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Opinion: Enough. It’s Time for Panthers to Earn Some Respect



Florida panthers

It’s been a long time since the Florida Panthers were on the right side of the handshake line.

The last time the Panthers were the victors in that line, Bill Clinton was still a first-term President, Friends was just becoming a hit TV show, and rubber rats rained on Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tom Barrasso.

1996. Seriously.

When any new city wants a hockey team, fans look to steal the Panthers. When national media tweets about Florida, the tweet is usually about empty seats.

Enough is enough.

The Florida Panthers have been abandoned by the Miami (and national) media because, presumably, the decision-makers do not believe enough fans exist. Florida Hockey Now remains committed to daily, in-depth coverage.

Winning helps. Winning rewards fans. And, it’s time the Panthers did some winning. And its time you were rewarded.

But why haven’t the Panthers been winners?

Even the worst organizations get lucky every once in a while. And, 16 of 31 teams make the playoffs, so the Panthers only have to be average to get there.

The Panthers‘ ownership put their chips on the table.

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Three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville is behind the bench. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky got a seven-year, $70 million contract. Quality player and human being Brian Boyle was also brought into the fold.

It is also believed the Panthers kicked the tires on Pittsburgh Penguins star center Evgeni Malkin last summer until Pittsburgh and Malkin smoothed over their differences. And the Panthers were very interested in Hart Trophy nominee Artemi Panarin.

At least Boyle has performed to expectations.

Quenneville is one of the top coaches in the game. Dale Tallon is one of the most enterprising GMs. Big-name talent.

Perhaps Quenneville can change the culture which has permitted consistent losing but the embarrassing flat-line loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the exhibition game on Wednesday afternoon was not a good omen, either.

The New York Islanders must have been watching with a smile on their face.

The lack of organizational culture and Florida flu have claimed too many players. You’d have to be about 30-years-old to remember that last Panthers playoff win, and worse, the last time the team truly penetrated the Miami sports market.

Not even the Panthers Wikipedia page is up to date.

Embarrassingly, it doesn’t list Bobrovsky as a free agent signing. No one cared to update it, I suppose.

Captain Sasha Barkov is the strong, silent type. Unfortunately, as captain, that onerous burden to change the fates also falls on his shoulders. Barkov, with Evgenii Dadonov, has sufficiently filled the net but the Panthers still underachieved.

The coronavirus pause and this pandemic gifted the Panthers things they didn’t have in March: a playoff spot, a chance at the Stanley Cup, a new life.

It’s time for the Panthers to WIN a series.

It doesn’t matter if it is a five-game Qualifying Round match. The Panthers need to have smiles on their faces in that handshake line instead of being a victim on Dexter’s table, year after year, after decade after decade.

Now, it’s time for the Florida Panthers to earn some respect.

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