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Florida Panthers open camp with high hopes

The Florida Panthers open training camp today as they prepare for a season in which they have higher expectations than ever.

At a time in Miami sports when is the lowest it’s been in years,  with the Dolphins tanking, Marlins rebuilding and the Heat coming off a half a decade of mediocrity, the Panthers have a chance to capture the city.

They started their off-season with a coaching hire splash by hiring legendary coach Joel Quenneville, signing tip-free agent goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and other quality free agents. The signings have the Panthers at almost being a “cap team” for the first in quite a while, being just 500k under the cap.

The signings have caused a spark of interest from fans, season tickets have peaked to over 14,000 sold, compared to right around 3,000 when new ownership took over.

 

The Panthers made the playoffs in 2016 and have missed the playoffs every season since. The past two seasons the Panthers have had a common theme, start slow and finish strong. The Panthers know that this year has to be different.

Dale Tallon says that this is a deep town that has everyone competing for a roster spot. Tallon, when talking to the media, emphasized the importance of organizational depth saying “Inter-competition leads to success.”

Tallon believes this team doesn’t have a ceiling.

The players met with the media today and all repeated the same message on how they appreciated management spending the money and filling the needs. Panthers’ captain Sahsa Barkov says: “It was perfect. Nothing more you can expect from Dale.”

The Miami Dolphins look like the worst team in local history

The Miami Dolphins haven’t been able to do much right in the past couple of decades.

But this tanking thing?

They’re naturals.

Sunday’s 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was so complete that the score is misleading. If Lamar Jackson had stayed in for the fourth quarter, the Ravens were headed to the 70s. As it was, this was the highest score by a Dolphins opponent in a regular season contest in the franchise’s increasingly ignominious history.

And here’s the thing: it can and will get worse.

The Dolphins — what’s wrong with Minkah Fitzpatrick — couldn’t handle the Ravens’ pedestrian receivers Sunday. Next Sunday? Tom Brady comes to town with Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman. And it’s not like there are lots of Dolphins young players with high upsides who will improve drastically as the season progresses.

So there’s a real chance this could be the worst non-expansion team in South Florida sports history.

Yes, the Miami Dolphins were 1-15 in 2007 under Cam “Thumbs This Way” Cameron.

But they were outscored on average only 27-17 per game.

The Panthers have been middling to bad for a while. But they’ve never been the equivalent of 1-15 or even 2-14 NFL bad.

So it’s just the 2007-08 Miami Heat (15-67 after Dwyane Wade and everyone else got hurt and the Heat raided the D-League roster) and the 1998 Florida Marlins (54-108 after H. Wayne Huizenga sold off a World Series winner).

But this?

This has the looks of something historic.

What will the Miami Dolphins do well this season? Throw? No. They can’t protect. Run? No. They can’t block. Tackle? That appears foreign to them. Cover? Ravens ran wild through the secondary.

And as it gets more and more hopeless, more veteran players will check out, interested only in their checks. More fans will stay home — tanking sounds better in principle than it feels in practice.

Prepare for the worst.

It’s what many of you wanted.

And the Dolphins will deliver.

 

 

Florida Panthers

Bobrovsky Signing Continues Great Offseason for Florida Panthers

Lost in the wake of NBA free agency, the Florida Panthers have had a tremendous offseason thus far.

The Panthers displayed Heat-like savvy this week signing elite goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

That has been overshadowed of course by the events over the last 24 hours consuming this market.

Perhaps rightfully so.

NHL officials however should look at the timing of their free agency period, which aligns almost exactly with the NBA.

In signing Bobrovsky to a 7-year, 70-million dollar contract, the Cats mean business.

Only Carey Price makes more average salary in terms of goaltenders.

After bringing in veteran head coach Joel Quenneville, Dale Tallon has reloaded the Panthers from the goal line up.

 

The retirement of Roberto Luongo left an immediate need in net for the Cats.

Bobrovsky brings an elite goalie in right away to fill the void, and expectations will be high in Sunrise this year.

A two time Vezina Trophy winner, Bobrovsky will stabilize a position that was troubling last year.

Florida ranked 28th in the NHL  in both total goals allowed (273) and goal per game allowed (3.33) last year.

Bobrovsky spent the last seven seasons in Columbus and in addition to the two Vezina wins is a five-time NHL All-Star.

He has a 255-133-37 record over his nine-year career, with a 2.46 GAA and .919 SV% along with 38 shutouts.

Florida also added what many consider the best goalie to enter the NHL draft recently in Spencer Knight, watch out for a profile on him soon.

