Welcome back our month-long series of team by team season recaps. Yesterday we took a look at the dismal season of the Buffalo Sabres, and now we move up a notch to the…
The Florida Panthers finished 29th in the league with a record of 29-45-8, for 66 points. They finished 7th in the Atlantic Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference, missing the playoffs by 27 points.
It was going to be a young team that took to the ice for the Panthers, and not much was expected in terms of competing for a playoff spot.
- The emergence of 2013 first round pick Aleksander Barkov, before he was injured at the Olympics, is a great sign for the rebuild.
- They won the draft lottery which will give them first choice among the big 3 of Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett. Or, they could trade down a spot or two and bring in another asset or two.
- Brought a true #1 goalie back in a trade deadline deal, bringing Roberto Luongo back to the Panthers and trading underachieving perennial prospect Jacob Markstrom away
- The Florida Panthers fired two coaches since the start of the season, firing Kevin Dineen in December and also interim coach Peter Horacek after the season.
- Jonathan Huberdeau appeared mired in a sophomore slump, that the Senators need him to break out of next season if the Florida Panthers are going to improve.
PROGNOSIS FOR NEXT SEASON
The Florida Panthers are not in the Southeast Division any more, and the level of improvement needed to reach a playoff spot will not happen overnight. They have a goalie to build on who can cover up for young players’ inevitable mistakes, but it will still take time.
5 QUESTIONS WITH THE RAT TRICK
We asked the editor of therattrick.com, Anthony Murphy a few questions about the Panthers season. Here are his responses:
1) What was the biggest surprise for your team?
Making the move for Roberto Luongo. For a team that is ‘rebuilding’ to go out and get a name like Luongo was huge. Not only did they really get him for nothing, but it sends a statement going forward that they are for real about contending, and doing so soon.
It has to be a tie between the play of the veterans and Aleksander Barkov’s injury. He showed he could be a star in the league, even if the stats weren’t quite there.
As for the veterans, when your highest paid forward only manages eight goals you know your in for a long season. Sean Bergenheim performed just about to par, but captain Ed Jovanovski as a bottom paired defenseman.
The team has glaring holes just about everywhere but center and goalie, and I’m still not too thrilled on Dan Ellis as a backup.
Some goal scorers to put on Barkov’s and Nick Bjugstad‘s wing should be the top priority followed by some blue line help. I wouldn’t object to adding a gritty third line center as well (Dave Bolland at a very reduced price).
It was well on the way to being Barkov until his injury so I’m going to say Bjugstad would be the MVP.
It’s rare to see someone that size use it at such a young age but Bjugstad did just that.
The Panthers were down right awful at times but they have the right pieces in the right places, along with money to spend and the first overall pick in this upcoming draft.
It wouldn’t surprise me if they could start contending within the next year or two.