Petshark: Talking Stick
by petshark on 12/03/11 at 01:00 PM ET
Tonight the Sharks play the Florida Panthers. This is not an opponent they see often, and not one that has been noticed much by anyone, in a long time, until recently.
What’s funny about the Panthers’ goal sound, you know that growl or scream or whatever, is that panthers don’t make any sound unless they want to warn you away. So that sound isn’t really very scary. What’s scary is when you don’t hear anything at all, unless it’s a rustling in the leaves over your head before the panther drops out of the tree. What is scary about a panther is that you don’t hear him. This could very well be the strategy that the Florida Panthers have been using to spread their strain of cat scratch fever through the NHL.
Several have lots of hair. Not flowing locks, but certainly thick manes covering their necks. Hold on, panthers don’t have manes, they’re supposed to be sleek. Oh well, the Panthers are defying a lot of expectations lately. Who are these guys? Many names you know but not familiar together. It’s like watching an episode of The Love Boat: you know the faces but the costume is all wrong.
Kris Versteeg is thriving like never before. He has 26 points after playing 24 games. His previous season high was 53 points with Chicago in 2008-09. Brian Campbell, whose career record is 52 points back in 2008-09, has 20 after 25 games. Tomas Fleischmann had a high of 51 points two seasons ago with the Caps. He has 24 points in 25 games now. Stephan Weiss, who has always been a Panther, had 60 points in 2009-10. He has 24 now after 25 games. That last isn’t as big a jump as those others, but it’s an increase.
Lest I be accused of lionizing their achievements this season, here’s how they compare to recent Panthers teams: 13 wins this season after 25 games. All of last season they managed 30, the season before, 32. That was good for 28th in the league both years. Right now they are at 9th.
Maybe Dineen is an inspirational genius. Maybe a lot of these players were ready to make a mark, or leave a mark. With so many elements thrown together for the first time, it is hard to identify the catalyst.
Speaking of identifying, it’s not clear what their team colors are. Red, blue, another blue, gold, black….? I miss one? It’s hard to see these guys in the mind’s eye. Maybe if I throw some cliches at them, like paint on the invisible man, maybe that will help.
Is the key to their resurgence the return of “JovoCop”, one who remembers when the team was great? Gotta be pretty old to remember that, but it would be a good, predictable story line.
Is this a new army of unwanted toys? The little engine that could? Is this a dark horse team or a flash in the pan? The A-Team cobbled together under the radar? A last chance saloon? Did I miss a trope?
Who are these guys?
Oh yeah! They’re Vokoun’s old team, at least in name. That makes them sort of like the Coyotes, expected to go quietly into the night… which panthers and coyotes do do, but not without stealing your goose or Shih Tzu first. But the teams were supposed to wither away, not having goalies others envy or anyone watching their home games. Well, they had the second problem before, but they’re new to the first one.
Now they have Jose Theodore. He’s played pretty well for a while now, paid lots or less, for teams with high expectations and low. He’s continuing this pattern in Florida, only now it’s behind a hyper-charged team of surprises. Looks like a perfect fit for a guy who isn’t that big in a role being played more and more by rrrreeeeallybig guys. Why not? The Panthers wouldn’t want to do anything predictable.
It’s not just the goalie. We know that. From recent events we know it is always the coach. And after him, you blame or credit the GM. Which makes me imagine Dale Tallon twirling a cigar saying “I love it when a plan comes together” by the end of this season. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
For some reason, now I’m thinking of the roughnecks from Armageddon. I’m starting to scare myself here. Wait, no…. the roughnecks had been together for years. These guys, heck, half of them weren’t with the team last season. That’s something. Obviously they’re still sorting things out, like how to act like the Florida Panthers we have come to not know very well and fear even less.
So are the Sharks the roughnecks? Or are they the asteroid? I know how the movie ends but sometimes it seems safer to be the asteroid.
Thursday night, Helene Elliott tweeted: “What’s with the nastiness between the Kings and Panthers? That traditional geographic rivalry?”
I don’t think it had to do with the disputed rights to the name Hollywood either. The Kings needed a win, and the Panthers weren’t going to just hand it over like so many Panthers teams did before. Nastiness ensued, the Kings took high casualties: Richards and Mitchell. Well, that will slow the Kings down for a bit, but I also sort of hate the Panthers now for hurting Ritchie. (No, I will not call him “Ricky” or whatever they’re doing down there.)
Hate or no hate, I worry about the Sharks facing these guys. The Sharks can be slow to notice the quiet teams. The Islanders almost beat them, heck, the Habs almost beat them last game. Will they be ready for the Panthers? They better be. This ain’t your Daddy’s (or big sister’s by a year) Panthers team. Don’t worry about hearing that scream, this isn’t their home rink. But be careful when they go quiet, be very very careful. They might be right behind you.
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About Petshark: Talking Stick
Native of Northern California. Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.
I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle. I watch, I react, I write it down.
My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked. I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind. When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom. It hasn't, I don't think it will. At all.
Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.
I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.
I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org