped back to Reasoner for the stuff shot.

Here is video of the Horcoff shot. The view that begins at the 1:18 mark seems to clearly show a kick.

Florida lost and it was due to fluke shots and a bad call by the referees. The team and its fans have to get over it. Next up is a game with Vancouver, tonight. The Canucks are picked by many to be in the NHL finals next spring. Florida’s path at the beginning of the 2010-11 NHL season is only getting tougher.

Hat tip for the above video- Donny at Litter Box Cats.


Florida Panthers trade Nathan Horton to Boston

Will the last scorer please turn off the lights at the Bank Atlantic Center. From the Sun-SentinelNathan Horton2-

The Panthers traded right winger Nathan Horton to the Bruins on Tuesday, along with forward Gregory Campbell, for the 15th pick in this year’s draft, defenseman Dennis Wideman and a third-round pick in 2011.

Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said Horton asked to be traded in Tallon’s initial conversation with the winger after he was hired.

“He showed frustration and felt maybe it would be better if he was able to go somewhere else,” Tallon said.

Horton, 25, was the Panthers’ second-longest tenured player. They drafted him No. 3 in 2003. He was the team’s second-leading scorer this past season, finishing with 57 points (20 goals) in 65 games. He missed 17 games with a broken leg.

Horton was happy to be moving on to Boston.

“I’m not going to say anything bad about the [Panthers] organization, but there have been five coaches in the time I’ve been there,” Horton said. “Now I’m going to a stable, historic organization. I’m very excited. I’m going to give it all I’ve got. I think it’s going to be good.”

Horton said not getting a chance to play in the playoffs has been hard to deal with.

“As a player, that’s the best part of playing hockey,” he said. “When you don’t make them for seven years, I just think it’s too long. It can’t happen. With this [Bruins] organization, it just doesn’t happen. It’s exciting for me just to come and be a part of it.”

Horton has 142 goals and 153 assists in 422 career games.

Tallon said Horton “was frustrated with what had gone on in the past and was leaning toward, if we could help him out, seeing what was out there for him. That’s how this all began.” Tallon said when he told Horton of the trade this morning, “he thanked me.”

Wideman, 27, had six goals and 24 assists for the Bruins this past season and averaged more than 23 minutes of ice time.

First, I’m not going to miss Gregory Campbell. He was an almost total offensive zero last season who got way too much playing time because he was Coach Peter DeBoer’s pet(He coached Campbell in junior leagues). For that reason I think DeBoer was bypassed in the decision making progress that led to this trade. Unless Florida plays well next year, I bet DeBoer won’t be back for the 2011-12 NHL season.

As for Horton, he’s been an underacheiver with a poor work ethic on a team that at best muddles their way through an NHL season. Trading him for a #15 is great but leaves the Panthers with a big offensive hole. 5 draft selections in the top 50 picks are great, but none of them are likely to play in the next NHL season, alone have any kind of impact. Florida could take the pick and trade for someone. Names that are being floated around include Jeff Carter, Jason Spezza, or Kris Versteeg. Florida’s new General Manager came from Chicago, so Versteeg would be the obvious one of the three above but I like Carter the most.

Also blogging on the Horton trade- Donny at the Litter Box and Stanley Cup of Chowder.


Florida Panthers hire Dale Tallon as general manager

He held the same position in Chicago From 2005 to 2009 the Sun-Sentinel-

Randy Sexton’s stint as Panthers general manager ended Monday.

The Panthers hired former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon to replace Sexton and will introduce the ninth GM in franchise history Tuesday morning at BankAtlantic Center.

Tallon, 59, was serving as a senior adviser of hockey operations for the Blackhawks.

According to a source, former Wild GM Doug Risebrough, former Bruins GM Mike O’Connell and Rangers assistant director of player personnel Jeff Gorton were the others on the Panthers’ short list who were considered.

It’s uncertain whether Sexton, whose one-year contract is set to expire June 1, will remain with the team in some capacity.


