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Five questions about the Florida Panthers for Litter Box Cats

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Just what is up with the Florida Panthers under Vincent Viola's ownership reign of several weeks? Addressing goaltending, trade rumo(u)rs and rivalries, we find out in a Q and A with Litter Box Cats.

Joel Auerbach

Kevin over at Litter Box Cats invoked the Q and A deal that we had taken up last season here on Raw Charge. With the "Governors Cup" (which I am not keen on for reasons that defy an edict we here on the site) in play and Tampa Bay having a 1-0 advantage in that series, answering a few questions for them seemed all fine and good.

Asking a few questions of our own was also a good idea. Clare and m'self jumbled together five questions for the Panthers.

1. Why does Tim Thomas keep breaking and what does that mean for the Panthers' season?

Tim Thomas hasn't been fragile historically speaking, but there was no precedent for what to expect when a 39 year old all-star Stanley Cup winning Tim Thomas comes out of retirement. He's played well enough when healthy, but as you know has twice injured himself on easy saves. Of course, Florida's problems run deeper than how much better TT is than Jacob Markstrom at this moment.

2. Is this Viola guy on the up and up or what?

The jury's still out on Viola, we're waiting to see what he does to shake things up around here. No front office in hockey would be ok with a 3-7-1 start, especially with losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres. The thing is, we've also seen the team defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins and nearly upend both of last season's Stanley Cup participants. The Panthers have a bunch of guys who can skate and very few who can finish. Viola needs to land a high profile free agent scorer to show that he's serious about bringing a winner to South Florida.

3. Excluding your cross state rival, who do Cat fans perceive as the team's biggest rival? (This stems from some stuff that recently played out during the Bolts/Bruins game)

The Bolts are the obvious choice here, but if I were to exclude them, I'd say the Panthers really lack a rival. With the new divisional ties playing out, I think the first club besides the Bolts to start a rivalry with the Cats will likely be the Boston Bruins. The two clubs have shared blood from the other team (most notably Gregory Campbell on the Bruins and Tim Thomas on the Panthers). The Sabres come the closest to matching the current performance of Florida, and both may improve at roughly the same rate. I could be wrong, but after Friday night's game, in which we saw the Panthers muster one goal on 45 shots, I'm dying for the rematch.

4. Is there a Florida player who is going unnoticed by the rest of the hockey world who shouldn't be?

The NHL world is focused on Florida's young blood, including last season's Calder Cup Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau, super rookie Sasha Barkov, former Mr. Hockey Nick Bjugstad, and behemoth goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Below the radar, and to little fanfare, fan favorite Sean Bergenheim made his return to NHL ice after having not appeared since April, 2012. His impact was immediately evident, as he assisted on Florida's only goal and mustered two shots in 12 minutes of ice time. If Florida comes out on top tonight, I think there are better than even odds that Bergy will have played a significant role.

5. There are lots of rumo(u)rs about Tallon shopping pretty much everyone on the team around... Do you put any credence in these rumors?

We're all just guessing here, as nobody has yet pulled the trigger on anything, but I'd say excluding the young blood I mentioned in the last question, everyone is available at the right price. I'd like to see the team unload flash-in-the-pan fancy moves Kris Versteeg, and the overpaid Scottie Upshall. Frankly, the team is loaded with guys who can skate fast and try REALLY hard but can't bury the puck in the webbing (with the exception of Huberdeau, Barkov, and Tomas Fleischmann, who are legitimate top six forwards). Toronto has expressed interest in acquiring Dmitry Kulikov - and I say they should let him go at the right price.