More Solid Additions

In front of Bobrovsky the Panthers solidified their blue line corps adding veteran defenseman Anton Stralman who spent the last five seasons across the state in Tampa Bay.

Stralman was a major part of the defense on the Lightning and the 12-year vet will add much needed experience and stability to the Panthers’ blue line.

Florida also added forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari in a busy stretch this week.

Make sure to follow on Twitter @SportsWaveDave for the latest in Miami sports.

Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo – Swan Song for the Strombone

In typical fashion,  Florida Panthers longtime goaltender Roberto Luongo announced his retirement Wednesday.

 

Ok, he actually used a slightly more serious platform to mark the occasion.

In an honest and open letter to Florida Panthers and NHL fans, Luongo voiced his decision with great sincerity.

Reactions around hockey and in the world of sports have been pouring in.

 

Luongo exits the NHL after an illustrious 19-year career, leaving an impressive if complex legacy.

He came into the league as a 20-year old rookie for the New York Islanders, who did not feel he was the one.

Instead, Luongo was quickly traded to Florida after New York drafted Rick Dipietro first overall the following year. That deal also brought over franchise great Oli Jokinen.

In 2004 during his fourth season with the Panthers he began his ascension towards greatness, earning a second team All-Star nod and finishing third in the Vezina Trophy race.

As quickly as the tide was rising on Luongo’s career, the winds of change would soon alter the course of not one, but two franchises.

After the 2005-06 season, Luongo would be traded to the Vancouver Canucks, starting a new chapter and earning a place in another team’s record books.

Potential met in Vancouver

Luongo would not disappoint in his debut season for the Canucks, posting a 47-22-6 record with a stellar .921 and 2.28 GAA respectively.

He would earn another second team All-Star selection and finish second in both the Hart and Veniza trophy races. His 252 wins and 38 shutouts are Canucks records, and he ranks second in games played (448), GAA (2.36), and SV % (.919).

Vancouver was a consistent playoff team with Lu in net, making the Stanley Cup Finals in the 2010-11 season. The Canucks would lose a heartbreaking series to the Boston Bruins, after leading 3-2 in the series. This series defined the legacy of Lu, from two shutouts wins to a three-goal meltdown and benching in Boston which changed the series.

From Sunrise to Sunset

Luongo was traded back to the Panthers in March, 2014 to finish rewriting the record books in Florida. Another excellent run would ensue but the team could not quite get over the hump.

Injuries as they usually do began to take their toll, after being durable most of his career the last three years were tough for Luongo.

He would undergo hip surgery after only starting 39 games in the 2016-17 season, and would split time more in those final seasons with the emerging James Reimer. He is the Cats leader in career wins (230) and shutouts (38), like in that other place.

Unlike with the Canucks however, he enjoyed much less postseason success in his second stint. Luongo has also endured more defeats (241) than any other goalie in Panthers’ history.

Building a supporting cast around the franchise goalie was never successful, and Lu paid the price behind a subpar blue line for years.

Now a 19-year career split almost evenly between two franchises ends.

Where he ranks in the pantheon of both organizations is an interesting question.

It is no doubt high.

But is it the height of rafters?

He may have played to his own beat, but the Strombone sure composed a masterpiece.

At least now he will have more time for elite Twitter activity.

 

Jeffrey Loria: Your worst person in Miami sports history

We probably didn’t need to do this.

It was kind of a foregone conclusion, when we selected 52 of the least popular sports figures in South Florida history — split into Sports Figures and Athletes brackets — that the frugal, former owner of the Miami Marlins would eventually tear down the nets like he tore down baseball in this market.

Still, we went through it anyway, and Jeffrey Loria was the big winner… or loser.

(We won’t show his face because, well, why?)

He was never really challenged, not against another former Marlins owner (John Henry), not against former Dolphins GM Mike Tannenbaum, not against the destroyer of the University of Miami football program Nevin Shapiro, not in the Futile Four against former Dolphins coach Nick Saban — who upset Loria’s son-in-law David Samson in the Awful Eight — and certainly not in the Final against the person you oddly deemed the worst athlete (former Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin).

This was a rout.

And why not?

Loria did win a World Series as owner, but he also made decision after decision to destroy the Marlins franchise. (Oh, and he called me a “piece of crap columnist” once, so I’ll acknowledge some bias.

He’ll probably take this condemnation as a compliment.

What was strange was the other side of the bracket, where four former Dolphins (Martin, Dion Jordan, Mike Wallace, Jay Cutler) were the last four left, not exactly the quartet we expected. In fact, Dolphins kept beating Heat, Marlins, Panthers and Hurricanes players in terms of how much you disliked them.

But no one beats Loria, not at this game.