There can be no doubt that the Florida Panthers are a bad team that will not meet expectations and will also not make the playoffs for the 16th time in 18 seasons in 2019.
After recent games, the shred of hope that some fans were clinging too must now be gone. The season is well past the point of salvation.
But what is happening now is something more insidious that should concern Panthers fans greatly not just this year but for the future: the franchise is being neglected.
Neglect stems from how the Panthers seem to be withering on the vine when other teams try to salvage what’s left of bad seasons.
Four teams have changed their coaches, one has fired their GM and many more have made trades of some consequence. The Panthers, on the other hand, have done nothing.
They are rumored to be involved in trades but haven’t made any, the coaches job is safe when its clear that coaching is a major problem, the team’s top prospect and best hope for salvaging something on offense is being kept in Springfield for ‘development,’ and what was a season of major hope for this moribund franchise has slowly withered away to what this team is always is: a disappointing failure.
Whatever the reason for this stunning lack of urgency regarding this team’s slide to Jack Hughes loving oblivion, money, fear or otherwise will not suffice as a reasonable explanation for why this franchise continues to plod on a road to nowhere.
Whether they have the capability of making the drastic changes that are necessary to get this franchise on the right or whether they want to is almost irrelevant now, because whatever the reasoning, nothing is happening.
They have suffered many ignominious defeats this season, but the loss in St. Louis against a team that has already collapsed was the lowest of lows yet.
That team had scored five goals in four games, had a notable bust-up in practice and yet scored four goals on the Panthers in the third period and won. In most places, that period would lead to changes somewhere in the organization. Not in Florida.
It’s clear that this team needs a fundamental re-think and fast to avoid wasting some of the prime years of the best players this franchise has ever seen. Even the small decisions aren’t being made when it comes to line combinations, defense pairings or call-ups.
On this website, we’ve explored ways the Panthers can get out of this mess to salvage something, even if it’s pride.
Whether it be calling up Henrik Borgstrom, following any number of the steps from this blueprint, or not scratching players like Bogdan Kiselevich who is clearly not the problem, there are actions that can be taken to salvage something from this season that is clearly important: the attention of what few fans are left.
But even after being at Rangers-Panthers games in Sunrise before, I’ve never seen anything like last Saturday when it legitimately felt like a game at Madison Square Garden.
This Saturday against Toronto, it will be even worse, and let’s not even think about what the game against Montreal will be like after Christmas.
That should be an embarrassment to the front office and ownership to the point where serious action should be taken, but based on the evidence, nothing will change.
Someone needs to speak to the fanbase and the team immediately or else this team will sink further into nothing.
Whether it be Vincent Viola, Doug Cifu, Dale Tallon, Bob Boughner or even Aleksander Barkov (who is having a great season and has nothing to do with why this team is failing), someone needs to address what is happening publicly and get out in front of the rumors, the anger and most importantly, the fear that the team is being neglected by those in charge.
Even if the words are not what fans want to hear, something has to be done before it’s too late.
This season of so much promise is already lost. But the risk now is that longer-term damage is being done that might not be fixable with the inaction coming from the executive suites at the BB&T Center.
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Before the damage is sadly permanent, someone needs to do something. But the fear that is starting to become all too real is that nothing will happen once again, and they will sink further and further into irrelevance.
Remember the talk of a Stanley Cup window opening up after the division title in 2016? That three-year window is up after this season, and it sure looks like they won’t even make the playoffs in that time.
Those in control have an obligation to their paying customers to explain what is happening, and no one wants to show the courage to do so.
In Panthers history, people have flown planes over the building to shame ownership into doing something, but would that even work this time? It sadly seems that the worst emotion has seeped into every pore of this organization: apathy.
The Florida Panthers history is littered with bad decisions, neglectful ownership, fleeting hope before a crushing sense of inevitable weighs down the shoulders of the few willing to bear the burden, and history is sadly repeating itself again when it looked like a page was finally being turned.
Before those pages of history become irreparably glued together, someone needs to do something.
This is a team of no past, a squandered present, and little future if nothing is done now. The few that still invest emotionally and financially deserve it.