Big Season Ahead for The Panthers?
By Patrick Hoffman
For the past few seasons, the Florida Panthers have been a decent team, but have not been good enough to make the playoffs.
That is expected to change this season. A lot of good things have happened in the off-season for this hockey club and you couple that with the roster that they already have, this team should be a playoff hockey club come April.
For starters, the team went out and hired three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville to lead the club behind the bench. Quenneville is exactly the kind of coach that this franchise needs.
He has a winning pedigree, won three Cups as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, will eventually end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and simply put, he can flat out coach. Just look at what he did while he was in Chicago.
Quenneville missed the postseason just once in ten seasons in Chicago while winning three Cups and going to the Western Conference Finals five times. That's an unbelievable track record if you ask me.
Quenneville is also the second winningest bench boss of all-time with 890 career victories. Only Scotty Bowman stands in front of him with 1,248 victories.
Secondly, the team went out and got themselves a two-time Vezina Trophy winner as the league's best goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky. Yes, the Panthers had Roberto Luongo for many years, but this team needed a fresh face between the pipes and Bobrovsky might be the perfect masked man to lead this hockey club.
Bobrovsky, 30, has a career record of 255-153-37 with a 2.46 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and 33 shutouts. He was a major reason why the Columbus Blue Jackets became a playoff hockey team and has had solid win totals in his last three seasons at 41, 37, and 37, respectively.
Bobrovsky can make the big save when his team needs the one the most and he can keep his team in games that they have no business being in. He is known to steal a bunch of games each year and one should expect the same with his new club.
More importantly, he has some playoff experience. While he definitely played much better in last year's playoffs than in year's past, he still needs to be a lot better if he wants to help his team have success at the most important time of the year.
Lastly, this team has a high-octane offense that can put the puck in the net and create scoring chances on a nightly basis. Last season, the Panthers were ninth in the league in goals scored and with the way their offensive lineup looks now, one would expect the team to be great again this season in terms of putting the puck in the net.
Offensively, the Panthers have guys like Aleksander Barkov (35 goals and 61 assists for 96 points), Jonathan Huberdeau (30 goals and 62 assists for 92 points), Mike Hoffman (36 goals and 34 assists for 70 points), and Evgenii Dadonov (28 goals and 42 assists for 70 points), who can all score goals. Quenneville will probably get these guys better at playing well on both ends of the ice, but at the time, he will let them be creative with the puck and allow them to do what they do best.
If you're a Panthers' fan, you should be very excited for the upcoming season. Given their new head coach, a new starting goaltender, and an extremely talented offense, there could be a lot of good things in store for this hockey club.
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.