Florida’s Over Achievers

Right about now, the Panthers are the only South Florida sports team that isn’t sucking awfully – they’re just a notch below .500, and are very much alive in the weak Southeast Division. Just think about that for a moment: The best assemblage of athletic talent in the lower third of this state almost wins as many games as it loses. That’s nearly a one-in-two chance. Just about half. All of their games, but divided by two and minus a couple. Wow!

Yep, the Panthers are playing decent hockey at the moment, thanks largely to Coach Jacques Martin’s ability to scare them into not sucking. Last week, Martin called out the team for sloppy play and lackadaisical shooting, prompting critics to believe heads would roll if things didn’t turn around. Fortunately, the players responded with a monster win against the Islanders; maybe it was because they knew Martin doesn’t make idle threats. The coach is not afraid to ditch star players (remember Roberto Luongo?), and there’s serious speculation that the roster will get ripped apart this off-season if the Panthers don’t make the playoffs. We’ll see if anything sticks Thursday night, when the Cats return home to the BankAtlantic Center (1 Panther Pkwy., Sunrise) to face division rivals, the Carolina Hurricanes. Tickets start at $17. Call, or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
Thu., Dec. 20, 2007

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John Linn