Well, we are almost at the end of another month in which we should have been playing NHL hockey and you Florida Panthers fans have some questions.
Welcome to the monthly mailbag — the Black Friday edition.
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, hope you all steered clear of the mall and got whatever you needed for the holidays online.
As always, thanks for your support in my coverage of the Panthers all of these years — and especially now.
We should have some semblance of hockey soon, perhaps even some sort of training camp by next month.
I am not counting on that, but perhaps.
You all had some pretty good questions (as usual) and here are my answers based on what I have heard from people within the organization and throughout the league.
Some of the topics discussed in this month’s mailbag include if the Panthers’ ownership really wants to play in 2021, will the ‘Reverse Retro’ leaping panther logo stick around and why, really, did the Panthers let Mike Hoffman walk?
And now, here is the November Mailbag:
Is Panthers’ ownership among the 20% who are advocating not to play the 2020-2021 season? — @MarkWeber1
No, I do not believe they are. Everything I have been told is the Panthers believe they will be playing sooner-than-later and based on the hiring Vinnie Viola has allowed Bill Zito to do, they are moving forward and gearing up for the coming season.
Will the classic logo remain permanently? — Mike Dech via Florida Hockey Now on Facebook
It seems that response for the return of the ‘classic’ leaping panther logo went as expected.
People dig it. But, the same old problems remain.
It is a tough logo to replicate in smaller form; it looks rough on golf shirts, ball caps. That’s why they reworked the cat in the 2016 redesign although that new version has been pretty much panned.
The new shield logo is here to stay although I expect the classic logo to continue on past the ‘Retro Reverse.’
Florida needs a third jersey and I think that will have either the classic logo or the alternate palm tree/hockey stick. That is a logo which can be replicated elsewhere and remains extremely popular.
Why should we believe what Zito is doing is different than what Keenan did with Nieuwendyk and Roberts or Tallon did when he arrived and attempted to change the culture by turning over the roster? — @1panthers
Looking back, were the signings of Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts that bad? They didn’t cost the Panthers anything and Joe, at the very least, brought not only leadership but production.
Tallon had quite a bit of a mess on his hands. The organization is in better shape now, certainly, than it was in 2010.
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) November 27, 2020
I do not look at what Bill Zito doing as turning over the roster. He has moved some pieces, yes, and let some scoring walk out the door but he and the new management feel these were moves that had to be made.
It is going to be interesting to see how everything works out. This team has a lot of question marks moving forward, questions which will only be answered when we start playing some hockey again.
Hi George, any news on the status of Saarela signing? — @pamela_abrell
Aleksi Saarela is a restricted free agent who has started his season playing in Finland and I have been told there is no rush to getting anything done.
When we start getting closer to returning to play, it will. Saarela is a player they are going to be counting on more this season than they did in their last. He finished the regular season strong and Joel Quenneville is obviously a fan of his play.
Just read your article about the salary fight. Are we headed towards a lockout season? — @SerBronn227
No, I don’t think so. Something will get done. Right now, with Covid cases spiking and different municipalities clamping down on things, I don’t think they were going to get going Jan. 1 as they hoped anyway.
The NHL is most definitely going to lose money this coming year but the players had already made concessions in that light. I don’t see them budging.
We’ll see what happens with the NBA. Training camp is scheduled to open soon, the regular season starting before Christmas. If they can get to playing, that will put the pressure on the NHL to get their games going as well.
Thoughts on our line up going into training camp? Who do you see as linemates and defense pairs. — @Dragons_Quest
I wrote about how I think the lineup would look here, and the only change since then has been the addition of Juho Lammikko. If he comes in looking good, he’ll battle for a bottom-six role.
Florida has a lot of competition for spots within the bottom two lines as well as the final defenseman spot. If there is an expanded roster, that would help a couple of the young kids.
How about an update on how our Panther players are doing in Europe especially Borgstrom? — @hlamp
Looks like most of them are doing pretty good — especially first-round pick Anton Lundell.
