The final decade hasn’t been precisely variety to the Florida Panthers. Scratch that, upon coming into the NHL again in 1993-94 the hockey gods haven’t been variety to the Florida Panthers.
Since inception, the franchise has performed in simply 5 postseasons. They’ve certified for the playoffs twice over the past 18 years, falling each instances within the first spherical regardless of ending on the high of their division. And the final time they made the playoffs was in 2016.
Nevertheless, issues could also be wanting up for the franchise. With a revamped roster, expectations are excessive that this 12 months could finish fairly in a different way.
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Offensively, the Panthers weren’t downright horrible final season with a median of three.23 objectives per sport, good for ninth within the NHL. Selke Trophy finalist Aleksander Barkov was among the many league’s leaders in factors with 35 objectives and 95 factors and Jonathan Huberdeau chipped in a 90-plus level marketing campaign (30 objectives, 62 assists). Mike Hoffman, acquired from Ottawa earlier than the beginning of the season, was the main scorer with 36 objectives whereas Evgenii Dadonov and Frank Vatrano every had 20-plus objective seasons. Florida additionally noticed assistance on the blueline, with Keith Yandle contributing 53 assists and Aaron Ekblad incomes 37 factors.
Their particular groups had been additionally in nice form. The ability play ranked second-best amongst all 31 groups with a 26.5% success charge – behind solely the Tampa Bay Lightning – and 10th on the penalty kill at 81.3%.
The basis of Florida’s issues, nonetheless, could possibly be discovered with weak goaltending and a poor defensive sport. Though Ekblad, et al. weren’t horrible, the top-Four did wrestle. Yandle was a minus-17 and could not discover his sport in his personal finish, giving freely the puck 110 instances over the course of the 12 months. High-pairing left-handed defenseman Mike Matheson had a team-worst minus-24 score. And in the end, the protection surrendered a median of three.33 objectives per sport, fourth-worst within the NHL.
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Between the pipes, 4 totally different goaltenders noticed time in 2018-19. Future Corridor of Famer Roberto Luongo battled an damage and posted the worst numbers of his profession by means of 43 begins, going 18-16-5 with a 3.12 goals-against common and .899 save proportion. James Reimer began 36 video games for Florida however was unable to be productive with simply 13 wins, a 3.09 GAA and .900 save proportion. Rookie netminder Sam Montembeault and veteran backup Michael Hutchinson noticed some ice time but additionally posted lackluster numbers.
“I want to thank Vinnie and the Viola family for this opportunity. Dale, thank you for this opportunity… We’re so excited to be in South Florida.” -Head Coach Joel Quenneville pic.twitter.com/JBaYfuF1Rj
– Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) April 8, 2019
Florida’s issues had been mounted this offseason – all starting behind the bench. Inside 48 hours of the common season-ending, Bob Boughner was out and Joel Quenneville was in. The previous Chicago Blackhawks head coach brings a resume plagued by Stanley Cups, three to be precise, and years of expertise.
However by far the largest win of the summer time was signing unrestricted free agent Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million deal. After Luongo retired June 26, Florida not solely added a Vezina-worthy starter but additionally dumped Reimer’s contract – immediately bettering the state of affairs in objective. Bobrovsky, 30, went 37-24-1 with a 2.58 GAA and .913 save proportion final season and was one of many largest causes the Blue Jackets turned a constant playoff contender.
With him and Montembeault, the Panthers could have lastly discovered stability in web. The transfer ought to enhance the group’s protection and make the Panthers a extra marketable franchise.
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On the blueline, Florida improved its depth on the appropriate facet by signing Anton Stralman from Tampa Bay. The 32-year-old was restricted to only 47 video games and 17 factors this previous season resulting from damage; nonetheless, he has confirmed to be a stable stay-at-home defenseman who can block pictures, transfer the play up ice, pressure turnovers and, most significantly, compete for the puck. Though he isn’t bodily, Stralman’s a powerful skater who can play a shutdown sport and, coupled along with his expertise, management and flashes of an offensive sport, ought to assist the Panthers discover consistency on protection.
With reference to secondary scoring, one thing they wanted so as to add to after not re-signing Troy Brouwer or Riley Sheahan, they inked bottom-6 winger Brett Connolly to a four-year deal and 2019 Stanley Cup finalist Noel Acciari. Connolly, who’s coming off a career-year in Washington (22 objectives, 46 factors) is a dependable asset on particular groups and may discover chemistry with nearly anybody. Acciari, whereas his numbers weren’t flashy final season, is a flexible participant who can play heart or wing and may slot in properly on the fourth line.
The Panthers wanted to make some modifications they usually did simply that. Time will inform how they pan out however with a brand new look, they’re absolutely anticipated to be within the thick of it with the Lightning, Bruins and Maple Leafs for the Atlantic Division crown.