Tallon, who in four seasons as Blackhawks GM maneuvered their rise from third-worst record in the NHL to the Western Conference finals, is optimistic he can rebuild the Panthers. While the Blackhawks had missed the playoffs six of the past seven seasons when Tallon took over in 2005, the Panthers haven’t made the playoffs since 2000 — an NHL record-tying nine consecutive seasons.

“I’m elated. It’s a great opportunity,” said Tallon, 59, who plans to fly to Germany on Wednesday to meet with Panthers coach Pete DeBoer, an assistant coach for Canada at the World Championships. “I’ve just got to give him some tools to work with and see if he can do the job.”

Panthers majority owners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel released a statement Monday noting “we are thrilled and honored to open a new chapter in Florida Panthers franchise history.” They added that Tallon “brings with him a proven track record and an impressive franchise-building resume that we believe is the perfect fit for the future” and thanked Sexton, who was named GM hours before the season opener Oct. 2 in Helsinki, for his service.

Tallon told the Sun Sentinel he was first contacted by Panthers alternate governor Bill Torrey near the end of April. Discussions continued and ultimately “it felt right for both parties,” Tallon said.

“They’ve got a lot of good draft picks. They’ve got some good young players,” Tallon said. “It’s a similar situation to what we started with in Chicago, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Much of the appeal of this union, both from the Panthers’ perspective and Tallon’s, is that the team will have nine picks in next month’s draft in Los Angeles, including the No. 3 overall pick and three picks in the second round.

Two of those second-rounders were acquired at the trade deadline when Sexton, who first became interim GM last May after Jacques Martin left to coach the Canadiens, sent Jordan Leopold to the Penguins and fellow defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to the Bruins.

“We have the blueprint. We know how to do it,” Tallon said. “We just have to implement it now.”

Tallon reconstructed the Blackhawks, who finished with 65 points his first season as GM, by drafting All-Stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He also traded for Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg, and signed other current Blackhawks Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell, John Madden and Antti Niemi as free agents.

“He did a complete re-haul of a very bad product, and as a result you see the crowds and the excitement the Blackhawks have instilled in Chicago,” said Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, who was Tallon’s assistant in Chicago and Panthers GM from 2002-04. “He knows how to construct a team. He’s a builder. And he’ll do a heck of a job there [in Florida]. The only thing that bothers me is we’re in the same division.”

Despite Tallon’s success in Chicago, he was demoted last July a week after the team mistakenly filed paperwork of qualifying offers to its restricted free agents after the deadline. But many inside the organization and outside believe the move was made because Blackhawks president John F. McDonough wanted to bring in his own guy, Stan Bowman, to be GM. Bowman is the son of Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman.

I always thought the paperwork snafu was just the cover story for a case of nepotism in Chicago. Tallon did nothing that was deserving of promotion.

Donny Rivette does a good job of summing up Randy Sexton’s short tenure in Florida. The Panthers had a big let down last year, but this Panther fan only puts a small bit of the blame at his feet. Oh Sexton made some dumb moves, like signing Scott Clemmensen and Ville Koistinen, but none of these are the cause for the team finished out of the playoff picture once again. I believe former GMs Mike Keenan and Jacques Martin are to blame.

I soured on the Panthers late last season. For that reason, I still don’t trust the team’s new ownership and I find it hard to believe in Tallon turning around the franchise. All I will say is- 1- Florida is rebuilding and is at least two years from being a playoff team. 2- I wonder how safe Coach Peter DeBoer’s job is now? The team has new owners and management and that makes me think DeBoer could be fired before the 2010-11 season is over. Particularly if Florida is once again out of the playoff picture.


Where in Canada?- Florida beats Toronto 4-1

Today’s sports media screwup-


Do headline writers actually read the first word of an article? Do editors just post anything given to them? If you need proof of that, look at this piece of garbage written by a sports writer last year.

Florida is winning meaningless games to close out the 2009-10 NHL season. How nice of them. Forward Rostislav Olesz scored his first point since the Harding administration in 22 games too. How nice of him to show up.

Boston beat Atlanta last night. That gives the Bruins a 3-point hold on the last playoff spot. Don’t punch their ticket yet. Boston has two games left with Washington.

