Florida Panthers: Why the Cats are Playoff Bound in 2019

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 8: The Florida Panthers celebrate the win against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on April 8, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 8: The Florida Panthers celebrate the win against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on April 8, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) /

After a disappointing end to last season, the Florida Panthers will most likely take the next step by returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The previous season for the Florida Panthers was one that meant a lot to the future of the organization. It consisted of countless highlights including the emergence of Evgeni Dadonov, the remembrance of the victims of the MSD shooting, and many more. But more importantly, last year showed for many reasons that the Cats are ready to return to the postseason.

Now that the offseason has started to progress, we can now take a look at not only how the roster will look next year, but how the season will actually play out. For my take, I believe that the Panthers are looking stronger than ever with the moves that they made from hiring a new coach to trading for a score-hungry winger.

In my opinion, I think the Panthers will make the playoffs next season for a variety of different reasons.

To start off, the Cats have finally addressed possibly the biggest need that fans have highlighted for years, scoring depth. This issue was assessed in a few different ways. These different methodologies include transactions with other teams, drafting, and more.

When it comes to the draft, the Florida Panthers have done very well when it came to building a core. This can be proven when looking back at recently drafted stars such as Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, and Aaron Ekblad.

Recently, they have drafted prospects like Henrik Borgström and Owen Tippett who can probably crack the Panthers’ roster this season. With the smarts of the Panthers’ front office, the draft has helped the scoring depth issue.

Additionally, other teams throughout the NHL have helped the Panthers in their own way to give them scoring depth. Throughout the past few years, the Panthers have made certain deals to increase their offense.

The best example can be the most recent trade for Mike Hoffman, a possible 30-goal scorer for the Cats. However, other smaller moves like the acquisition of Frank Vatrano can solve the issue too.

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Next, Florida has done a great job of fixing their play in the special teams category. The change in these certain statistics is probably due to new assistant coaches Jack Capuano and Paul McFarland. They have molded the power play and penalty kill to the point where whenever there’s a penalty or scoring opportunity, the Panthers are ready to pounce.

With the power play, the stats really show how the Cats have improved in special teams. According to NHL.com, during the 2016-17 season, the Florida Panthers were 24th when it came to their power play percentage. After the new assistants came in, the Panthers jumped three spots in that category the following season.

When it came to the PK, the Panthers have historically been strong. According to NHL.com, during the 2016-17 campaign, the Panthers were 2nd in the league when down a man. When the new assistants came in, they continued this trend despite falling some ranks, maintaining an above average placing in the league in 2017-18.

Last but definitely not least, I think the Cats will make the playoffs mostly due to the changes that the coaches made when it came to the defense. Two years ago (2016-17), the defense was extremely sloppy and soft. There were goals let in left and right, losses were collected, and the defense was just not as involved in the offensive part of the game as usual.

Then, when the new coaches came in, a new system was implemented. This method was a defensive-first mentality, with the defense looking a lot more structured, a lot more calm and collected in front of goal, and in result, more games being won.

Although, the biggest part of this strategy has to be the offensive part of the defense. Bob Boughner’s plan consists of the defense continuously stepping up into the offensive zone by helping out on the scoreboard, while still maintaining control in the defensive zone.

Next: Florida Panthers Should Move On From Micheal Haley

Even with the Cats not competing in the postseason last year, there are countless reasons that prove that the Florida Panthers will return to playoff contention in 2018-19.