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Panthers have plunged after breakout season


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000

What the heck is going on with the Panthers?

After rolling up 98 points last season, the team was expecting a major breakthrough. Instead, the season has been a major breakdown.

Going into Saturday night's game against the Capitals, Florida had one win in 12 games and had a league-low 21 goals (Pavel Bure had four). It was only one point out of first place in the pathetically weak Southeast Division, but that hasn't calmed fans, who want the head of coach Terry Murray.

The chants and boos would be worse if attendance was better. Only 13,371, the smallest crowd in 87 games at National Car Rental Center, showed up Wednesday for a 3-0 loss to the Islanders.

"As a team, we're just as disappointed as we can be," left wing Ray Whitney said. "We had a little discussion (after the Islanders game). Even in the meeting, we didn't know what needed to be said except we have to try to do something to put some passion and fire into our game."

The Panthers' chemistry is non-existent and play is undisciplined. Injuries have hurt, but defenseman Todd Simpson said that cannot be an excuse.

"It's embarrassing," Simpson said. "We've all got to work harder. We've all got to care more and we've all got to play with more passion out there."

Players defended Murray, and general manager Bryan Murray gave his brother a vote of confidence.

"Yeah, it's safe," Bryan said of Terry's job. "Of course I think the players still respond to him."

BAD BLOOD: Roberto Luongo is still steamed at the Islanders for trading him and Olli Jokinen to the Panthers for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha.

"Lots of stuff happened that I really wasn't happy with," said the goaltender, who is winless in seven starts and faced his former team for the first time Wednesday. "Lots of stuff was weird, I guess."

Luongo thinks New York demoted him to the minors to stop him from playing in his 25th NHL game and collecting an $800,000 bonus.

"I was kind of mad, but I guess I should have realized it," Luongo said. "They were cutting salaries so they weren't going to give a 20-year-old a (big) performance bonus."

Here's more:

After a solid training camp, Luongo was sent to the minors. He said he found out from the media.

Islanders coach Butch Goring left Luongo in for all nine goals in a 9-3 loss to the Penguins.

After Luongo played poorly in a 7-3 loss to the Bruins, he said Islanders general manager Mike Milbury complained he was out looking at apartments all day.

LINDROS UPDATE: Eric Lindros is skating again and Philadelphia general manager Bobby Clarke wants to talk to him in person around the general managers meetings Nov. 15 in Toronto.

The Delaware County Daily Times reported Clarke wants Lindros back provided the 27-year-old has recovered from post-concussion syndrome. The newspaper reported that Lindros, a restricted free agent, wants a trade. Toronto and Los Angeles are the most likely destinations.

"He is the one saying he doesn't want to come back," Clarke said. "But he has to realize that other teams might not be able to trade for him, or if somebody tries to sign him we could still match."

ROCKY TIME FOR AVALANCHE: Colorado lost leading scorer Chris Drury for six to eight weeks with a sprained left knee. It also lost Adam Deadmarsh indefinitely after he received a concussion in a fight with Vancouver's Ed Jovanovski.

Always the optimist, coach Bob Hartley said, "It's going to give an opportunity to someone else to step in and get the job done."

PERSONALITY CONFLICT: Don't invite Hartley and Oilers coach Craig MacTavish to the same party. MacTavish thinks Hartley tried to run up the score in an Oct. 28 game at the Pepsi Center. Hartley called timeout on a power play with 1:18 remaining and Colorado up 4-2.

MacTavish said Hartley has no class.

"Either he doesn't have an understanding of the game or it's a personal thing," MacTavish said.

"We don't play stupid hockey. We play good hockey," Hartley said. (The timeout) was mainly to rest our guys. It was not to embarrass them. I don't know who Craig MacTavish is to talk about class."

ODDS AND ENDS: Why are the Thrashers dying at the box office? In their last 25 games at Phillips Arena, the team is 1-20-4. ... The Bruins may be serious about allowing holdout Anson Carter to sit out the season. Then again, they may trade him after general manager Mike O'Connell signed free-agent forward Dixon Ward. ... Owen Nolan of the Sharks had a setback in the rehabilitation of his groin injury and could be out another two weeks.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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