Even should they make the playoffs, Boston, Atlanta, or whoever will get steamrolled by the Caps. The only Eastern Conference teams up to beating Washington are New Jersey, Pittsburgh, or Buffalo.


Throwing in the towel- Phoenix beats Florida 4-3

Would a serious NHL playoff contender would blow a 3-goal lead with less than 20 minutes to go in the game. From AP-

With a lot of grit and a little luck, the Phoenix Coyotes earned a record-setting win Thursday night.FL-Phe

Radim Vrbata scored with 59.7 seconds left in the third period to force overtime, then added the winner in the third round of a shootout in the Coyotes’ 4-3 comeback victory over the Florida Panthers.

Martin Hanzal and Lee Stempniak also scored in the third period to help the Coyotes stretch their winning streak to seven games. The Coyotes set a franchise record for wins in a season with 44, besting the previous mark set by the 1984-85 Winnipeg Jets — before overtime ties were broken in shootouts.

“It was just one of those games where we never quit,” Vrbata said. “We came back and it was nice to get that.”

Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 21 shots in regulation and overtime for Phoenix.

David Booth and Cory Stillman scored second-period goals for Florida, and Stephen Weiss had a power-play goal in the first. Tomas Vokoun made 43 saves.

Florida’s Nathan Horton and Phoenix’s Lauri Korpikoski also had shootout goals.

A fluke goal keeps the Panthers from fluking their way into a playoff spot. Very appropriate for this franchise. I give up on hoping the Panthers will make the playoffs. All I wish for now, is that the Panthers get their act together. The team has new owners but management hasn’t changed much if at all. So I remain pessimistic about my favorite hockey team.


Florida Goalie Tomas Vokoun gets no respect

Scott Burnside at ESPN writes-

Of all the teams still fighting for a playoff spot or set for the playoffs, perhaps no team relies more emphatically on its netminder for success than the New York Rangers.

Burnside clearly has a case of New Yorkitis. Lets examine the NHL Eastern Conference standings and where Florida and the NY Rangers stand.Tomas Vokoun

8th Boston 68 30 26 12 72
9 NY Rangers 69 31 29 9 71
10 Tampa Bay 68 28 28 12 68
11 Atlanta 68 28 29 11 67
12 Florida 67 28 29 10 66

8th is the last playoff spot. New York and Lundqvist are 1 point out of that spot but have played one more game than Boston. In fact they’ve played more games than all 5 times fighting for the 8 spot. Florida has a chance to narrow the gap between itself and Boston if they beat Washington tonight.

Now lets look at Lundqvist’s and Vokoun’s stats

2 Tomas Vokoun, FLA 56 23 22 2.36 .930
10 Henrik Lundqvist, NYR 60 28 23 2.45 .919

Now lets look at the Goals scored for the Panthers and Rangers

New York 181
Florida 174

Who are the three leading points scorers for each team


Marian Gaborik, RW 63 36 37 73
Vaclav Prospal, C 62 17 35 52
Ryan Callahan, RW 69 18 18 36


Stephen Weiss, C 65 23 27 50
Nathan Horton, C 51 17 29 46
Steve Reinprecht, C 67 14 22 36

Gee whiz New York’s top 2 goal scorers have more points this season than Florida’s #1. How is that so Scott Burnside?

I’ll also point out that Vokoun went 8-4-2 From for the month of January(he started all of Florida’s games) a Save Pct of over .940. That .940 is outstanding but Vokoun had to be like that. Florida scored 32 goals for the month or 2.27 per game

In that same stretch the Rangers supplied Lundqvist or his backup 36 goals in 16 games or 2.25. The Rangers went 6-9-1 that month. Because NY Goalies gave up 41 goals.

Florida in its last 18 games has only twice managed to score 2 or more goals in regulation. The total amount of goals for Florida in those 18 games-33

For New York in its last 18 games has scored 2 or more goals in regulation 9 times. Tho total amount of goals for the Rangers in those games- 46

Obviously Scott Burnside doesn’t- Look at the stats before making statements in his columns or doesn’t pay attention to all of the NHL. Tomas Vokoun is having a incredible year but this ESPN doesn’t seem to have noticed.


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