The Florida Panthers are just about through their first month of the 2021 season so, since it is the end of the month, it’s time for another FHN Mailbag.
Florida won its first three games to start a season for the first time in history but lost in a shootout Thursday to host Columbus.
The Panthers will next play a back-to-back set against a Covid-depleted Detroit team so it’s not hard to conceive that the Panthers would return home with a pretty nice record.
As always, our dear readers had a lot of questions to ask about the State of their Panthers and I try to do my best to answer them all.
Many of you want to know about Sasha Barkov. Others Sergei Bobrovsky. Why did Owen Tippett get demoted to the taxi squad?
The first question I will answer is one I am asking myself: Why did Florida put Ryan Lomberg on waivers Friday?
Right now, the only player on the 23-man roster who can go down to the taxi squad without going through waivers is Eetu Luostarinen. You’re not putting him on the taxi squad right now.
If the Panthers want to play someone from their taxi squad this weekend, they need to move someone off of the main roster. When Lomberg clears as expected, he could drop down opening up a spot for say, Owen Tippett.
Tippett was dropped to the taxi squad on Thursday because, like Luostarinen, he did not have to pass through waivers to do so and Florida needed a roster spot for Markus Nutivaara.
Anyway, I expect Tippett to play this weekend in Detroit.
And, when Lomberg clears, that gives the Panthers at least a little wiggle room with the roster when they want to slide someone between the two squads.
Now, on to your questions:
George, do you think one of the reasons for trying to move Yandle is the expansion draft? If he is moved, I see the Panthers protecting Ekblad and Weegar. Who would be the 3rd D protected? — Dale Huber
Yes, I think one reason Florida would like to move Yandle is because he would be one of the three defensemen they have to protect from Seattle due to his no-movement clause. He cannot be waived, has to be protected.
They could ask him to waive it for the expansion draft thinking Seattle wouldn’t take him because of the contract and then they would not have to protect him.
Of the three D, not counting Yandle who would need to be protected, you’re right with Ekblad and Weegar. right now, the young defensemen (Brady Keeper, Riley Stillman) do not have to be protected but that could change if they play more games this season.
Hi George, any chance a trade involving Yandle is in the works? Potentially yielding Gostisbehere or maybe even Vince Dunn? — T Graham
I think there is always a chance of a trade, but this one is complicated considering Keith does not want to leave the Panthers and has a no-trade clause which gives him all the power in whether he stays or ultimately goes. I know there has been talk about Philadelphia but he would have to agree to go there. Do not know if he would.
What’s the logic behind putting Vatrano in the shootout instead of a proven SO player in Barkov drought or no drought? — @mikecostan
I agree that it is strange not to see Barkov up with Jonathan Huberdeau as part of the top three in the shootout. He did go fourth Tuesday (and was stopped with the backhand he loves) and perhaps was going fifth on Thursday.
Barkov has not been productive in the shootout the past couple of years. After starting going 12-for-16 from 2015-17, he is just 7-for-21 and has not scored in a shootout since Bob Boughner was coach.
Joel Quenneville said Barkov is always “under consideration.” Barkov is too good and too talented not to figure this thing out. If he wants to get better at it, come up with some new stuff, he will and he’ll be back to scoring fairly regularly on it.
Has there been any talk about shuffling centers around (on lines 2-4) to create more scoring opportunities for Huberdeau? — @BarryARothman
I don’t think so although I wouldn’t mind seeing him with Luostarinen. That second line is creating a ton of chances and putting a lot of pressure on opposing goalies. But with Alex Wennberg and Patric Hornqvist, this isn’t exactly a flash-and-dash line. Huberdeau is going to get his.
How do you see the starting goalie role playing out this year? 50/50 split no matter what? Performance based decision throughout the year? — @Rongey109
Quenneville said it is too early in the season to be making starting decisions on performance right now, instead, it’s more about the scheduling. The Panthers’ next four games are back-to-backs meaning both goalies are going to play.
Now, later in the season, you might decide to have Bobrovsky go on consecutive nights but early on you split it up. The 50/50 is working well in Columbus, don’t know how it would work here since Bob is used to being the man — and probably needs to be the man.
For right now, though, both goalies are going to see a lot of time. Don’t be surprised to see Driedger go Saturday in Detroit based off how he played Thursday though.
Outside winning what will be the keys to make sure they clinch top four spot since they have zero outside help this season? — @dragons_quest
Well, winning will do the trick. I think the Panthers need to do better against teams they have struggled against in the past and they are off to a good start when it comes to the Blue Jackets. Now, you need to find ways to beat Tampa and turn that record around against the Lightning.
I know it’s only been four games so far, but what are your thoughts on Alex Wennberg? I know stats doesn’t say it all, but do you like so far and thinks needs improvement? — @BBarman72
I like Wennberg’s game, I know the coaches do as well. He plays a terrific defensive game, is always in the right position and is hard to get off the puck. He is a facilitator more than a shooter and no one knows that more than Bill Zito. He is going to get his guys the puck. Right now, I think Huberdeau needs to get used to his style and he will eventually start reaping the rewards.
