Panthers Will Need Tkachuk to Control His Gritty Game

The Florida Panthers are off to a decent start with a 7-5-1 record. Of course, everyone has been doing their part to get better, but one of the biggest pieces to help the team has been forward Matthew Tkachuk, who was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Calgary Flames

Of course, grit is welcome, and Tkachuk is known for being the tough guy type. But, there are times that he may need to cool it down, as it could cost the Panthers down the line. It already did last month against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he took a bad penalty in overtime that would ultimately lead to a game-winning goal for the Bolts.

Tkachuk Already Suspended Multiple Times

On Nov. 6, the NHL suspended Tkachuk for two games after a high stick on Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick -he also forfeited over $100,000 in player salary. Of course, a couple of games in November may not seem like a big deal, especially since Florida won the two games he missed – against the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 and the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. However, that was the fourth time in his career that he’s been suspended; the first three suspensions came during his time with the Flames. The first time, he was suspended for two games for elbowing Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty. The second occurrence was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Detroit Red Wings in which he speared forward Luke Witkowski that got him banned for a game. The third was another unsportsmanlike instance against the Toronto Maple Leafs in which he speared forward Matt Martin that also got him a one-game suspension.

Related: Panthers Need to Fix Anemic Special Teams

Imagine if this was a playoff game when the team needs all the star power they can get. However, the team’s star power forward did something similar to what happened to Quick, and he’s now out for that game. The best ability to give a team is availability.

Tkachuk Just Needs to Tone It Down

In the grand scheme of things, Tkachuk’s edge has always been welcome. It sets a tone that is essential for a playoff push, but he needs to find a way to tone it down when needed.

Matthew Tkachuk, Florida Panthers
Matthew Tkachuk was suspended for the fourth time in his career and for the first time with the Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If he continues to play a reckless game, it will cost the team. He is way too talented and too big a part of the team’s success to risk suspension.

Tkachuk Is a Valuable Asset

Tkachuk is having a remarkable season. He leads the Panthers in points with 17 (5 goals, 12 assists) through 12 games; that’s an average of nearly a point and a half per game. He ranks 11th in the NHL scoring race.

Related: Panthers Seeing Great Return With the Addition of Colin White

By contrast, Flames forward Jonathan Huberdeau only has six points (a goal and five assists) through 11 games, and defenseman Mackenzie Weegar only has four assists through 12 games. They have 10 points combined. So far, it seems this trade has worked out great for the Cats.

But Tkachuk has also done some damage outside of his suspensions. He leads the team in penalty minutes with 30, which ranks eighth in the NHL. Given that the Panthers have struggled on the penalty kill this season, he needs to find a way to clean up his game. He is a great asset and missing him for a few games or even two minutes due to a few bone-headed moves will prove costly.

Will Tkachuk Be Able to Tone It Down?

You cannot take a player’s style away from him no matter who the coach is. Tkachuk has been borderline infamous for the sandpaper he brings every single night, but he’s also a special talent that has helped the Panthers dramatically.

Still, he needs to find a way to relax in certain situations. Despite it being a physical game, it can leave massive repercussions in the now and the distant future. Luckily, there is still time to right the ship. If it’s fixed by April, they’ll be using his strengths for a playoff push as they’re going to need his edge for playoff-style hockey.

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