A lot of us will either agree or disagree based on whether last season was a fluke or not. For me, last year was a bit of a fluke, considering the amount of injuries we faced.
The Florida Panthers just couldn’t catch a break last season, even if they wanted to. They faced injuries all year-long, including at the start of the season. After the World Cup had concluded, guys like Ekblad and Jokinen came back to Florida all banged up with injuries. This wasn’t the way we wanted to start the season, but unfortunately, the injuries only piled up from there on then.
During pre-season, we also lost another two players to injury, in which would be Huberdeau and Bjugstad. Jonathan’s injury would be by far the worst on the team, as he missed 5 months of the regular season last year. Nick broke his hand. He was out for a good month. By the time the season started, we were without Bjugstad and Huberdeau.
Aaron was given the clear, but most still think he was rushed back too soon. Jussi clearly played through his injury and would later suffer from it, as he would be out for 2 weeks. Are “laundry list” full of injuries got so bad that we had to give 3rd line guys top line minutes. We just couldn’t replace the amount of talent that was missing. It was impossible.
Guys like Seth Griffith and Jonathan Marchessault were called upon to elevate their games in the absence of our top guys. For Griffith, this clearly didn’t work well for him. Marchessault on the other hand would blossom under the coaches directions, as he potted 30 goals. With a lineup so limited, the Cats truly struggled to find the back of the net.
What really killed us was when Aleksander Barkov went down in a game against the Maple Leafs. The injury was undisclosed and would later be revealed that it was an “upper body injury”. This was the last thing we needed. Another top player being sidelined by injury. Barkov would miss 2 months, meaning that two-thirds of are top line was out with injury.
The turning point of the season that wasn’t a fluke was the firing of Gerald Gallant. For a team that was so decimated with injuries, we held our own pretty well. The Cats were only 4 points out of the last wild card spot for the majority of the first half. After we panicked and let Gallant go, was when we noticed a drop off in the standings. For the majority of the year with Tom Rowe behind the bench, we weren’t in a playoff spot. We caught fire that one week where Huby and Barkov returned to the lineup. In result, we finally saw ourselves in a playoff spot for the first time that year.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last long as the Panthers lost the next 8 out of 9 games, just totally falling apart. All us fans had belief that we could make the playoffs. Hockey Gods, had different plans for us sadly. Regardless of what happened in 2016-17, the Cats simply need to move along in the right direction. It starts with hiring a coach, who will be the right fit. Putting Dale back in charge was the right thing to do. Let him steer the ship, as he’s the one who built this team from the ground up.
More from The Rat Trick
- Florida Panthers: The Door is Open for Grigori Denisenko This Season
- 2023-24 Florida Panthers Divisional Opponent Preview: Ottawa Senators
- 2023-24 Florida Panthers Divisional Opponent Preview: Detroit Red Wings
- 2023-24 Florida Panthers Divisional Opponent Preview: Montreal Canadiens
- Florida Panthers Rewarded With 12-Game National Broadcast Schedule For 2023-24 Season
The Draft and Free Agency will also be important. In regards to the draft, the Panthers need to select the best available player with the 10th pick. No questions asked. With Free Agency, the Cats need to be smart with their money. This means to not spend their cap on players who will demand a lot of term and/or salary. Remember, the UFA market is always over priced, so making sure we get in and grab what “we need” is crucial.
The Florida Panthers can definitely turn things around, but a lot of work will need to be done. In regards to last season, it must truly be forgotten. There were parts of the season in which were flukes (injuries), and there were also parts that were not a fluke (Firing of Gallant). Dwelling on the past will be no good for the Cats, as they simply need to move forward for the future.