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What We Learned: Are the Panthers actually going to be better?

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

On Friday afternoon, the Florida Panthers introduced nine of the 11 new guys they acquired.

Nine. Out of 11.

And isn't that interesting? I don't know if we've ever seen a team add nearly that many players in one offseason — let alone one fortnight — that are all expected to, y'know, contribute at the NHL level. There almost certainly isn't a team that went from borderline anonymous to most NHL fans to one on which people know the names of their players.

Florida's No. 2 points guy last year? Mike Santorelli(notes) (with just 41 points). Top D pairing by average TOI? Dennis Wideman(notes) and Jason Garrison(notes).

These aren't exactly household names around the NHL, and though most people have heard of Dennis Wideman, it probably wasn't for positive things. But for good or bad, it turns out Dale Tallon wasn't wrong after all. He said Brian Campbell(notes) waiving his no-trade clause legitimized the team, and it appears he was correct.

After the Campbell trade, Jose Theodore(notes), Scottie Upshall(notes), Ed Jovanovski(notes), Marcel Goc(notes), Tomas Fleischmann(notes), Sean Bergenheim(notes), Nolan Yonkman(notes) and Matt Bradley(notes) all signed in short order. Tomas Kopecky(notes), Kris Versteeg(notes) and Angelo Esposito(notes) were brought into the fold via trade.

Granted, no one's going to confuse Fleischmann and Theodore with Sid Crosby and Tim Thomas(notes) any time soon, but progress is progress. The Panthers got a little tougher, a little more skilled, and a whole lot more recognizable, both to fans and players alike.

Free agents were all of a sudden happy to sign there (or was that all the extra years and dollars?).

It's important to keep in mind that they almost couldn't have gotten worse. You don't finish with the fewest points in the Eastern Conference because you had a bad couple of weeks here and there. The Panthers' problems were those that plagued them for a long time. Good goaltending, a few promising players who probably couldn't wait to get out, and that's it.

Even with all these guys coming in, Stephen Weiss(notes) almost assuredly remains the team's best player. But guys like Versteeg and Fleischmann and Upshall can certainly help round out a top-six and guys like Bergenheim and Bradley can fill strong checking roles and chip in some offense. Guys like Jovanovski can make the Panthers harder to play against. Guys like Campbell can add some spark to a league-worst power play.

Whether they got better is a whole different story for one reason.

(Coming Up: Bruins Amstel Light mystery finally solved; Doughty, Kings fans and an offer sheet; Stalberg signs with Blackhawks; Dubinsky and Callahan could break the bank; the Wild offer their own 24/7; Varlamov's blissful unawareness; Gragnani gets buried in Buffalo; Clint Malarchuk story that's cut above the rest; The Zookeeper wants a new Islanders arena; the Flyers shop Bob; the Penguins are liked; Leafs fans question Bozak; and Lambert vs. Red Wings blog, Round … we're lost count.)

Theodore is a decent goalie, but if you're entering the season with a tandem of him and Scott Clemmensen(notes), well, umm, that's considerably worse than Tomas Vokoun(notes).

To be fair, they have Jacob Markstrom(notes) waiting in the wings and perhaps they're willing to let this year go by as one where they finish 10th in the East or whatever. But given all the marketing that is inevitable for this new-look team, that's got to be worrisome, right?

It's hard to say what this team will do or even look like come October, what with a new coaching staff in addition to an entirely different half-the-roster. If the goaltending is competent, not even world-beating, they're a playoff team.

A playoff team that will get crushed in the first round by the No. 1 or 2 team in the conference, but a playoff team nonetheless.

And when you haven't made the postseason since Jonathan Huberdeau was pushing around Tonka trucks on the kitchen floor, at least that's something.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks signed Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers to a two-year deal to shore up their goaltending situation, apparently unaware that he will absolutely positively do the opposite.

What We Learned: Are the Panthers actually going to be better?Boston Bruins: That whole Amstel Light thing? Yeah, James Duthie found out it was Johnny Boychuk(notes). Tee hee hee that guy drank a girl beer or whatever people have to say about it. But then again he won a Stanley Cup, and he can beat the absolute piss out of almost anyone who has something to say about it. So whatever.

Buffalo Sabres: Previously unconsidered impact of the Regehr and Ehrhoff acquisitions: is that Marc-Andre Gragnani(notes) just got shuffled down the depth chart big-time. Led the team in playoff scoring this year? Beat it, kid.

Calgary Flames: A really excellent piece by the great Scott Cruickshank on new Flames goaltending coach Clint Malarchuk, and how that one infamous moment pretty much changed his life forever.

Carolina Hurricanes: Derek Joslin(notes) re-upped on Friday. The move avoided arbitration, and therefore allowed Joslin to not hear how much his team thinks he sucks, which I bet is nice.

Chicago Blackhawks: Speaking of avoiding arbitration, Viktor Stalberg(notes) just picked up a two-year deal that will allegedly keep his cap hit at a very manageable $875,000. What's with Chicago and all these reasonable contracts lately? I was hoping for like $4 million per.

