The Florida Panthers aren’t happy with what their team is doing, or not doing, thus far this season. When standards aren’t met, be it team-wise or individually, changes happen. And that’s part of the reason the Panthers sent Kris Versteeg back to the Chicago Blackhawks late Thursday night.
According to the Sun Sentinel, the Panthers were unhappy with Versteeg’s inconsistency this season. Versteeg recovered from a torn ACL and the ensuing knee surgery at the start of the season, but his play wasn’t where the Panthers wanted it to be.
(Versteeg) was benched a few weeks ago against the Capitals by recently fired coach Kevin Dineen, the first healthy scratch of his career, and new coach Peter Horachek only played him less than 12 minutes against Anaheim.
“His play was inconsistent,’’ Tallon said of Versteeg. “He tried to do too much probably carrying the burden of a big contract and wasn’t consistent enough. This is based on performance only.
“He had some flashes of brilliance but we need to be excellent on every shift. He’s going to a place he had success so it’ll be a good fit for him. … He’s an asset, had value and we needed to make a change.’’
For the Panthers, Versteeg was all over the lineup this season after being a top-line guy in the 2011-12 season. Yes, he’s had some injuries, and he came back quickly from those. Maybe that had something to do with it. Perhaps Versteeg was pressing to do more with expectations and that contract, as Tallon said above. There’s a lot of pressure on everyone in that organization, considering the bad record, the contracts and the need to do more.
So let’s flash forward to the Blackhawks, Versteeg’s new home for the second time. This sounds ridiculous, but the pressure is off Versteeg here. He doesn’t have to be a top-line guy. He doesn’t have to live up to some bigger standard other than being a nuts-and-bolts player. Be a third liner. Be a penalty killer. That’s what the Blackhawks need. They have their top-line guys. They have second-line guys who can also be top-line guys. If Versteeg gets into the Top 6 at some point based on his play, so be it. But he doesn’t have to be that for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks, unlike the Panthers, have depth. They just need Versteeg to be Versteeg. It didn’t work out for him in Florida. Here’s to him finding new life in an old setting.