A topic that’s heavily discussed amongst passionate Florida Panther fans is the deal which sent Erik Gudbranson to the Vancouver Canucks last off-season.
Following an extremely successful 2015-16 campaign which saw the Panthers accomplish unprecedented attainments, the Cats ultimately decided to break up their defensive core. Willie Mitchell surprisingly announced his retirement, Dmitry Kulikov was shipped out during the draft, Brian Campbell unexpectedly took less money elsewhere and Erik Gudbrandson was shockingly dealt earlier in the off-season.
A sudden change of philosophy caused the Florida front office to shift from physically, tough-minded defensive defensemen to offensively gifted, puck-moving defensemen.
This drastic change of course puzzled the minds of many Florida Panthers fans. Most importantly, many anticipated that bruising, long-tenured d-man Erik Gudbranson would eventually be named captain of the team.
Erik was influential in the Panthers’ incredible run in 2015-16, leading by example on the defensive end with an outstanding 150 hits and 73 blocked shots, in only 64 regular season games. His presence was largely felt on the ice, as he provided instant stability to the back end and contributed by dropping the gloves when necessary.
Guddy, as nicknamed by Cats’ fans, was a fan favorite due to his imposing style of play and his leadership on/off the ice. The Panthers ultimately chose to name Derek MacKenzie as the team’s next captain (didn’t exactly pan out).
The Cats went on to experience a tumultuous 2016-17, as the Panthers lacked a true identity and had great trouble discovering any sort of chemistry together. Perhaps an actual leader such as Erik Gudbranson would’ve stabilized the locker room during that difficult year, as well as helped the team conceive less goals on the ice.
Jared McCann, Centerman acquired from the Canucks in the Gudbranson trade, barely contributed positively as he struggled mightily to discover his offensive groove. Jared produced an underwhelming 7 points during the 2016-17 season, and was consequently demoted to the minors to further polish and improve his overall game. In summation, McCann proved to be a non-factor in an abysmal year for Florida.
The Panthers essentially attempted to fix what wasn’t broken, which unfortunately proved costly as the team lost a future captain and experienced a disappointing season, in result.