Sunday, September 2, 2007

Vokoun Looking to Turn Panthers Around

After the crippling Luongo-to-Vancouver trade that left them with an Alex Auld/Ed Belfour duo in net, it was Jacques Martin's job this offseason to find a new starting goalie. He did that and more, landing Tomas Vokoun in a draft-day deal, which saw only draft picks go the other way. Vokoun is in no way the saviour for Florida, he should provide them with above-average goaltending, and will give them a shot at the playoffs. Craig Anderson, who has bounced around from team to team, will be promoted from the AHL to backup Vokoun. Anderson has played well when given the chance to start at the NHL level, and performed even better in the AHL. He is still young, is about to reach the height of his potential, and should be a strong second-stringer these next few years. Both starters from last season are gone, Auld to Phoenix, and Belfour to Sweden, I think that a Vokoun and Anderson combo will be better.

The Florida Panthers share their AHL affiliate with the Buffalo Sabres in Rochester, and as a result can only have one goaltender on the team. The job will either go to David Shantz, who played in the ECHL last season, or Tyler Plante, who is coming out of Brandon of the WHL. Shantz was an all-star at the ECHL level, and may have the inside track on the AHL job, but only training camp will decide that. Plante is still untested, as this is going to be his first year of pro hockey, so the Panthers may send him to Florida of the ECHL to get accustomed. Plante is the future goalie for the Panthers, and has tremendous potential, so that scenario is not 100% etched in stone. Plante may very well steal the job in training camp, and they could send Shantz back to the ECHL, but we'll just have to wait and see. Vokoun should be a great asset to this team, and Anderson will be a solid backup this year. Shantz and Plante will have to duel it out in the minors these next few seasons, until the Panthers get an affiliate of their own.