This is going to be a very long NHL season for fans of the Florida Panthers (all twelve of us). The Panthers have only won two of their first eight games and do not have any losses in overtime or shootout so they don’t even get “loser” points.
What is going wrong with the Panthers? Let’s review:
- Neither Jacob Markstrom or Tim Thomas have been very good in goal so far and both have save percentages well under .900. This is a team game but when you need to steal wins to make the playoffs you need excellent goaltending.
- The Panthers have scored 10 goals in their two wins and only eight goals in their six losses.
- The seven defencemen who have seen ice time this year have combined to score one goal in eight games.
- The Panthers are tied for worst in the NHL in goal differential.
This is the tip of the iceberg of the Panthers on-ice problems this year. What really makes me angry about how crappy this year is going to be is that outside of four or five players, we have an idea of what each player’s best expected outcome is and even if most of them meet this best case scenario the Panthers are not a playoff team. I never understood people being excited about players that couldn’t get a contract somewhere else being signed during training camp. Good teams do not pick up defencemen after the last preseason game and expect them to contribute immediately.
This roster is a failure of the organization as a whole. The old ownership group failed by handcuffing the front office with a budget equal to the salary cap floor. A playoff team does not look back on its summer and identify signings similar to the Scott Gomez and Brad Boyes signings as events that pushed that team into the playoffs. These signings were simply made to stay at the cap floor and to give the kids like Petrovic, Robak, Trochek, Shore and Howden more time in San Antonio.
Both the current and past scouting departments have failed the Panthers because, out of every player that has ice time this season so far, only six players (Huberdeau, Barkov, Bjugstad, Gudbranson, Kulikov and Markstrom) were drafted and developed by the Panthers in the recent past. I excluded Jovonovski because he was drafted 19 years ago. The Detroit Red Wings have 11 players that they drafted on their active roster. There is only one Panther draft pick from outside the first round and that is Markstrom who was an early second round pick. You contrast that with Detroit having virtually none of their 11 homegrown players as first round picks and you see what the Panthers scouting department should strive to become. This is inexcusable because the Panthers in the last 10 years have drafted in the top 10 five (FIVE!) times. This doesn’t just mean that the Panthers get to pick one of the 10 best prospects in those draft classes but they also get one of the first cracks at the best players in rounds two through seven. Hopefully players like Alex Petrovic, Vincent Trocheck and Drew Shore reverse this trend.
Finally this is on the coaching staff and the players as this team does not have an identity and an uneven work ethic. It’s Kevin Dineen’s job to avoid a slow start and there have been too many lapses that have led to blowout losses so far this year. The players need to look in a mirror too and realize that if this continues they are likely out of a job since a glorified San Antonio squad could still finish last or second last in the East. This team needs to decide who they are and how they are going to play. If you play St. Louis you know what you are in for and it’s going to be a battle. The Panthers need to decide on a system and then start acquiring or developing players for this system.
I’m just ranting now. This stinks. The Panthers have to win 44 of their last 74 games to reach 92 points which is usually the cut-off for a playoff team. This isn’t happening. For this team to win everyone has to play their “A+” game and it is impossible to play at that level over a full season. I will try to see the positive side of this season (Barkov and Huberdeau have been great so far) but for now I’m angry about the fact that the only real reason to cheer for guys like Gomez and Boyes is so they increase their trade value by the deadline.
Thanks for reading.