The Two Players That Might Save Rowe's Job
March 25, 2017, 4:33 PM ET [1 Comments]
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#RoweMustGo is a very common hashtag amongst Panther fans these days as they count down the games to what they hope are his last as interim head coach.
Management, of which Tom Rowe is part of as GM, has said they will evaluate all positions at the end of the season to make improvements ahead of the draft and next year.
After such a roller coaster year with the firing of Gerard Gallant, multiple major injuries, and a tease of success on the road in February that gave way to a disastrous slump, it's hard for anyone to logically and objectively point to what went wrong this season.
The difficulty in pinpointing specifics as to why a team coming off their best season in franchise history is currently the ninth worst team in the NHL makes it easier to point vitriolic fingers at Rowe.
The most enthusiastic Rowe haters will claim he blew up an already successful team last summer, was vying for Gallant's job way before the firing, and his coaching style/systems are AHL-worthy at best.
All, some, or none of these could be true. However, at this point it doesn't matter.
The majority of the fanbase looks at Rowe as the symbol of failure this team has become, and good luck constructively debating with any of them. The pain of falling woefully short of expectations will not be offset by any small positives that could be mentioned regarding this season.
Yet positives there are. Two of them specifically that might be the difference in Rowe staying with the Panther organization.
Both Jonathan Marchessault and Colton Sceviour were "analytics signings" the hockey world wanted to laugh at as it became knowledge the Panthers front office was moving to a more statistical model. They weren't laughing at the players, per se, but rather the process.
Rowe was reported to be part of this process that brought in not only two good, but potentially one great player in Marchessault. After Thursday night's 3-1 win over Arizona, Rowe mentioned Marchessault was the "purest goal-scorer we have."
That's saying something with the likes of Barkov, Jagr, Trocheck, and Huberdeau on the team. Perhaps he was still basking in the glow of Marchy scoring two goals and hitting the 25-goal plateau in his first full season as an NHL player.
Sceviour's three shorthanded goals, stellar special teams play, and overall value as a utility player proved to be a great signing.
Marchessault, however, is the best free agent signing in the NHL, and it's not close. Rowe and company signed him from the cross-state Rival Lightning to a two-year, $1.5 million contract.
As the Sun-Sentinel's Harvey Fialkov reported, Marchessault leads the team with 25 goals to go with 45 points, including six game-winning goals. He also leads the Panthers with seven power-play goals and 16 power-play points, while being tied for second with a shot percentage of 14.5 — which is .10 behind Aleksander Barkov’s 14.6.
That's quite a return for practically peanuts in the current NHL landscape.
President of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon had nothing to do with the signing of these two players, and they are just the type of signings that could prove valuable enough to keep Rowe on board as GM moving forward.
The internal question will be just how much did Rowe have to do with the analytics breakdown and research to decide on these players. Was this more Assistant GM Eric Joyce's doing? Was it a group effort? Has Rowe proven himself as invaluable in his short stint as GM thus far? Has ownership realized Tallon needs to be given much more of a role in putting together this roster? Perhaps the analytical model needs to be revisited?
Whatever the case, there will be big decisions to be made on Rowe's future after this season mercifully comes to an end.
The Panthers have shown themselves to be sensitive to media scrutiny and public perception. Look no further than the pictures of Gerard Gallant on the curb in Carolina waiting for a cab as an example of how bad the Panthers have "looked" in recent memory even though the reality of the situation was completely different.
The tidal wave of negativity from fans surrounding Rowe might prove too much to keep him around for Florida ownership.
Word is that many season ticket holders are waiting on sending in their renewals until seeing whether Rowe is still with the organization.
Yes, the hate runs deep.
Publicly calling out Reilly Smith and Nick Bjugstad fueled the theories he lost the locker room long ago. Letting Aaron Ekblad play after yet another concussion and then sitting him again with a "neck injury" fanned the flames of disdain as someone who is risking the future for a season that is all but lost...
...lost because of his meddling and tinkering with a franchise that wasn't broken, and now looks lost.
From a personnel standpoint, Marchessault and Sceviour might be enough to save Rowe's job if the fans are assured he will never be behind the bench again.
It would be hard to fathom ownership would let Rowe coach the team ever again, but is that kind of poison pill worth keeping around as a constant reminder of what this season became?