Work in Sports
SOUTHEAST DIVISION |
2 Florida Panthers
Team Page | 2000-2001 Schedule | Roster
Sports Illustrated Ranking: 16
By Kostya Kennedy
Not that the Panthers are expecting much from 21-year-old goaltender Roberto Luongo, but.... "He's the guy teams have to have to win the Stanley Cup," says coach Terry Murray. "He's going to be a top goalie who can play here 12 or 15 years." Adds general manager Bryan Murray, "He's a franchise guy."
Such assessments explain why the Panthers made the draft-day decision to acquire Luongo and developing center Olli Jokinen from the Islanders for two of Florida's best young forwards, Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. Great expectations have caused many a green goalie to wilt like steamed lettuce, and Luongo's NHL pedigree consists of a 7-14-1 record with the lowly Islanders last year. Yet that came on the heels of a spectacular junior career, and scouts across the league gush about Luongo's great elasticity in the net as well as his cool head.
That last attribute may be tested immediately. Incumbent netminder Trevor Kidd went 13-4-2 last season before dislocating his left shoulder in December, and coach Murray characterizes Florida's state of goaltending as a "1A and 1B situation." Kidd sees it otherwise. "I don't look at it as a 1A or 1B situation," says the eight-year veteran. "I look at it as my job."
Available to help ease any tension is Florida's other off-season pickup, Igor Larionov, the sagacious 39-year-old center who signed as a free agent. Nicknamed the Professor, Larionov will be an educator in the dressing room, and his intelligent passing could spur Pavel Bure, the game's best pure scorer, to an alltime season.
The Panthers have enough skill up front to approach last season's franchise-record 43 wins. To succeed in the playoffs, however, they'll need consistency from a thin group of defensemen who were exposed as the team got swept by the Devils in last year's first round. Florida is counting on 6'6", 212-pound Mike Wilson, 25, to emerge on the blue line -- an expectation, of course, that pales next to what they're expecting from young Roberto.
Issue date: October 16, 2000
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