New General Manager Brock Otten took over in the offseason and began to try and put his mark on this hockey club. He began slashing salary even more and brought in some players who were going to bring grit to this hockey club. The team is now headed in the right direction and while a ways away from being competitive, this team at least has a focus for the future. The draft was an extremely successful event, where GM Otten feels he had one of the best drafts of any team in the HFNHL. He also brought in some players who simply needed a change of scenery, starting over their hockey careers fresh. Head Coach Dave Lewis will have his hands full this year with trying to motivate this club to play every night. He's a relative new comer to the head coaching position, but upper management has much confidence in his ability to guide this hockey team for years to come.
1st Line: Josh Green - Randy Robitaille - Daniel Cleary
Two underachievers and new comers to the Panther organization line up on the wings of Panther veteran Randy Robitaille. Hopefully Robitaille can light a fire under their arses and make them perform the way they were supposed to in the NHL. Green supplies a physical presense, Cleary some finishing skills and Robitaille can use his speed and general overall game to give the line some life on those off days.
2nd line: Boyd Devereaux - Adam Mair - Jiri Bicek
This line has a bit of everything as well. Mair is the hard working centre whom can do the dirty work for the line, where as Devereaux and Bicek can create scoring chances with their speed.
3rd line: Kamil Piros - Brandon Reid - Matt Davidson
A very young and inexperienced line, but it has potential to be the best and most productive line for the Panthers. Piros and Reid are very skilled offensively, where as Davidson can do all the little things right and win the battles in the corners.
4th line: Brad Larsen - Serge Payer - Bill Lindsay
The all plumber line if you will, this line is there to work hard and compete. Lindsay is in the line-up for his leadership ability where as Payer and Larsen are both defensively aware. A solid two way line who won't be counted on to much.
The forward lines are all relatively balanced as we speak, but when training camp begins, things could be different. After this season, the forward crop will be re-evaluated and some of the projects taken on by management will either fail or prove that they have potential to be a success. Some of the younger players are expected to break out, such as Mair, Piros and Reid.
On the Horizon:
Raffi Torres, Konstantin Koltsov, Brent Burns and Marek Svatos could all be ready for HFNHL action after this season. Where as Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Jussi Jokinen and Oliver Setzinger are a few years away.
1st pairing: Nathan Dempsey - Pavel Trnka
Trnka holds down the fort defensively while Dempsey can attempt to create some offense from the blueline.
2nd pairing: Daniel Tjarnqvist - Stanislav Neckar
Both players are relatively good two way defenseman whom can pinch in offensively and play stable defense. Neckar provides the most leadership on the blueline.
3rd pairing: Patrick Traverse - Petr Buzek
Could be an unstable pairing because both can be prone to lapses in the defensive zone, but this pairing could generate offense from the blueline.
The defense will play hard and in some cases provide both good offense and solid defensive play.
On the Horizon:
Garnett Exelby could be ready for HFNHL action as early as this season, but as of right now he is an injury call up. He's most likely going to spend the year in the minors. A group of potential NHL defenseman like Lars Jonsson, Mike Egener, Michal Barinka and Matt Carle are a few years away from making any sort of impact.
1. Trevor Kidd
2. Jan Lasak
Kidd provides steady goaltending and a veteran presense to Lasak whom is still going through a learning curve at the NHL level.
On the Horizon:
With Lasak already ready to contribute at the NHL level, top goaltending prospect Pascal Leclaire looms in from the outside. He's a few years away.
Panthers fans shouldn't expect a playoff birth or anything close to it, but what they can expect is hard nosed, hard fought and exciting hockey. The team is in rebuilding mode, although it should be expected that the team improve with every passing season.
Prediction: 21-52-6-3, 13th in the East, 28th Overall