After taking a step back in 2016-17, Dale Tallon once again took the reigns as Florida Panthers GM. Tallon has tried to steer the ship, but many fans are still questioning what he may be doing. However, I believe this team could surprise many people.
The Florida Panthers had a terrible 2016-17 season. I’m not going to explain what happened again because I will probably break down in tears. The team struggled to score and their defense was almost non-existent. A return of a healthy Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov couldn’t save the sinking ship.
Although, the 2017-18 team has made many changes. Gone are Reilly Smith, Jon Marchessault, Jaromir Jagr and Jussi Jokinen. In are Evengy Dadonov, Radim Vrbata and Michael Haley. Dadonov returns to his American home where he played his NHL days here in Sunrise and Vrbata looks to retire with a Margherita in his hand on the beach instead of an Arizona Ice tea while sitting in the hot desert. Meanwhile, Haley hopes to fill in the role that Shawn Thornton had with the team.
Another thing about the 2017-18 team, the young players will emerge. This is now officially Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck’s team. There is no more hiding behind the veteran shields of Jussi Jokinen, Jaromir Jagr and Willie Mitchell. These guys should step up their game and lead the way back to the postseason.
At the beginning of every season, every team has a 50/50 shot at making the playoffs. You either make or not. The odds aren’t controlled by Las Vegas, this is simple math. The Panthers will either make it or they won’t. There is no in between.
While this team has a possibility of becoming a playoff team, this team is far from a cup contender. The team doesn’t have an elite star to lead them to the cup. While Huberdeau, Barkov, Ekblad and Trocheck are good, they aren’t on the level as guys like Crosby or even McDavid.
The Panthers don’t have a cup winning goalie. Roberto Luongo is well past his prime and James Reimer isn’t the type of goalie who will singlehandedly lead a team to a cup. Pittsburgh had two phenomenal goalies on their cup winning teams: Matt Murray and Marc Andre Fleury. Luongo and Reimer are no Murray/Fleury.
I think that the Panthers are definitely an odd team this upcoming year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them picking 1st overall or making the playoffs. I’d say a reasonable expectation for this team would be 80 points.
Projected Lineup for Opening Night
I also know I haven’t really been active with my predicted lines series of late, so as a treat I am going to post the lines below:
(G): Roberto Luongo
Jaromir Jagr being courted by Florida based ECHL team
While former Panther Jaromir Jagr waits for his phone to ring, a team across Alligator Alley (not the Lightning) called the Florida Everblades have offered Jagr a special deal. The ECHL squad has offered Jagr the opportunity to play for the club only on the weekends at home games and his own personal driver to drive him from his east coast home to Estero, where the Everblades play. If Jagr is unable to find work, don’t rule out number 68 skating around in an Everblades jersey.