Countdown 1: No. 1 Question; How Long For The Team To Gel?
Friday, 10.14.2011 / 4:05 PM ET
|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).|
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.