Another game night has arrived here in South Florida, and there's a lot of nerves and hype going into this one. Over the weekend, Wade Belak was placed on waivers. Earlier today, he cleared and thus remains a member of the Florida Panthers. Only time well reveal his future role on the team.
Pete DeBoer has called his players out. Earlier this year, he's benched Rostislav Olesz and Nick Boynton, and placed Belak on waivers. He's made everyone accountable for their actions and expects to see more. And now, he's put it on the table. Show up this week or expect to lose your job. Calling this a "season changing week," DeBoer wants to begin the Panthers' climb out of the cellar tonight against Carolina. "They’re getting paid to play a game and they’re getting paid for results, as we are. When those results aren’t there, there’s going to be consequences and there’s going to be changes." Strong words from a first-year NHL coach, and I love it. If you don't perform, you don't play. There seems to have been a sense of complacency that has filtered through the locker room. When the expectations have been set so low before, the sense of urgency early in the year isn't there. Well Pete D. isn't used to losing. He's been an amazingly successful coach in the minors, and expects to keep winning regardless of his situation. Keep the pressure on, coach, these kids need a good swift kick in the butt (and maybe designate a captain? Put the leadership role on someone's shoulders and let him lead the boys out).
Tonight's opponent is fighting with Washington for the Southeast Division lead. The Hurricanes sit 9 points ahead of the Panthers. They've won 4 of their last 5, and most recently went 3-1 during a 4 game homestand. The Panthers are returning to their home ice for just the 3rd time in the last 11 games. Tonight kicks off a 3 game homestand which will see Carolina, New Jersey, and New York travel to Sunrise, FLA. You have to expect the best games of the year from the Cats. They've been challenged and threatened. It shouldn't have come to this. These are NHL players, they should have the fire inside them from game 1. But they haven't, so here we are. Come Friday night, we should have a pretty good idea of where this team is going. And it starts tonight. Puck drops at 7:30.