Colorado Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov(notes), seemingly unaware that he now plays for the Avalanche, thinks his team can make the playoffs.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Gotta give a ton of credit to Scott Howson for getting this roster together, especially reshaping the top lines and pairings with big acquisitions. Now he says he just has to add some bottom guys and he's done.

Dallas Stars: Chuck Greenberg is a name you probably don't know, but he might just be the next owner of the Stars. He also helped buy the Texas Rangers last year. You're next, Mavericks and Cowboys.

Detroit Red Wings: Not that I'm going to plug them, but the piece of garbage that runs the worst hockey blog on the internet is trying to organize a campaign AGAINST the Commodore 64 thing. Because, he says, he doesn't want Commodore — A RED WING!!!! — to be a "gimmick." (Ignoring the fact that throwing an octopus and singing along to a Journey song are absolutely gimmicks, because why allow logic to enter into any such debate?) And also, presumably, because he hates charity.

Edmonton Oilers: Can the Oilers make the playoffs? A better way to phrase that: "Did they get a new goalie?"

Florida Panthers: Ed Jovanovski says he has a lot to bring to the team. Like lazy penalties!

Los Angeles Kings: As always, if you're a Kings fan worried someone will offer sheet Drew Doughty(notes), don't be.

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are essentially doing their own offseason version of 24/7, which is kinda cool I guess. Can't wait to find out how many F-bombs Dany Heatley(notes) dropped when he found out he was traded there.

Montreal Canadiens: Apparently some Habs fans are already nervous that prospect Danny Kristo could become a UFA next season. Unless he sits out intentionally — a la Blake Wheeler(notes), once upon a time — it's not gonna happen.

Nashville Predators: The Preds re-signed AHL/NHL tweener and former Michigan Stater Chris Mueller(notes), who led their AHL team in scoring last year despite 15 games with the big club.

What We Learned: Are the Panthers actually going to be better?New Jersey Devils: Apparently picking the next coach will have a lot to do with Zach Parise's(notes) future with the club. I bet he can't wait to play for Michel Therrien.

New York Islanders: Well jeez if KEVIN JAMES wants a new rink for the Isles, they HAVE TO do it! Can't say "no" to the star of "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry"!!!!

New York Rangers: Speculation that Brandon Dubinsky(notes) and Ryan Callahan(notes) could both be awarded as much as Brad Richards(notes) makes? Yes, please, arbitrators. Yes. Please.

Ottawa Senators: Hey, Mark Parrish(notes) is alive and on a two-way deal! Remember when he was a 30-goal scorer in the NHL?

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers are looking to move former-rookie-of-the-year candidate Sergei Bobrovsky(notes)? Better do it quick before everyone realizes he's a mediocre goalie.

Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes aren't going to have that preseason game at Reliant Stadium in Houston, as the cost of installing ice was too high. Say, isn't that something you look into before scheduling the game?

Pittsburgh Penguins: On Facebook, the Penguins are the 56th most-"Liked" sports team in the world, which doesn't seem like it would be possible. But they're only fifth in the NHL.

San Jose Sharks: If you had your hopes set on a Marleau-Thornton-Havlat line, you will surely be disappointed.

St. Louis Blues: Why can't St. Louis be a hockey town? Oh it's because their team stinks. Right, right.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Is Ryan Shannon the new Sean Bergenheim? "No," says everyone who has seen Ryan Shannon(notes) play. Hell, Sean Bergenheim isn't even close to being what most people now think of Sean Bergenheim as being.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Tyler Bozak(notes), Matt Lashoff(notes) and Mike Zigomanis(notes) are all back with the Leafs, and some Toronto fans are already questioning Bozak's contract. Two years, $1.5 million per? Booooo you're the worst Burke.

Vancouver Canucks: Apparently Chris Tanev's(notes) little brother got an invite to Canucks and looks almost exactly like the NHLer. Between these two, the Sedins and the Westerholms, this is getting a little too creepy for me.

Washington Capitals: Karl Alzner(notes) negotiations continue on their sluggish pace. Team and player still well apart on the terms, which is too bad because he's like really good and stuff.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets traded some pocket lint for Eric Fehr(notes), which can't be right. After all, he's not even from Winnipeg.

Gold Star Award

What We Learned: Are the Panthers actually going to be better?

Rapinoe. Wambach. Solo. Unreal.

One of the best finishes to any game in any sport ever. Deal with it.

Minus of the Weekend

What We Learned: Are the Panthers actually going to be better?

In that Wild version of 24/7, Matt Kassian(notes) says he could last three rounds with Manny Pacquiao. He is incorrect.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "JayP812" makes me wonder why he even bothered:

To San Jose:

Lee Stempniak(notes)

To PHX:

Jamie McGinn(notes)
2012 6th round pick

Signoff

The state bar forbids me from promising you a big cash settlement, but just between you and me, I promise you a big cash settlement.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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