Did Brady Keeper have a bad camp? I thought Q liked him? Instead they pick up the two borderline guys off waivers. — Fan4Pan
He did not have a bad camp at all. Q really does like him. I think they picked the two guys off of waivers based on what people in the organization feel they can achieve if given the opportunity.
The Panthers are going to need a lot of defensemen this year which is why they have so many and added Forsling and Juulsen.
Keeper is still young. He could be a monster in this league. His game is only going to get better. Right now, they just want him to get in some playing time.
Do you see the Panthers possibly trying to acquire anyone before or at the deadline this year? — @MattielloZamm98
Zito is always looking for players who he thinks can improve the team. It’s too early to say right now, but I would be shocked if Florida did not make some sort of move if it is in a good spot when the deadline comes around. They like this team, but you can always make improvements.
Hi George! How unusual is it that yesterdays lineup contained seven defensemen? Are any of the defensemen being considered for a hybrid role ala Mark Pysyk? — Craig Mirek
Hi Craig! I did not see anyone up on the fourth line a la Pysyk last year; they mostly just double-shifted forwards on that fourth line.
I was a little surprised that they played seven although in the second game of a road series, especially against a hard-working team like Columbus, sometimes it is best to play it safe and try and get out of there with something.
The Panthers played a real nice road game last night and almost got two points out of it.
Hi George. Past seasons the Panthers have honored a player in the locker room after the game with things like a rugby ball, Cadet jacket, Infinity Gauntlet. Has that tradition begun this season? If so, what are they awarding the player with? — RuthK191
That is a great question. They even had a sweatshirt a few years ago. Whatever happened to that?
Anyway, I do not know if they’re doing anything like that this season because I am not allowed in the locker room postgame (I usually see that kind of stuff when I’m in there like the Spacey in Space or the Gauntlet last year in Arizona).
Since there are no locker room interviews or access, I don’t know what they’ve got cooking this year. I bet they have something. I will keep you posted.
Vatrano took a hit to the head. Is he ok? Does he have to go through concussion protocols? And will the play be reviewed by player safety? — @hlamp
There has been no word from the league that they are looking into the hit, but it did look dangerous. He was slammed face-first into the glass. He appeared to be OK, was talking smack from the bench and appeared in the shootout.
I would think that’s it but we will know more tomorrow when Q talks after the morning skate in Detroit.
Do you see any major trades happening this season? — @GibelliBean
There always are but I think it’s going to be tough this year because of all the protocols teams need to go through to get a player to their team.
Say the Panthers made a trade with a Canadian team, the players involved wouldn’t be available to their new teams for at least a week — perhaps longer. So, don’t expect a lot of trades between Canadian and U.S. teams late in the season.
It will also be interesting to see which teams fall to the bottom and become sellers. With no wild card, if you are six or seven points out of fourth within your division with 12 games left, you’re a seller.
What’s Tippett have to do to get back in the lineup? — @andrewrubin24
I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in Saturday or at least on Sunday. I thought his first game was very good, his second two not so much. They are going to give him every opportunity to get back in and to play a good sized role on this team. They like Tippett a lot; he’ll be OK.
If a Panthers player gets hit from behind with the principle point of contact at the head, but nobody from the national media makes a sound, did it really happen? — @CF3234
With Bob making as much as he is, how many years until we start to see some of these top goalie prospects in Cats jerseys? — @RSchmidt34
Well, Spencer Knight is probably the first one you will see. If he leaves Boston College and signs with the Panthers after this season, he will be in training camp next September. I would think he goes to the AHL as the starter to get some games in, but once he’s here, his play will dictate how fast he forces his way in.
Tippett a bust or is it too early tell? Borgstrom as well. — @lens_darkly
He is not a bust. Neither is Borgstrom. Let the guys play a little bit. Both are very talented players who are taking a little longer than a lot of people would have hoped. I think Borgstrom was rushed a little then didn’t handle his demotion very well. Now, he’s coming back from injury. Tippett is only in his second professional season.
When do you see Yandle being benched in favor of a more defensively responsible player? He has been partially or directly responsible for at least four goals against in this young season. Performance last game was atrocious as well. — @doquinn2016
They still need Keith for what he does best and that is moving the puck out of the zone and getting the power play going. What he is good at he is very good at.
Your thoughts on Barkov not being the first shooter in the shootouts? — @dragons_quest
I don’t know if he needs to be the first shooter, but he probably should be up in the top three. Listen, the coaches watch the shootout drills all the time, they know who looks good and who doesn’t Barkov’s stats say he hasn’t been very good in shootouts anymore. I think he can fix that. We’ll see.
I love all the FHN coverage, but any chance we’ll get any more Panthers’ Press Box episodes soon? — @SerBronn227
Yes, I plan on bringing back the podcast in the coming weeks just need to get everything set up again. Once we get rolling, they will come fast and furious. I am thinking about more episodes but shorter ones. Perhaps three a week. Once I do one, we’ll be on our way.
How much do you love Patric Hornqvist? — @hockeyandfoxes
Well, due to Covid-19, we have yet to formally meet. He seems nice enough though.
When are the Panthers buying AMC stock? — @sean_johnson4
I think they should wait.