I had the honor of attending a Panthers dinner last night and I was able to speak to Owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu. I spoke to General Manager Dale Tallon and heard from Peter Luukko as well. I talked to Steve Goldstein about the future of the Panthers for a while and I was able to hear from character players like Shawn Thornton, Derek MacKenzie, and Roberto Luongo. Read more for a short overview of what I heard.
Panthers Are Here to Stay
The Panthers are not going ANYWHERE. That was made quite clear by every person I spoke to. They are all super invested in this team and this state and will not move the team to Seattle, Las Vegas, Montreal, etc. Vinnie Viola even began his speech by starting a “Go Panthers” chant. Viola and Cifu are invested in making this franchise better because they believe that the fans deserve that much better. The two owners said that they are dedicated to reaching this goal. Peter Luukko mentioned that the best management occurs when a team is not being officiated by a huge group but rather by one or two very dedicated individuals. He said that now that the Panthers have that, there is no way that they won’t be successful. It was nice to be able to hear that from not only the management staff, but also from the broadcasters. Really, it’s all about dedication. I now know that the management staff is dedicated to the team but it was also nice to hear from Steve Goldstein because he has been a broadcaster for the team for such a long time. He has been able to see the team struggle and develop and it is nice to know that he also recognizes the work that the management team has done so far has made a difference.
Panthers and the Cup
The Panthers will win the cup and they will win it soon. Again, every main speaker made that point very clear. They all know that the Panthers are on an upward slope. Dale Tallon stated that he knew what the team needed and he was going to get it. He directed his attention to Luongo and said “Roberto, we are going to get you that cup.” It is encouraging to see a management group that has such confidence in a team that has been mediocre at best in the past. When Dale Tallon said that the Panthers will win the cup, I must admit, I got the chills. I truly believe that Tallon and the rest of the management team will do everything in their ability to make sure that the Panthers’ performance is at its peak.
The Future of the Panthers
Dale Tallon said that our 1st round draft pick (chosen 11th) will probably make the team next season. When talking to him, he asked me who I thought should be chosen. I told him Pavel Zacha would be a good option if he could drop down to the 11th spot. He seems to think that Zacha will end up being picked at 8 or 9. Overall, he seems to be keeping his options open. For more info on Zacha and other possible future Panthers, click here. There were also various references to Tallon’s work with the Blackhawks throughout the night. Peter Luukko said that in a few years, the Panthers may have a team very similar to the Blackhawks. He stated that many people say, “Oh, but the Hawks have Toews and Kane.” Yet, he said that we have Ekblad and Barkov. The Blackhawks picked up Marian Hossa but we picked up Jaromir Jagr. They have Crawford in net but we have Luongo. Dale Tallon also reminded the audience that there are a lot of players down with the Rampage right now that may get a chance next season or in the upcoming seasons such as Rocco Grimaldi, Vincent Trocheck, Quinton Howden, and Garrett Wilson. We also have Matheson and McCoshen, who will eventually come to work well with “boy wonder” Aaron Ekblad. The entire management team is very optimistic about the future of the Panthers and I would have to agree.
If the Panthers made the playoffs this year, they could have won. Although this may just be wishful thinking, it shows that our owners really do have faith in the team. They recognize that we started off the season slowly but really picked up the pace. We were the most improved team this season but everybody who spoke made it clear that they are NOT satisfied with that. They will not be satisfied until we make the cup. Dale Tallon stated that the team consists of a lot of really great guys and that the way that they work together has contributed to the fact that the team was much more successful than expected this year. The Panthers will only continue to get better.
It was incredible to be able to hear from so many important individuals in the Panthers community last night and the experience has made me much more confident in the team. The rest of the NHL should watch out because the Panthers are coming for their playoff spots and they are coming fast.