Another year has come and gone and South Florida has had its fair share of interesting sports stories over the past twelve months. Each of our local sports teams has had their ups and downs but they’ve all kept things very interesting.
From the Miami Heat to the Florida Panthers, sports fans in the region always have someone to root for and, in many cases this year, frustrate the heck out of us. As the calendar flips over to 2015, let’s go team-by-team and review how things have gone for each of them in 2014.
The Dolphins started 2014 the same way they’ve started almost every year this millennium… with no playoff games. Leave it to the Fins to be consistent, as they ended the year the exact same way as they came into it. Another disappointing December led to another year without a playoff game, but there were a couple of positive storylines that came from the season that was.
It appears that Miami has found their quarterback as Ryan Tannehill made huge strides this past season and has shown that he can be the guy to lead the Dolphins into the future. Tannehill and the Dolphins’ offense improved by leaps and bounds, and new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor had a lot to do with that.
Despite the team finishing with an 8-8 record for the second consecutive year, Fins owner Stephen Ross decided that he’s sticking with his coach for at least one more season. Joe Philbin has one year left on his contract and he’ll have one more chance to show that he can be the guy to get Miami over the hump.
What a change a year can make. The Heat began 2014 as the cream of the NBA crop. Led by LeBron James, Miami was on their way to a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance. The Heat would meet the San Antonio Spurs for the second year in a row but things didn’t end well for LeBron and co. The Spurs dominated the Heat for the majority of the series, ending the Finals in five games.
It wasn’t long after that when Heat fans received an even bigger shock than the embarrassing way their team played in the championship series. Doing what many people thought would not happen, LeBron decided to opt out of his contract with the Heat and return to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. That came as a big surprise to his teammates in Miami, especially after Pat Riley had already begun building up the teams supporting cast to surround James with better role players.
Riley did end up getting Chris Bosh to sign a contract extension which will keep him in Miami for another five years. Dwyane Wade also re-signed with the Heat for two more years, which makes sense as Riley is prepping the team to clear most of its cap space in anticipation of the big free agent class of 2016. Unfortunately for Heat fans, the new season has not been a fun one as Miami has struggled mightily to win on a consistent basis, especially compared to how the last four years have gone.
As seems to be the case every year, there was no shortage in drama surrounding the Miami Hurricanes in 2014. The majority surrounded head coach Al Golden, to no surprise of those who follow the Canes closely. Whether it be the rumors of him leaving Miami for Penn State (and his disappearance during the height of the speculation), the confidence he shows in defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio despite the constant struggles of the Canes defense or the ‘Fire Al Golden’ banners that have flown above Sun Life Stadium on multiple occasions, Golden is certainly the focal point of much of the Hurricanes storylines.
Perhaps the biggest positive to come from the Hurricanes disappointing season was the play of true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya. He played like one of the best QB’s in the ACC this season and gives Miami a lot to be excited about moving forward. Another big story in 2014 was the announcement that school president Donna Shalala was retiring after 14 years with the university. Her tenure was full of ups and down, but it was certainly an eventful ride for Shalala.
We at CBS4 also need to mention that one of our own will continue his journey as a mainstay at every Canes games. Jason Mizrachi completed his 9th season as the voice of the University of Miami Band of the Hour and will head into 2015 looking forward to completing a decade with the Canes. Congrats Jason!
The 2014 season was a surprisingly good one for the Miami Marlins. They remained in the playoff hunt for almost the entire season despite losing star pitcher Jose Fernandez early on after he underwent Tommy John Surgery. The run towards the postseason came to an abrupt halt when slugger Giancarlo Stanton took a pitch to the face with a few weeks left in the season.
The news surrounding Stanton would greatly improve during the winter as the Marlins signed him to a 13-year contract extension worth a record $325 million. The team’s brass did a good job of convincing Stanton that they were ready to win now, and their actions in the weeks that followed further proved the point.
Miami brought in a slew of new and exciting players, such as All-Star infielder Dee Gordon, top-tier starting pitcher Mat Latos and power hitter Michael Morse. Indeed, it appears that there could be a lot to be excited about at Marlins Park in 2015.
The Panthers finished their 2013-14 campaign the same way that they have most seasons in recent years; at the bottom of the standings but with a foundation of good young players that should eventually turn the team’s fortunes around. Florida GM Dale Tallon could see the writing on the wall that the good times were not that far away and made a big move at the trade deadline, acquiring former Panthers stud goalie Roberto Luongo.
The Panthers won the 2014 NHL Draft Lottery and selected 18-year-old defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the 1st overall pick. Ekblad has amazed the hockey world by playing well beyond his years during his rookie season, providing sound defense to go along with his impressive offensive prowess. Florida certainly appears to have hit the jackpot with Ekblad. Tallon also made several key signings during the summer, bringing in a mix of veteran leaders that have really brought things together both on and off the ice for the Panthers.
Add to the mix a new head coach in Gerard Gallant who has been exactly what the Panthers mix of youth and veterans needed and it’s easy to see why the team has had so much success so far this season. The future has been bright for Florida for several years, but it finally appears that the future is now.
Tallon made one last move on the final day of 2014, signing center Nick Bjugstad to a 6-year contract extension. Bjugstad led the Panthers in goals and points last season and is leading the team in both categories so far this year as well.
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