Let’s start with Lundell. Obviously, he looks like the future second-line center. On draft night, no one thought he would be with the Panthers this coming season (hence why Alexander Wennberg was signed) but now? Maybe?
Going into Friday, Lundell has 19 points off 11 goals in 15 games for HIFK in Helsinki. Last year, he had a total of 28 points in 44 games. He is lighting it up. In the Liiga, he is tied for second in goals (with Saarela) and is fourth in points.
Sasha Barkov said the Panthers got a steal when they drafted Lundell and, yeah it is early, but this looks like a home run of a draft pick especially when you consider that the Panthers took him at No. 12.
Saarela also has 11 goals in 15 games and looks to be at midseason form. Again, he will get a deal done soon enough. The Panthers are thrilled he got his season going — and going so strong.
As far as Henrik Borgstrom goes, it took him a while to come back from what we believe to be an ankle injury which ended his AHL season in Springfield. He is just now getting going with HIFK. In his first three games, he has two assists.
I am not sure he will be with the Panthers this season. They may just allow him to stay in Finland for the season and continue working his game.
With the uncertainty surrounding what an AHL season could look like — and Borgstrom rather staying home than playing in the minors — I think this is the right course to take.
Borgstrom, unless they have him pencilled in as the 2 or 3C (which they do not), should be able to get as much playing time as he can right now.
What is the real reason Zito doesn’t want Hoffman? — Joel Plattor via FB
I think a lot of it came down to money. Quenneville, I have been told, was open to bringing Hoffman back and based on his second half of the last season it is easy to see why.
But Hoffman, to come back to Florida, wanted decent term and good money. The Panthers didn’t want to do that, not with the uncertainty of the coming season. Hoffman obviously thought he was going to finally get a nice payday in his first kick at being UFA.
Unfortunately for him, things really tightened up. Right now, it looks like he’ll end up taking a one-year deal either with a contender for less, or a rebuilding team for a little more.
Could he still come back to Florida on a one-year deal? Sure, why not? He is still a free agent and I think the Panthers have a spot for him on their right side.
Money is tight, however, and Florida would likely have to make some sort of a minor deal to free up some cash. This is a deal that, I think, would have happened already if it was going to.
How has the front office changed to avoid making the same mistakes as previous regimes? — Jesse Boyd via FB
Just looking at the front office and the people now in it, the biggest thing will be wasting money. The Panthers have been known, for some time, as a place where money can be found. Players have, for the most part, received everything they have wanted.
Look at last year. While everyone wants to talk about Sergei Bobrovsky’s contract, there was excess money spent elsewhere (and, I argue, the Panthers probably could have landed Bob for a $8.5m AAV since they were the only ones willing to spend that kind of money on him anyway).
The new front office is going to be very prudent in the money and types of contracts handed out. They probably will not get sucked into bidding against themselves.
Look at the deals handed out this signing season. The Panthers went for value-based players where they think the production will outweigh the money spent.
We’ll see how this works out, but I don’t think you can look at any of the contracts given out and say Florida is overpaying anyone.
What’s the delay on wrapping up the rest of the RFAs? Surprised we haven’t heard at least something about negotiations with Borgstrom, Saarela, etc. — @BoozyBeggarChi
Well, these are players who are restricted free agents so there is not much to negotiate unless a player wants a long-term deal. I don’t think Florida is there when it comes to the likes of Saarela or Borgstrom. Saarela will get his contract; again, I am not sure Borgstrom needs to be signed this year. He may just stay in Finland for the season.
Traditional or Deep Fried? Inquiring minds need to know! — @ferrdistheword
We talking about pickles here? I have to assume since Thanksgiving was just here you are talking about turkey. I have to take a hard pass on this one. Why? Because you can’t go wrong with either! I have to say I would lean toward the deep fried turkey but traditional roasted turkey is good as well. Both make for good sandwiches during college football the following day.
Favorite Thanksgiving side dish? — @DavidDwork
I am a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving and I have to go with mashed potatoes. Not so great rewarmed as leftovers (yet not terrible), they are great on the table. In the moment, most folks are going for those mashed taters!