It’s that time of year again, that time when the Florida Panthers begin their annual sell-off of assets to “build toward the future.”
After their one playoff appearance since 1999-2000, the wheels have fallen off general manager Dale Tallon’s wagon.
Last season, after the Panthers raised a Southeast Division banner to the BB&T Center rafters, they began their voyage to the upper echelon of the NHL’s man-games lost list, finishing first with 271. You can mark that as bad luck and former head coach Kevin Dineen needing nametags to know who’s in his lineup every night.
This season, however, the players relied upon to carry the load have been there, and haven’t, and Tallon’s been forced to can his head coach and throw up the signal to the 29 other GMs that most of his players can be had. Kris Versteeg, a healthy scratch several times this season, was the first to go, shipped back to the Chicago Blackhawks. Who's next? It's currently an on-going situation.
Said Tallon on a conference call Friday morning, via George Richards: “We're going to continue to be aggressive and make changes that are important for our franchise moving forward, keeping our focus on the future.”
Ah, yes, there’s that word “future”. If you’re a Panthers fan, you’ve heard it more often than Marty McFly over the past few years. Too many times, really. A franchise that is on its sixth GM, eighth head coach and third majority ownership since 2000 has only found consistency in not making the playoffs.
It seems as if when you’re a Panthers GM, your eye is constantly on “the future.” Focusing on the now lasts for only so long before it’s time (yet again) to tear down and rebuild.
Just take a look at these three quotes:
''As we look at the future and how Pavel fits in, we felt we needed to make a change.” – Mike Keenan, 2002
“We have some good young players in our organization that will be ready to step in in the near future. That's going to help our franchise." – Jacques Martin, 2008
“We kept our core together and kept our eye on the ball as far as the future is considered. We added picks, prospects and got younger. We really solidified our future.'' – Dale Tallon, 2011
As you see, including Tallon's comments Friday, the window for winning now is only so big in Florida before ripping it up and starting over again becomes the focus.
How are Panthers fans supposed to accept this perpetual state of building for the future? How soon until we’re talking about Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson, Jacob Markstrom and Aleksander Barkov excelling in other NHL markets?
New owner Vinnie Viola is either another guy coming in to eventually make a profit from one more franchise sale in a couple years or he’s going to be the one to finally instill some stability within the Panthers franchise.
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