Florida Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie had himself another very underwhelming campaign this past year.
The 37-year-old centerman didn’t contribute much of anything this past season, only scoring three goals and adding 14 points in the 75 games he was put on the ice for.
These numbers speak for themselves, as MacKenzie tends to be a player you rarely expect much offense from. ‘DMac,’ as fans like to call him, only has a grand total of 51 goals and 125 points in 610 games in his career, a stat total I’m sure Wayne Gretzky probably put up in an 82 game campaign.
With that being said, MacKenzie has always been considered a defensively minded penalty killer throughout his 14 season career, and to be completely honest, he didn’t even bring much of that to the table this year.
Being in the negative in the plus/minus stat is a huge no-no for defensively minded players like MacKenzie, who notched a -7 this season. He also rarely made any plays on the puck, only taking it away 24 times this entire season.
To put that in perspective, Aleksander Barkov, who is the Florida Panthers’ best offensive player, had 82 takeaways and a plus/minus of +9. With Barkov doing MacKenzie’s job better than he can, I think it’s time for the Florida Panthers to let go of MacKenzie.
Derek MacKenzie hasn’t brought much to the table since being named captain prior to the 2016-17 season, and he is clearly unfit to be the captain of a successful team. He hasn’t performed on the ice, and his leadership hasn’t done much for the Panthers, who missed the playoffs in both seasons he had the captaincy.
MacKenzie is also very replaceable, as there are many other defensive fourth line centers available in free agency this summer. Guys like Dominic Moore, Derek Ryan, Riley Nash, and Leo Komarov could all slot into the Panthers’ fourth line and produce more in both areas of the ice.
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Furthermore, I believe Jared McCann is more than capable of taking over the fourth line center position and penalty killing responsibilities from Derek MacKenzie, as he has better offensive numbers, with 9 goals and 28 points, and better defensive numbers with a +11 rating and 39 takeaways, with only 68 games played this past season.
The 22-year-old McCann has a higher ceiling than the elderly MacKenzie and I am certain that he Jared could take over the reigns as a penalty killer next season.
The Panthers also have a large pool of young stars to choose from as their next captain. You can’t go wrong with any of them; from Vincent Trocheck to Aleksander Barkov, these young players have matured and are more than ready to take the role as captain, but the guy I see most fit for the job is defenseman Aaron Ekblad.
Ekblad was drafted first overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and was expected to be the Florida Panthers’ franchise defenseman, and he delivered. Ekblad already has two all-star appearances under his belt at the age of 22 and was a key part in the Florida Panthers’ magical 2016 season where they won the Atlantic Division.
Panthers Head Coach Bob Boughner trusts Ekblad and his defensive partner Keith Yandle (who seems to be a defensive liability at times) to log minutes against the oppositions top lines, and it really shows the player Aaron has grown into.
Aaron Ekblad leads by example, both on and off the ice, and would make a much better captain than Derek MacKenzie ever would, which leaves MacKenzie without a role on this Panthers roster.
After 14 seasons of gritty play, I think it’s time for Derek MacKenzie to hang up his skates for good. It’s only for his best interest after a dreadful 2017-18 campaign.