NHL Season Recap – Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers

2016-17 season: 35-36-11, 81 points

Did not qualify for playoffs

Head Coach:

Gerard Gallant (Fired), Tim Rowe (Fired)

6th Place Atlantic Division General Manager: Dale Tallon (2010)
13th Place Eastern Conference AHL Affiliate: Springfield Thunderbirds

ECHL Affiliate: None

Draft Position: Will have the ninth  greatest odds in the NHL Draft Lottery

Top Forwards

POS Age Name GP Points Goals Assists +/- CF%
C 23 Vincent Trocheck 82 54 23 31 -13 54.1
C 21 Aleksander Barkov 61 52 21 31 13 55.6
C 25 Jonathan Marchessault 75 51 30 21 -21 51.9
RW 44 Jaromir Jagr 82 46 16 30 2 55.4
RW 25 Reilly Smith 80 37 15 22 -13 51.9
LW 33 Juusi Jokinen 69 28 11 17 -15 53.4
LW 23 Jonathan Huberdeau 31 26 10 16 -2 55.2
C 27 Colton Sceviour 80 24 9 15 -16 49.1
C 35 Derek MacKenzie 82 16 6 10 -7 43.2
C 24 Nick Bjugstad 54 14 7 7 -19 46.2

Top Defensemen

POS Age Name GP Points Goals Assists +/- CF%
D 30 Keith Yandle 82 41 5 36 -6 50.7
D 28 Jason Demers 81 28 9 19 -14 48.8
D 20 Aaron Ekblad 68 21 10 11 -23 52.1
D 22 Michael Matheson 81 17 7 10 -5 49.7
D 25 Mark Pysyk 82 17 4 13 0 50.9

Top Goaltenders

POS Age Name Games Started W/L Record Shutouts GAA Save %
G 28 James Reimer 39 18-16-5 3 2.53 .920
G 37 Roberto Luongo 39 17-15-6 1 2.68 .915
G 30 Reto Berra 4 0-5-0 0 3.45 .876

Trades Made During the Season

What They Acquired Team They Traded With In Exchange For
D Reece Scarlett New Jersey Devils RW Shane Harper
G Adam Wilcox Tampa Bay Lightning G Mike McKenna
LW Thomas Vanek Detroit Red Wings D Dylan McIlrath

2017 3rd RD Pick

F Michael Sgarbossa Anaheim Ducks F Logan Shaw
F Brody Sutter Carolina Hurricanes F Connor Brickley
F Jim Bozon Montreal Canadiens D Jonathan Racine

Impending Free Agents

POS Age Name 2016-17 Cap Hit
RW 45 Jaromir Jagr $4,000,000
LW 33 Thomas Vanek $1,500,000
D 30 Jakub Kindl $2,040,000
G 30 Reto Berra $1,450,000
G 24 Sam Brittain $750,000
C 25 Connor Brickley $650,000
RW 39 Shawn Thornton $600,000
D 27 Brent Regner $600,000
C 28 Paul Thompson $575,000

Draft Needs

  • The Panthers have just five picks in this year’s draft and will need to use them wisely in order to strengthen the future of the franchise.  I see them as needing a defenseman or two this year and should spend their first round pick on one.  There are quite a few high-end defense prospects that could be available when Florida drafts and there are also several center prospects.  I see their greater need being on the blueline, however, as they will have an opening there with three of their current defensemen needing new contracts this offseason.

What I Said About Them Before the Season

  • I thought that the Panthers were going to build off their good 2015-16 season and compete for the division title once again.  I speculated on the success of the team making a lot of roster moves by shaking up the majority of their defense.  I also addressed how the front office went on a spending spree by extending four of their younger players to long-term deals.

Success/Failure

  • Failure – The Panthers season got off to a very rough start from the beginning as newly-named GM Tom Rowe fired head coach Gerard Gallant while the team was playing in Carolina and had gotten off to a 11-10-1 record.  Gallant was replaced by Rowe, who has had coaching experience in his career.  His tenure as the team’s head coach didn’t go much better as the team went just 24-26-10 over the rest of the season.  A big reason for the team’s struggle, beyond their inability to make smart coaching decisions, was injuries as Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Aaron Ekblad, and Roberto Luongo all missed significant time this season.  Huberdeau and Barkov are the team’s most talented forwards and Ekblad is their franchise defenseman.  In addition to the team’s injuries, they also just weren’t a good team this season, especially after Gallant was let go.  I think a big reason for their struggles this season was the massive turnover that took place on their blueline.  Losing Dmitri Kulikov and Brian Campbell and replacing them with Mark Pysyk, Keith Yandle, and Jason Demers is a big difference and there has to be an adjustment period for said changes to succeed.  Another reason for the team’s struggles was that neither Roberto Luongo nor James Reimer were very good this season, with Luongo regressing quite a bit compared to last season.  A team without a strong defense needs to have a consistent goaltending in order to succeed.

Offseason Needs

  • Tom Rowe was relieved of his coaching duties after the regular season ended and moved back to the front office as the assistant to GM Dale Tallon.  The team’s first move this offseason will have to be finding a new head coach and I think that perhaps Darryl Sutter would be a very good fit for the Panthers.  He has done an amazing job of implementing a system that values puck possession and Florida could use that with their roster group.  I also think that it is finally time to move on from veteran Jaromir Jagr.  Jagr has been pretty good during his tenure with the Panthers and has been able to contribute offensively.  The problem now is that he isn’t fast enough to skate on a line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, most likely holding those players back.  Letting him go along with his $4 million cap hit will allow the Panthers to replace him with another winger with speed who could be a complementary piece on that top line.  Florida also needs to figure out whether their current defensive set up is what they want to stick with going forward.  Jakub Kindl, Mark Pysyk, and Alex Petrovic are all free agents of some form this offseason and will allow the Panthers to perform a large shake-up at the blueline if they desire to do so.  I think at somepoint, however, there needs to be some type of consistency and the allowance for a group to gel together.  Out of this group, the only one I would consider letting go is Kindl, who is the only unrestricted free agent of the three.  Finally, for next season, the Panthers simply need to get healthy.  Aaron Ekblad was shut down at the end of the year, finally, after coming back early from a concussion he suffered in mid-March and dealing with symptoms for the remainder of the regular season.  That concussion was at least Ekblad’s third concussion in the past three years, with the potential of having suffered a fourth in the same time period.  He is now on the same path as Sidney Crosby and Eric Lindros, whose career was significantly cut short as a result of his injuries.  It took Crosby being shutdown for around 14 months before he came back fully healthy, ultimately leaving hockey until he felt no symptoms of his concussions.  That’s what Ekblad needs and hopefully he will get that this offseason with a full summer to recover.  A healthy Ekblad is vital to any success the Panthers have in the future, as they have paid him to be their number one defenseman for a long time.  In addition to Ekblad, the Panthers should enter the 2017-18 season with a healthy Barkov, Huberdeau, Bjugstad, and Luongo, all players who are important to the roster.  Having two-thirds of their top line healthy will go a long way to helping the Panthers get back to the playoffs next season.

*All stats and information came from hockey-reference.com, rosterresource.com, spotrac.com, NHL.com, hockeydb.com, capfriendly.com, tsn.ca, and eliteprospects.com*

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