Florida Panthers 2017-18 Season Preview

The Florida Panthers' Jared McCann (90) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period of a preseason game at the BB
The Florida Panthers' Jared McCann (90) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period of a preseason game at the BB /

Following an unexpected tumultuous 2016-17 campaign, the re-energized Florida Panthers are heading into the 2017-18 season with higher hopes, yet lower expectations.

The Cats will undeniably suffer from the departures of productive, dependable, polished veterans such as Jaromir Jagr, Thomas Vanek, Jussi Jokinen, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault. However, returning GM Dale Tallon acquired offensively talented forwards Evgeni Dadonov and Radim Vrbata via the free agency period (cost-efficient deals for two criminally underrated scorers).

Those two particular flashy, electrifying forwards are projected to play in the top 6, 1st and 2nd line respectively and essentially become instantaneous contributing factors. Micheal Haley, signed during free agency, will certainly provide FLA with necessary grittiness and protection for Florida’s phenomenal studs whenever suiting up throughout the course of the season.

Jamie McGinn, acquired via trade, will most likely be placed onto the 3rd line (hopefully) alongside the striving, highly scrutinized Nick Bjugstad, who’s currently aiming for a bounce back season. McGinn, coming off an extremely disappointing year for the offensively challenged Arizona Coyotes, will surely resurrect his declining career in the positive direction by remaining completely healthy (previously battled plaguing injuries), while paired with highly talented youngsters.

Recent first round selection Owen Tippett should produce if presented with the opportunity to play alongside incredibly gifted and smooth-skating forwards earlier in the season. Tippett’s impact will, in all likelihood, be minimum due to his inexperience of playing stronger competition, as evidenced by his consistently, yet understandably poor performances during the Panthers successful preseason contests.

Jared McCann will hopefully continue his preseason scoring dominance entering the regular season, following publicly admitting his discomfort regarding adjusting and adapting to pro-style hockey in Florida during his nightmarish 2016-17 campaign. However, McCann has appeared to gain a considerable amount of confidence as he’s gradually continued his maturation process in his young, yet unproven career.

The Canadian native’s versatility is considered a tremendous benefit, which will likely enable McCann to remain on the team for an extensive period of time. Look for Jared McCann to experience a breakout season in 2017-18, ultimately searching to become a fully established forward in the league.

Although, if the resurgent Cats are seeking to clinch a playoff berth, dynamic forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov must remain completely healthy throughout the course of this upcoming season. They collectively are fully capable of becoming the primary catalysts for Florida due to their exceptional leadership on the ice, remarkable talent, supreme ability to accumulate points and dominant two-way style of play.

More from Editorials

Barkov and Huberdeau can arguably form the most lethal first line in the NHL, alongside highly touted Evgeni Dadonov, simply by avoiding injuries from potentially occurring.

The formidable goaltending combination of veterans Roberto Luongo and James Reimer will be highly leaned/relied upon; as both are desperately hoping to sustain success and to further improve their level of play in order to reach the promise land.

The heavily stockpiled defensive core consisting of familiar faces such as Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle and Michael Matheson will ultimately determine whether or not Florida reaches the postseason. The Panthers’ main concern in the previous season was the utter struggles and in cohesiveness of their defensive core. If defensive-minded bench boss Bob Boughner is able to correctly implement his efficient system, he should receive greater results (both offensively and defensively) from his defensemen.

Overall, an improvement in the Cats’ regular season record is highly anticipated due to their solid offseason acquisitions, fresh state of mind and newly, yet extremely elated head coach Bob Boughner behind the bench.

The Panthers will likely remain competitive until the conclusion of the regular season, However, reaching the playoffs for a first year head coach with zero prior head coaching experience in the NHL will certainly be an uphill challenge. An abundance of critics contain their doubts and skepticism regarding Florida’s chances of making the postseason, but games are essentially won on the ice and not on paper.

Next: Florida Panthers: Owen Tippett deserved to make the team

The Florida Panthers can definitely accomplish the challenging, difficult, grueling task of clinching a playoff spot in a weakened Atlantic Division “IF” their core players remain healthy and consistent.