The Florida Panthers: Fantasy Hockey’s Black Sheep

Jeff Angus

2009-01-28

Bouwmeester

 

Before the season started, many expected Florida to be a bottom-feeder in the Eastern Conference. They traded their captain and best player (Olli Jokinen) in the off-season, in what many said was an incredibly lopsided deal (the Panthers received Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton in return). However, new head coach Pete DeBoer has the Panthers playing a very strong team game, The Panthers are built around a solid defense and a balanced group of forwards. In their past 11 games they have scored 41 goals. It is offensive production like this that is making Florida a fantasy-relevant team.

 

The biggest issue facing the Panthers is Jay Bouwmeester. If you are one to read between the lines, it appears that he is not going to be a Panther much longer. Bouwmeester has been increasingly non-committal towards signing an extension, and the Panthers management has recognized this as a genuine sign he wants to play his hockey elsewhere. Florida will trade him at the deadline long before they lose him for nothing in the off-season. One can only speculate what the return would be on a young, franchise defenseman just entering his prime. If Bouwmeester and his new club can agree on a extension before any deal is made, look for Florida to be rewarded with a hefty return in any trade made.

As a team, the Panthers sit eighth in goals-against per game, which is impressive considering they play in the offensively volatile Southeast Division (which now boasts three playoff-caliber clubs). They have a good mix of veterans and youngsters. Unlike in years past, these youngsters are making significant impacts as well. Michael Frolik’s play has been anywhere from good to dominant. His size, skill, and skating ability have enabled him to quickly adjust to the NHL game after being so highly touted as a youngster. He is on pace for a very respectable 40+ point rookie season. Expect big things for him in the next few years; I did not think he would adjust to the NHL game this quickly.

Perhaps the most interesting player in Florida to keep an eye on is David Booth. He came out of nowhere last season, putting up 22 goals in 73 games. He is on pace to shatter that mark, as he is already has 20 goals with just under half a season left to go.  Booth is a very tough player to contain because he is so fast and so tenacious after the puck; similar to Zach Parise he rarely loses