September 2, 2013 by Cups n Pucks
The Florida Panthers have struggled over the last decade and it seems their struggles will continue into the 2013-2014 season. It is difficult to believe that the Panthers made the playoffs a couple of years ago. With numerous young prospects, the Panthers have something to be excited about. Unfortunately, they have too many holes in their line-up to make a run for the playoffs in the 2013-2014 season. Number 29 on our NHL Season Countdown are the Florida Panthers.
Dale Tallon was hired as the General Manager of the Florida Panthers during the 2009-2010 season and he quickly put his stamp on the team. Since then, he has been relatively quiet. After losing the draft lottery to the Colorado Avalanche, the Panthers surprised many by selecting Aleksander Barkov over Seth Jones and Jonathan Drouin with their 2nd overall pick. Next Tallon chose to sign veteran depth by acquiring Bobby Butler, Joey Crabb, Scott Gomez and Matt Gilroy. He also let Stephan Weiss leave via unrestricted free agency. It appears Tallon is going to give his young, talented prospects a shot at the roster this season.
Last season, Jonathan Huberdeau seemed to have what it took to be the face of the Florida Panthers. With an NHL debut of 14 goals and 31 points in 48 games, Huberdeau was able to edge out Brandon Saad and Brendon Gallagher for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year. Nick Bjugstad, Drew Shore and Quinton Howden also made their NHL debuts last season. Expect them to be a part of the forward core for the 2013-2014 season. Players like Vincent Trocheck (3rd round, 64th overall in 2011) and Aleksander Barkov to make runs for roster spots next season.
To go along with their youth, the Panthers still have several veterans on offense. Kris Versteeg, who had a knee injury last season, will be slotted on the first line and should be able to pot upwards of 20 goals and 45 points with top line minutes. Tomas Fleischmann, Marcel Goc, Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias will also be back and able to contribute to the offense.
Florida has a good amount of skill up front with their youth, but maturity is the biggest question mark up front. Are these players ready to make the jump? Only time will tell.
The defense of the Panthers isn’t anything to write home about. Brian Campbell is their number one defenseman and their power play quarter back. Campbell is a solid defenseman, but may not be suited as a number one. He can be a defensive liability within his own zone and needs to pair with a defensive defenseman. This is what allows him to play his offensive game comfortably.
Luckily Campbell is paired with a young defensive defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Gudbranson hasn’t lived up to his 3rd overall selection in the 2010 draft, but he is still young and developing. He is the core of what is going to be a very young defense. Dmitry Kulikov and Colby Robak (2nd round 46th overall in 2008) are both young defensemen who will, more than likely, be in the Panthers top six. Ed Jovanocski, Alex Petrovic (2nd round, 36th overall in 2010), Mike Weaver and Matt Gilroy are also in the fold for the Panthers.
Lacking a top defensemen, the Panthers D might struggle badly and put a lot of pressure on the Panthers young, budding goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
With the Panthers allowing Jose Theodore to walk via unrestricted free agency, Jacob Markstrom will take the reigns as the goalie for the Panthers. Markstrom has shown he can play at the NHL level, but how well he will play is unknown. Does he have what it takes to play 50-60 games? He might need to with veteran goalie Scott Clemmensen as the back-up. With a young team skating in front of him, Markstrom might be peppered this season.
Panthers have an extremely deep prospect pool and will have a very young team this season. The talent is there, but the maturity will come over time. This isn’t going to be a memorable season for Panthers fans, but the future is bright. They could be making the playoffs regularly down the road if these kids (as well as others that aren’t mentioned in this post) pan out. Tough it out Panthers fan, I promise things will get better very soon. Take it from a Blackhawks fan from the late 90s and early 2000s, we know.