With football around the corner, I always like to throw on the ESPN 30 for 30: The ‘85 Bears. Always gets me pumped.
In conjunction with the pure dominance the 1985 Bears defense had, was a roster/coaching staff chock-full of cool, larger than life characters.
We’re talking: Mike Ditka, Mike Singletary, Steve “Mongo” McMichael, Dan “Danimal” Hampton, Richard Dent, Walter Payton, Gary Fencik, Otis Wilson, Jim McMahon, Buddy Ryan, Willian “The Refrigerator” Perry…
These guys, along with their talents and personalities, gave that ‘85 team an identity. One of domination and intimidation. They believed the game was already won before it even started. Their performances, and that season as a whole, have become things of legend.
Seven years later and 1,380 miles from Chicago, the Florida Panthers were born in Miami. Those first few years for the Cats saw a team with a blue collar, hard working identity. There were no major stars, just a bunch of guys grinding it out each night.
That identity is long gone. I don’t need to remind you of the changes and lack of direction this team has gone through since that time. You already know.
But revisiting the question we discuss fairly frequently about this team’s identity seems appropriate as we head into a new season, with a new coach, and a new star player flanked by a handful of new recruits.
So…just who are these guys, exactly?
Last season showed they could play a run-and-gun style while racking up personal/franchise records and points in the regular season, but that fun ran out out when they crashed and burned in the playoffs.
Part of that collapse was certainly due to coaching and the inability to adjust. But that team lacked serious emotion.
As I look at this roster heading into 2022-23 (excluding some of the new additions that I don’t have a good feel for yet), there’s six guys that I believe have the swagger and emotional spark to make a difference on and off the ice and bring this team real personality:
If Maurice makes this a defense-first team (and I believe that’s his plan) and unleashes the above to play their game on the ice and in the press, we could see a whole new kind of Florida Panthers animal.
Mentality and mindset are just as important as talent - maybe even more important. Those early Panthers teams found success not due to talent, but due to the belief that they could (and would) compete and beat whoever they played that night.
Of course the Panthers of the past few years have been successful. No argument there. What I will argue is that they have also been a very passive team. We don’t see that fire and passion from players and coaches on the ice and in press conferences and interviews. I’m not saying you have to be a wild man all the time, but hearing from your leaders when you need to tends to go a long way.
I smiled when when Matthew Tkachuk said he hated Tampa in his introduction press conference. Not only is that some pro wrasslin’, but was the last time you heard a Cat say anything like that in recent memory?
People criticized him for it. “Tough guy hasn’t even played a game for Florida yet!” Blah, blah, blah…I didn't see it that way. I love the passion and gamesmanship.
Dan Hampton once said, “Did we ever sit around and think we’re so good, nobody can beat us? Like everyday!”
It’s time for the Panthers to stop being quiet. The hockey world believes they’re a real contender for the Cup. It’s time for them to believe it, too.
What do you guys think? Does the combination of new players and Maurice’s system finally bring a tougher identity to South Florida?
Bring the fire! Go Panthers!