VanMurph's View: Happy New Year
Thursday, 01.8.2009 / 10:00 AM ET / Blogs
|Murphy and Vanessa Burch|
Murphy, an airline pilot originally from North Carolina, is better known as vanmurph on the Panthers message boards and he, along with his wife Vanessa are two of the most vociferous fans at the BankAtlantic Center.
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New Year’s Day always brings with it the hope of better things ahead, and an honest means by which we can begin anew with a clean slate. It’s an opportunity to slough off the past and concentrate on the future.
After a fantastic start to December, the Panthers had a bit of a setback in the final week of the month, dropping both halves of a home-and-home to Tampa, and one each to Montreal and the Islanders. For me, none of those four losses really hurt more than the others, but each one had it’s own “oh my goodness” moments. The pair of losses to Tampa were pretty tough to swallow, although the last-second, overtime-forcing comeback in the BAC was immensely exciting. Then the absentee performance against the Habs (and their fans), and the beating we took from the worst team in the league made for a rather depressing way to usher out 2008. But the fact of the matter is that the sun came up the next morning, and we could either choose to be miserable, gnashing our teeth about the past, or we could move on. I chose to look forward.
This season, so far, has been an improvement over ‘07-‘08 and the Panthers are in a better position than they were a year ago. Had we played more consistently and given 100% to Coach DeBoer’s system every period of every game, we would be considerably higher in the standings than our current 10th place. We’ve lost some games we should’ve won, and as strange as it seems, that’s part of what gives me hope for a better second half. Knowing the Panthers are a much better team than their record would indicate, gives me hope that in the remainder of the season they will benefit from the knowledge gained in the first half and strive to become a model of consistency. I think that’s something all the fans want: They want to know the Panthers will strive to do their best every night. They don’t want to wonder which of the two diametrically different teams will play on a given evening: The team that went to Madison Square Garden and blanked the Rangers 4-0? Or the team that went into the Nassau Coliseum and left as the recipients of a 4-2 loss to the Islanders? Panthers fans want to come to the rink and watch their team consistently give the types of efforts that have paid off in victories against teams like the Ducks, Sharks, Rangers, Capitals, Oilers, Flames, and Penguins.
Our guys have earned 5 of 6 possible points to begin 2009. And had Keith Ballard’s overtime shot in Montreal been able to slide a half-inch more to the right, we’d be perfect in the New Year. Even though Washington, Carolina, and Buffalo have all continued to win, the Panthers still have golden opportunities ahead, including 11 head-to-head matchups with the aforementioned teams plus 14 games against teams that are currently ahead of us in the Eastern Conference standings. There is still a lot of time left in the season to make up ground, and with 25 of the remaining games being played at home, the drudgery of going on the road will be less of a burden than in the first half. In fact, the Panthers are only playing one game outside of the eastern time zone for the remainder of the regular season. If we’re going to make a run at the playoffs, the schedule seems to lean in our favor.
You’re all Panthers fans, otherwise you wouldn’t have been on the Panthers website, and you wouldn’t have happened across this blog. So since we’re all pretty much on the same page, I’ll just tell you what’s on my mind, and you can take it for what it’s worth. I sincerely believe this team can make the playoffs this year. But here’s the thing: since we’ve lost for so many years now, and have been the embodiment of mediocrity for nearly a decade, we have to realize that the losing has crept its way into the psyche of the organization, the players, and the fan base. Until the November 26th game against the Devils, I didn’t believe we had what it took to come back from a two-goal deficit… But after witnessing David Booth’s game-tying magic with just over seven seconds remaining, and several other late-game comebacks since that night, I am being conditioned to believe we are never out of it. The same sentiments can be applied to our ability to hold on to a lead late in the game. After Edmonton scored two goals in the closing seconds against us at the BankAtlantc Center last season, I began to believe that we were just unable to protect leads late in the game. But this season we’re 15-1-1 when leading the game after two periods. I now have the utmost trust in our Goaltenders and our Defense.
Things are slowly beginning to change in Sunrise. The team is gaining confidence, and with that confidence will come winning. Win enough, and you develop pride; pride in your team, and pride in your role on that team. Pride will make the difference, I guarantee you. If the Florida Panthers are able to excise the gloom of the past decade from the subconscious of the fans by consistently winning, I believe the fans will, in turn, reward them with a real home ice advantage. They’ll do it by having the confidence to stand and cheer for their team, no matter the circumstances. Nothing rejuvenates a franchise like a fan base that, through winning, develops pride in their team. Just look at Washington. Thousands fill the Verizon Center every night zealously backing their team, whereas just 13 months ago, I sat in that arena with less than 4000 people watching the Panthers beat the Capitals in an 11 round shootout… 13 months ago… Think about where we were 13 months ago, and think about where we are today. A turnaround is not only possible; I think it’s probable.
Here’s where I stand: I have faith in coach DeBoer, his system, and the 20 guys he sends out on the ice each night. I firmly believe we have the ability to march up the Eastern Conference standings in the second half of this season. What other choice do I have but to believe? Sit around and wallow in misery? I don’t think so. It’s warm and sunny outside and I’d rather go fishing.
By the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Vanessa and I wish you the very best for a healthy and prosperous 2009!
Take care, and thank you for stopping by the blog.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at: VanMurph@hotmail.com
Thank you to everyone who emailed me after the last blog entry. It was a pleasure to correspond with each of you.