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The Panthers 2011-12 season is quickly approaching and with that, floridapanthers.com is going 15 in 15 by taking a look at the top five questions, players to watch and games of the season on a countdown to the home opener on October 15th against Tampa Bay. We'll unveil one of the top five on a rotating basis each day to help fans get ready for what hopes to be an exciting season.

PURCHASE TICKETS TO THE HOME OPENER

Countdown 1: No. 1 Question; How Long For The Team To Gel?

Friday, 10.14.2011 / 4:05 PM ET
By Jared Levine - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011
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Countdown To Home Opener 2011
Countdown 1: No. 1 Question; How Long For The Team To Gel?

Defenseman Brian Campbell (left) and forward Kris Versteeg (right) are one of the new players brought in over the summer to go with holdover forward Stephen Weiss (center).
In today’s topic, we take a closer look at how long it will take for the Florida Panthers to play as a team after acquiring 12 new players (either via free agency, draft or trade) in the Top Five Questions of the season.

When acquiring a new player, it usually takes some time for the individual to get adapted to a new coaching philosophy and playing style of other players.  Now imagine the task that head coach Kevin Dineen has after an offseason that brought in 12 new players (including defenseman Erik Gudbranson who as the Panthers top pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, made the opening night roster).

Dineen, in his first year, gets to be the interior decorator of this new look Florida Panther team.  His early season assignment is to get all the new pieces to fit, and to fit early.  He recognizes that it will be a challenge, but he’s been in this position plenty of times before.

"In my six years there, there's probably about 70 percent change in your lineup year to year," said Dineen about coaching in the AHL for the Portland Pirates where turnover is the norm. "That's just the nature of the game. There's players coming up from junior, first-year pros, there's guys who have played in the NHL that are trying to re-establish themselves at that level. So I think you get used to that in the American league. You have to get everybody on the same page, and that's what's really exciting for me, to have that nice window of time to spend some time together as a group before we start the regular season."

The Panthers had six preseason games and training camp to get prepared for the regular season.  If you look at their record (1-4-1) on paper, you will see they didn’t have much success.  However, just getting these players experience playing with each other is good enough.  Players like Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg made an immediate impact on the team, Fleischmann recorded a goal with two assists and Versteeg had a goal with one assist for the preseason.

There was plenty of positivity coming out of this offseason, but there was still one major question to be answered, who was going to be their goalie?  With Scott Clemmenson out with a knee injury, it was Jose Theodore’s job to lose, and that he almost did.  Theodore would go on to have an offseason he would like to forget, but coach Kevin Dineen still had faith in his old netminder plugging him in as the starter for opening day.

The Panthers would start the season off right, in their first regular season game, the Panthers would go on to beat the New York Islanders 2-0.  Their success on this night was due to two newly acquired players, Brian Campbell and Jose Theodore. Campbell would play 30 minutes of ice time while logging two assists and Theodore would go on to have a shutout, saving 27 shots.

Even though the Panthers would lose their next game 4-2 to the Penguins, they are still 1-1 for the season.  The Panthers seem to be ahead of schedule on the learning curve, by getting a win in their first game of the season.  It will be interesting to see how this team progresses over the season.  As of right now, Dineen and the new look Panthers have some work to do, but they’re not too far off.

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 79 15 39 10 54
J. Jokinen 81 8 36 -2 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
A. Ekblad 81 12 27 12 39
B. Boyes 78 14 24 11 38
A. Barkov 71 16 20 -4 36
J. Hayes 72 19 16 -4 35
B. Campbell 82 3 24 4 27
B. Pirri 49 22 2 6 24
D. Bolland 53 6 17 4 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 28 19 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 6 7 2 .892 3.01
 
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