Tonight the Winnipeg Jets will host the Florida Panthers in the rubber match of their five game season series which currently sits knotted at two apiece. The last time Winnipeg hosted the southern cats was on February 5th where they eeked out a 3-2 overtime win thanks to a power play goal from Bryan Little.
As part of our gameday coverage, we had a few questions relating to the Panthers before puck-drop tonight.
With that, here is our pal Donny Rivette from Litter Box Cats in today's instalment of Gameday Questionnaire:
1. Given the Panthers have been out of the playoff picture since early March, are there any driving factors keeping casual fans interested in the team?
Easy answer here: yes, absolutely. Many - myself included - have simply decided to enjoy the development of the large stable of first-year players such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore, Quinton Howden, and progression of several others with a bit more experience: Jacob Markstrom, Erik Gudbranson, T.J. Brennan. Regardless of the eventual outcome in the standings, the prospects have been a joy to follow. Add in forward Shawn Matthias' sudden emergence as a scoring threat and fans have been given plenty of reasons to watch, and more importantly, remain excited for the future. The depth running all the way through AHL San Antonio has been generally superb when called upon this year, and considering the abundance of injuries to Florida regulars, we've seen a lot of them.
2. Other than Jonathan Huberdeau, who has been the most impressive Panther this year?
The aforementioned Matthias. His 14 goals are already a career best - by 4 from a year ago in 79 games. He's been a dynamo over the past month, and finally showing the offensive flair Detroit knew was inherent when the Wings drafted him during the second round in '06. And I'll offer up a second option: Tomas Kopecky is having a similarly uncharacteristic campaign with 26 points (15G) in 39 appearances. Pretty remarkable showing for a career "pest".
3. Explain to fans in Winnipeg exactly what "Club Red" is and why it's a terrible idea.
One of our community members outlined Club Red in a superb FanPost recently, so I'll defer to it for further info. Whether one supports or derides such a concept, the optics of a mammoth swath of empty seats - in a market widely perceived to be unsupportive of its hockey club - are paper-cut painful for fans. Even games that draw well in Sunrise (and sorry Winnipeg, the Jets aren't one of them) look barren and empty on television broadcasts, thanks to camera placements directly across from the section. I personally believe the idea will work out over time, but the on-ice product must rise to a consistent level (i.e. victories) in order to generate local buzz and demand for these ultra high-priced tickets will improve. But yeah, the at-a-glance image absolutely sucks.
Ed. Note: We thank Donny for his for his time in this edition of Gameday Questionnaire. Look for our next edition of Gameday Questionnaire next Tuesday with our pals from Raw Charge.