Derek MacKenzie is not a player who is normally thought of as a superstar or an elite athlete. However, he does play a very important role to the Florida Panthers organization and he has certainly made an impact on the team. Read more for a player spotlight on Derek MacKenzie.
Derek MacKenzie was a free agent with the Blue Jackets before he was signed by the Florida Panthers in this past offseason. The fans did not know what to think from this acquisition because in 307 NHL games, MacKenzie had scored only 31 goals and 40 assists for a total of 71 points. Yet, the Panthers’ management assured the fans that Derek MacKenzie has the type of character that would be necessary to the team. The below video is not from MacKenzie’s time on the Panthers but instead from a fight against Dmitri Kulikov of the Panthers in the 2013-2014 season.
Role on the Team
As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Panthers organization under new ownership would take a different route than it had in past seasons. Each player has a specific role and if that role is not properly filled, the goal is to find another player to take that spot. Derek MacKenzie has passion and heart, and we saw it this season on many occasions. He sacrificed his body for the game and even suited up as a goalie when both Montoya and Luongo became injured during the game against the Maple Leafs. Derek MacKenzie only had 5 goals and 6 assists this season for a total of 11 points but he did play all 82 games and he was present in every single one of them in one way or another.
Penalty Kills/Player Comparison
Derek MacKenzie is truly spotlighted on the Panthers’ penalty kills. He is willing to slide all across the ice and use every inch of space he can in order to ensure that the opponent does not score. This scrappy technique is comparable to that of Mike Weaver in my opinion. In fact, besides the fact that DMac is a forward and Weaver is a defenseman, I believe that mostly all aspects of their gameplays are similar. He is truly passionate and dedicated to the sport, which cannot be said for some of the other more experienced players on the team. Scottie Upshall, for example, may have a higher skillset than Derek MacKenzie, but he does not try nearly as hard to succeed and to help the team succeed, which is why the Panthers did not sign him again (I have nothing against Scottie Upshall; I am just stating the facts).
As I mentioned before, Derek MacKenzie sacrifices his body for the team every game and despite being a hard hitter, he did not miss a single game this season. Case in point, Derek MacKenzie is actually the team leader in hits. In his 82 games this season, DMac had 273 hits. He averages 3.33 hits a game and a whopping 16.06 hits per game. He leads this category by a landslide, with the second place hitter being Erik Gudbranson with a still-respectable 212 hits this season. This team milestone is impressive but not as impressive as the fact that MacKenzie had the 5th most hits in the league this season. The first four, in descending order, are Matt Martin with 382, Cal Clutterbuck with 343, Brooks Orpik with 306, and Ryan Reaves with 276. Who would have thought that a 5’11’’, 181 lb center could hit as often and as hard as Derek MacKenzie does without obtaining a single sidelining injury? As much as I hate saying this, Derek MacKenzie may one day have an iron man streak longer than that of Brian Campbell.
With all this being said, I know that Derek MacKenzie is not, and most likely will never be, the figurehead of the Florida Panthers. He is, however, essential to the success of the Florida Panthers. His impact on the team cannot be seen with simple stats but if you dig a bit deeper, watch him play or, of course, read this article, it is clear that the team would not be the same without him. In only a year he has helped shaped the younger players into professionals and has helped bring the team closer to the playoffs and eventually, the Stanley Cup.