The Naughty Children – Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers

Image courtesy of nhl.com

We all know the franchises, the sun belt teams, the ones that no one seems to like and who everyone likes to bash. I like to call them the naughty children: the Canes, the Panthers and the Coyotes; the Jackets and Stars are sometimes lumped into these pots, but with better attendances and more importantly, a growing youth and midget league infrastructure in the area, well I’m not calling them naughty at the moment – they are off the list.

So the season has finally started and it’s been a great start and I’ve probably watched more hockey than I should have done. We’re one week in and I want to put some praise on two of the naughtiest of children: the Coyotes and the Panthers. We can’t complain about them all the time and sometimes they deserve praise.

First of all, let’s give some praise that both teams sold out the respective opening home games; it may not last, but the two teams are doing what they can on the ice to bring fans back – they are being entertaining.

I’ve watched at least one period of every team so far this season and I’ve watched a lot more of the Coyotes and the Panthers as they have drawn me back in to watch more and more. One in the East and one in the West, two teams that people don’t have a lot of love for. That is something we should all change, we are not local and we are not going to watch them play live, but when you’re looking for a game to watch, the Panthers and the Coyotes are exciting. Both teams sprinkled with youth and talent, they will have ups and will have downs, but what I have watched so far, it kept me awake into the wee hours.

Florida

Let’s start with the franchise that is universally mocked and sits in a tough market, the Panthers. These Panthers have done what the Oilers always failed to do – they bought in real veteran quality to show the youngsters the way. High end talent has been surrounded with good quality players who can act as role models and mentors.

With Willie Mitchell, they have bought someone in that is helping Aaron Ekblad along nicely. And this isn’t restricted to on-ice learning; young Ekblad lived with Mitchell and his family last season and credits it with helping his adjustment to the pro game and his continued development.

Then we look at Jonathan Huberdeau, who along with Barkov has seen a points spike since Jaromir Jagr arrived. This is not an article looking at stats, this is an article to say what this team is and why you should watch them. The arrival of Jaromir Jagr last season really helped propel some of the young offensive players last season and heading into this season. Jagr has bought some of the young offensive players on development wise and well they are just fun to watch.

Huberdeau, Barkob, Bjugstad and Pirri – this is one fun team to watch. Speedy and attack minded, and watching Jagr and still seeing his quality, that would have been enough, but it’s a whole lot better. I just hope Florida fans embrace what they have, this is a team on the cusp of being a very strong contender, but I fear they be relocated and be another franchise who wins Stanley after the move.

Arizona

There is another team, the other franchise in the West with NHL ownership, lease problems and a poor fan base, but I am pleasantly surprised in the Coyotes this season. Two young men have transformed the whole team into one exciting unit.

The two young men are Max Domi and Anthony Duclair; fast, creative, both have great releases and both are on the goal trail early this season. A lot like Florida, these young men have some solid veterans around them which will aid in their development. And I just say go and watch them, they make mistakes, they are not the finished article, but I haven’t seen many shifts from Duclair and Domi where they haven’t tried to make something happen.

This is a team that is not going to struggle – which in one way it’s a shame, a number one pick next year would be nice to use on home town boy Auston Matthews, the kid looks like a future franchise player. Personally I would do anything to get that pick, trade anyone, it’s a pick that could ignite a new market, hometown boy, number one pick. But I digress; this season, there is enough to keep neutrals and Coyotes fans entertained.

I’ve had a brilliant first week of the season, I’ve watched some great hockey and I’ve had the misfortune of watching more than a minute of the LA Kings who this season so far are everything the Coyotes and Panthers are not…

If you just want to watch some fun fast paced hockey and your looking to see some top end talent develop, get on the train which not many people like, get on the train of the Panthers and the Coyotes, the naughty child train.

Because so far, it’s been a blast.

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