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21 FLORIDA Panthers
Richard Deitsch
October 08, 2001
As far as hockey siblings go, the Sutters and the Bures stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. If you belong to the Sutter clan, you are likely to be as relentless as a Saskatchewan winter, possess a Herculean work ethic and have coached in the NHL. If you are one of the Bures, you skate like the wind, score frequently and are married to a starlet (Valeri, to Candace Cameron) or have dated a femme fatale (Pavel, with Anna Kournikova). Now that Valeri, 27, has joined Pavel, 30, on a team coached by Duane Sutter, the Panthers are hoping this amalgamation of on-ice flare and behind-the-bench toughness can make them winners again. Says Sutter, "We can make a strong run at the playoffs this year."
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October 08, 2001

21 Florida Panthers

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Insider

CATEGORY

SI RANKING

SKINNY

FORWARDS

16

Lack of a No. 1 center hurts their consistency

DEFENSE

17

Svehla, Hedican can carry puck; quality depth missing

GOALTENDING

10

Luongo is ready to join league's elite

SPECIAL TEAMS

23

Power play needs to spend less time on perimeter

MANAGEMENT

23

Coach Sutter should have team playing hard

As far as hockey siblings go, the Sutters and the Bures stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. If you belong to the Sutter clan, you are likely to be as relentless as a Saskatchewan winter, possess a Herculean work ethic and have coached in the NHL. If you are one of the Bures, you skate like the wind, score frequently and are married to a starlet (Valeri, to Candace Cameron) or have dated a femme fatale (Pavel, with Anna Kournikova). Now that Valeri, 27, has joined Pavel, 30, on a team coached by Duane Sutter, the Panthers are hoping this amalgamation of on-ice flare and behind-the-bench toughness can make them winners again. Says Sutter, "We can make a strong run at the playoffs this year."

That would be a big step up from a dismal 66-point season in 2000-01, during which there were few highlights besides the continuing brilliance of Pavel, who was the NHL's leading goal scorer (59) for the second straight season. However, the Panthers' second-leading goal scorer was the Russian Rocket's oft-injured linemate, center Viktor Kozlov, who had only 14. In addition to needing more scoring—Florida's 200 goals ranked 24th in the league—Sutter needs a more balanced attack, as the older Bure accounted for 29.5% of Florida's goals.

The acquisition of Valeri (along with forward Jason Wiemer in a June trade with the Flames for forward Rob Niedermayer) should help: Over the last two seasons he scored 62 times. He'll play right wing on the second line, which also includes promising rookie Kristian Huselius (Swedish Elite League leader in six offensive categories last season) and center Olli Jolkinen, the No. 3 pick in the 1997 draft, who has been a bust.

The news is not as good along the back line, where the lone addition of note is the return of journeyman Jeff Norton, who turns 36 in November. The goal-tending inspires more optimism thanks to emerging star Roberto Luongo, who finished with a 2.44 goals-against average and a team-record five shutouts as a rookie. "Last year my goal was to establish myself as an NHL goaltender," says Luongo. "This year my objective is to play as many games as possible. I'm ready for a big season."

Luongo should deliver on his promise, but that may not be enough to get the Panthers back to the playoffs.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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