Welcome to the 2011-12 Florida Panthers MidSeason report. The weekly reports return Tuesday (there is a Monday game this week), but for now, Inside Hockey would like to take an opportunity to look at, what some people might call a “surprise team” in the Eastern Conference, The Florida Panthers. Also, we will look inside the organization and grade each affiliate. Next week, we’ll take a peak at some of the top prospects (and there are a few of them), and rank the top 10.
OFFENSE – B+
DEFENSE – A-
GOALTENDING – A-
SPECIAL TEAMS – B+
OVERALL – A-
Perhaps if this Panthers team had actually had some success over the past decade, the grade would be different. At the end of the day, despite numerous injuries, the Panthers are in first place in the Southeast Division at the halfway point. The scoring is there, on all sides. Defenseman Brian Campbell is second in the league in defensive scoring, and Jason Garrison leads all NHL D-men in goals with 11. Meanwhile, forward Kris Versteeg in in the top 20 in goals (17) and points (38). Outside of the top line of Versteeg, Stephen Weiss (11 goals), and Tomas Fleischmann (15 goals), along with Garrison, no other Panther has double digit goal totals. In order to remain on top, the Panthers are going to have to see more balance from their scoring.
Defense has also been an improvement, although it was never really a struggle. Florida has played tough this year and has kept games that in the past were blowouts, close. The goaltending trio of Jose Theodore, Jacob Markstrom, and Scott Clemmensen has helped. Markstrom burst onto the scene after Clemmensen had surgery on his knee, and later a groin injury. He has a 2-4-1 record, with a 2.66 GAA and .923 save %. Meanwhile, Theodore has continued to improve as every game goes on. He has had some shaky starts, but has a 14-8-4 record with a 2.43 GAA and .918 save %. Clemmensen has been a problem, but is still putting up respectable numbers (4-1-3 3.01 .897). Goaltending is one problem the Panthers will not have to deal with as the second half of the season begins Monday.
PANTHERS MIDSEASON MVP: Kris Versteeg
PANTHERS MIDSEASON ROY: Jacob Markstrom
PANTHERS MIDSEASON SURPRISE PLAYER: Jason Garrison
SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE (AHL)
The Rampage sit in 12th place in the Western Conference as we approach the halfway point of the season, but San Antonio has had to deal directly with the Panthers injury struggles, at one point sending two full lines to the NHL level. Bracken Kearns and Greg Rallo, both over 30, made their NHL debuts this season. Kearns is the only player in double digit goal scoring (10), and leads the team with 24 total points. In order to make the playoffs, San Antonio will have to stay healthy, hope the Panthers stay healthy, and get production from both the older players, like Kearns, and the younger players like David Marshall and Wacey Rabbit (you knew I was going to sneak that name in there, right?).
RAMPAGE MIDSEASON MVP: (co-MVP) Bracken Kearns and Colby Robak
RAMPAGE MIDSEASON ROY: Brian Foster
RAMPAGE MIDSEASON SURPRISE PLAYER: Dov Grumet-Morris
RIO GRANDE VALLEY KILLER BEES (CHL)
The Bees find themselves just two points out of the playoffs. Aaron Lee has 16 goals and he is followed closely by Tomas Klempa with 13. Dan Gendur has been a force on the offensive, adding 22 assists to his seven goals for a team high 29 points. To be successful in the second half, this team is going to need to find a number 1 goalie, as John Murray and Wylie Rogers have split the time in net.
BEES MIDSEASON MVP: Aaron Lee
BEES MIDSEASON ROY: Brandon Campos
BEES MIDSEASON SURPRISE PLAYER: Charles Fontaine
CINCINNATI CYCLONES (ECHL)
The Cyclones find themselves respectively on the outside looking in in the ECHL playoff scheme. Mathieu Aubin (14-13-27) has been a driving force for the team, with Panthers prospect Anthony Luciani not far behind (11-13-24). Cincinnati will have to keep on chugging along and with some Panthers players getting healthy, and Rampage players returning to the home of Skyline Chili, the team should have some momentum down the stretch.
CYCLONES MIDESASON MVP: (co-MVP) Mathieu Aubin and Anthony Luciani
CYCLONES MIDSEASON ROY: Jonathan Hazen
CYCLONES MIDSEASON SURPRISE PLAYER: Brian Foster