Quite a bit of misfortune caused the Florida Panthers to struggle out of the gate in 2016. You can’t pinpoint one exact thing that caused the struggle, it was more so a combination of things.
Many changes were made in the offseason and contrary to popular beliefs, they were for the better. No, Keith Yandle’s contract wasn’t exactly for the better, but a revamped defensive core with stronger playmakers and offensive ability was for the better.
Gerard Gallant, who liked to play “protect” when having the lead, definitely had a hard time with the changes. After being used to rolling out some physical defenseman and gritty bottom forwards with the Panthers things had changed.
However he still insisted to coach his game and systems, just not finding a lot of success. Quite a few players confidence took a big hit when Gallant was fired and though these guys are professionals, it created an obvious rift.
Injuries also loomed large in part of the Panthers struggles as they didn’t seem to let up. With Nick Bjugstad sustaining a broken hand and Jonathan Huberdeau tearing an Achilles tendon all before opening night, you would hope it stopped there.
It wouldn’t even be close, Vets like Roberto Luongo and Jussi Jokinen would both see regression this past season largely in part to injury. In mid November Alex Petrovic would be sidelined with a broken ankle causing him to miss 33 games.
2016-17 was supposed to be a big season of progression for the Panthers, it just turned out to be the opposite. That being said, it should be a new coach who will be able to come in and fix the on ice and deployment situations they had trouble with.
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The mind state of the players arriving at camp in the preseason will be instrumental, a new coach must be able to get the group to buy in. Guys like Ekblad and Bjugstad could benefit off of a clean slate due to their struggles this past season.
There’s far too much talent on this roster for the Cats to not progress on last season. After building up some chemistry throughout 2016-17 we should see a much more familiar bunch as well.
This will make it that much easier for them to get back to work and hopefully get some slumping guys back to full force.