VanMurph's View: It's Been Awhile
Tuesday, 06.2.2009 / 10:21 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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It’s been a little more than seven weeks since the Panthers played their last game, but for me it feels like seven months. I sure do miss going out to the arena to watch hockey. I bet you do too…
The last blog entry I wrote was just over two months ago, and I’ve actually missed working on it. Toward the end of the season, I’d begun composing several entries, but just as they were about to be submitted, something would come along that made what I’d written irrelevant or nonsensical. So rather than tempt karma, I just shelved the entries and started working on a new one. Then when we were eliminated on April 9th, sitting at my laptop and writing was the last thing I felt like doing. Even though I haven’t tendered anything to the blog lately, those of you who are friends of mine and keep in touch with me on facebook, or through other means, know that my passion for Panthers hockey has not waned. If anything, I’m getting more excited by the day about the upcoming season. Now, having said that, I will admit that Monday’s announcement that Jacques Martin will be leaving the organization to coach the Canadiens is still a little too fresh for me to be able to process all of the scenarios that could play out. I have been a big fan of the apparent stability that was in place (Martin had 3 years remaining on his contract), and somewhat happy with the execution of the re-build. But I am actually looking forward to seeing whom Bill Torrey names as Martin’s replacement, and to seeing in which direction the new GM will take the club.
From my discussions yesterday with friends and readers of the blog, I know that many in the fan base are tired of the seemingly constant state of disarray within the organization. Changes made on a mid-level or lower tier can be easily absorbed and don’t tend to impede the day-to-day operations. But changing ownership, General Managers, or Head Coaches can potentially upset the apple cart. There are many of you who were totally displeased with Martin’s performance and are happy to see him go. And there are others who were completely satisfied with his decisions and his performance as a GM. Personally, I fall almost directly between those two opinions. Only time will tell how much he meant to the organization, and I’m hoping that whoever replaces him immediately makes a positive impact, thus making us able to put this latest distraction behind us.
Well, since the 2008-09 season is over, I’ll take a couple of minutes to review a few things from the season. Missing the playoffs by a single point means that you can go back and look at almost all of the Panthers’ losses and find something in each one that, if done differently, would’ve propelled us into the postseason. One less blown lead, one more overtime game, one less goal given up in a shootout, or one more puck in the net during a shootout, and we would’ve been in. A first round series against the Bruins may have been a monumental task, but at least the playoff monkey would’ve been off our backs, and we could have used the success of this season as a building block for the future. However, in the minds of a lot of the fans with whom I’ve spoken in the last couple of months, next season we’re basically starting again from square one. I think that’s a fair way for some to look at it. A decade of mediocrity has pushed them to the brink of losing their faith and trust in the organization. And no matter what promises are made, some fans just won’t believe it until they see it. My personal feeling on the matter is that this season was most certainly a springboard for next season. Even though the end result was the same as it’s been for many years, I feel like the ship has begun to steady and is turned in the right direction, despite the announcement. Coach DeBoer is the main reason for my optimism. He has gained my utmost respect, and I have confidence in his ability to continue to improve our hockey club. I’m genuinely excited to see what types of changes he makes in the off-season, and I’m particularly eager to see what personnel decisions and acquisitions are made. I can hardly wait to see what our team will look like on October 2nd when our guys open up in Helsinki.
Looking back on our season, there are two weak areas that I think cost us the opportunity to go to the postseason. First and foremost was that we seemed to struggle with teams we should’ve easily beaten. Losing multiple games to the Islanders, Tampa, and Atlanta, as well as games to Nashville, LA and Phoenix came back to haunt us down the stretch. As previously noted, winning just one of those games would’ve propelled us into the playoffs, but winning all of them would’ve put us near the top of the Conference. The second area of weakness, in my opinion, was our inability to consistently convert on the power play. Finishing near the bottom of the league in this all-important category no doubt contributed to us finishing out of the playoffs. Hopefully Coach DeBoer will be working on these two issues, among others, during the summer.
Well the three rounds of the NHL playoffs were pretty exciting, and there were some very good games and a lot of terrific hockey played. Now that the Stanley Cup Finals have come down to a rematch of last year’s contestants, we should be in for an outstanding series. I’m no fan of EITHER the Red Wings or the Penguins. But having a choice of the lesser of two evils, I have to say that after Crosby’s cheap shot on Brett McLean in Pittsburgh on January 3rd, I don’t want to see him or his team succeed. So I’m throwing my support behind Detroit. With games one and two of the series now in the books, the Wings are just two wins away from winning back-to-back Cups. Although I have to admit that I’m almost completely disinterested in the whole affair because the Panthers aren’t involved, I’ll also admit that Vanessa and I have enjoyed watching and rooting against our least favorite teams. We’ve gotten together several times with numerous friends throughout the playoffs, and it’s been fun to see how the dynamics of a Panthers fan’s loyalties change once our season is over. Each of us loves the Panthers, but as soon as our guys are out on the golf course, we tend to pick another team to root for in the postseason. We decide for ourselves which team we want to win, and once it’s all over, we go back to looking forward to next season.
On a different note, early last month I had an opportunity to drive over to Estero with my friend Carl to watch the Florida Everblades play their final playoff game. It was a terrific game, and well worth the drive across Alligator Alley. The Blades trailed for much of the game, but with just under a minute and half to play in the third period and trailing 3-1, they scored two goals to force overtime! The attendance wasn’t the greatest, but when the tying shot went past the goalie and into the net, Germain Arena erupted! For Carl and me, it was a thrilling experience! In the end, the Blades lost to the South Carolina Stingrays 4-3, despite out-shooting them 52-14. I’ve only been to a few Everblades games, but each time I go, I have a great time.
Good luck to Richard Zednik. He was one of my sentimental favorites, and I’m certain that many of you feel the same way. I hope he has success in the KHL. As Zed heads to Russia, so do a couple of key players from one of our division rivals. The Capitals lost Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov to Russian teams as well. Even though both of these guys were on the backside of their NHL careers,I can’t say I’m sad to see the defending Division Champions lose a couple of their players.
Throughout the season I had the pleasure of corresponding with many of you through email, telephone calls, facebook, and in person. It’s been one of the best parts of writing this blog. As we settle into our summertime routines, I’ll continue to occasionally write during the off-season. I hope you all have a productive few months, and that you’ll come out ready to support the Panthers in September! If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at: VanMurph@hotmail.com
Thanks for stopping by the blog.