Last Season – The Panthers made the playoffs for the first time since 2000, winning the Southeast Division with a record of 36-28-18. They took the eventual Stanley Cup finalist Devils to 7 games in the first round.
Saying Goodbye – Jason Garrison, Wojtek Wolski, Marco Sturm, John Madden
Saying Hello – Peter Mueller, Filip Kuba, George Parros, JF Jacques
Ready to Step In – Jonathan Huberdeau has the skill to be in the NHL, but the Panthers might not want to rush him into a shortened season.
Look For A Bounce-back Season From – Sean Bergenheim needs to assert himself in a lineup that keeps bringing in offensive replacements. If he can’t re-establish himself, he could be on the outside looking in.
Hardware Hopefuls – Huberdeau, Calder; Brian Campbell, Norris, Lady Byng
Upside – GM Dale Tallon opened the vault last season and it paid dividends in most cases. If the Panthers can continue the veteran rescue with a good season from talented but injury-prone Peter Mueller, the Panthers will again challenge for a division title.
Downside – Without a true #1 goalie, there will always be questions in the net. Is this the year Jacob Markstrom emerges to grab the job for good? Despite Roberto Luongo’s desire to return to Florida, the Panthers would be foolish to bring him back with Markstrom lurking.
2013 Prognosis – With Carolina improved and Washington primed to get out of their funk from last season, the Panthers will be in tough to repeat as division champs. And with the playoff format such as it is, winning the division might be their only shot at the post-season. Either way, it won’t be 10+ years between playoff appearances this time around in Miami.