2017 is thankfully about to end, and the world gets a clean slate for 2018. For the Florida Panthers, its best to put 2017 in the garbage can where it belongs, and get ready for a year in which there is plenty worth getting excited about.
But that doesn’t mean the Cats shouldn’t set some new year’s resolutions, as we all should. It’s a noble cause. Here are a few we think the Panthers should consider:
1). Get Vincent Trocheck some wingers: Trocheck has played with at least seven or eight different combinations of wingers this year, and though now it seems the team has finally settled on Trocheck with Malgin and Dadonov, the likelihood is that won’t last forever.
Whether Dadonov or Bjugstad end up with Trocheck for the long term remains to be seen, but getting him some consistent wingers he can build chemistry with should be a primary goal of the offseason, whether it comes from in-house or somewhere else.
2). Find a way to lessen Trocheck and Barkov’s ice time: Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck are the two best players on the Panthers right now, but with these two occupying two of the top three slots for average ice time for forwards, it’s time to find a way to get other forwards to share the load not just 5v5, but on special teams too.
Trocheck and Barkov are on the top power play and penalty kill units, and they deserve to be. But when this team eventually matures enough to make the playoffs, there will be serious worries about burnout factor come April. Whether it be giving Jared McCann a little more responsibility, or finding other solutions for the power play, it’s time to ensure these two play a little less for long term gain.
3). Give up fewer shots: Right now, the Panthers are playing the best hockey since February, but they still give up too many shots. James Reimer and Roberto Luongo have had great stretches of hockey this year, but they can’t stop 40 shots a night consistently.
It’s possible the defensive systems haven’t quite set in full yet (hopefully that’s not true), but they have to limit the chances they give up if they want to continue to mature as a team.
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4). Stay the course: Even though the Panthers are on a winning streak and playing some good hockey, they’re still seven points out of a wild card spot and nine points behind the third spot in the Atlantic.
They will not make the playoffs this year, and any ideas that they could are delusional. So stay the course, make a few trades to augment a draft pick haul or maybe grab a young player or too, and continue to grow for the future. Set in place the systems, expectations, and follow a direction that is becoming clearer and clearer.
5). Trust the process: By now, most sports fans should be sick of this phrase. But for the Panthers, it’s time to make sure they don’t try to artificially jump-start something that doesn’t need jump starting. As things stand, they’re fourth in the Atlantic with a soft rebuild ongoing.
They have every chance with a few young players and smart moves in June and July to take the next step, next year. The last time it seemed the Panthers were going to turn the corner, they artificially tried to speed up the process and it failed miserably. The number one resolution for 2018 should be not to make that same mistake again.
2017 featured the fallout from taxi cabs, far too much Tom Rowe, banners over the BB&T Center, and hand wringing over letting players go to Vegas. But the end of 2017 feels a lot better than the beginning of this year did, and hopefully this is momentum that continues into 2018. There’s a good chance by this time next year, the Panthers are in a better spot.
Hopefully they follow these resolutions, and a few of their own to keep the good feelings heading into the new year.