2018 wasn’t the year that the Florida Panthers had in mind, but all could be forgotten with a turnaround of events in 2019.
No one would deny that 2018 or the first half of the 2018-19 season was an inconsistent one for the Florida Panthers. There was some winning, but there was also a lot of shortcomings that the Panthers could not overcome.
Thankfully, despite the horrid start that the Cats got off to, there is still half of the season left to go in games to be played. And, if we have a look at the standings, the Panthers sit just six points out of the last wild-card spot with… zero games in hand on the New York Islanders.
It’s hard to believe that this team will overcome their troubles and sneak into a playoff spot with the play that we saw in 2018. At times, we saw a team headed towards the Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko Draft Lottery sweepstakes, rather than compete for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
At other times, we saw what this group was really about, and when they were on their full game, they won more often than not.
But in an Atlantic Division that has gotten stronger, this inconsistent play hasn’t been enough, and it likely won’t be enough to even take one of the final two wild-card spots.
It’s unlikely that the Panthers will catch the Buffalo Sabres for the third seed in the Atlantic – who currently sit eight points above the Cats. In hindsight, it would take quite the meltdown for Buffalo to lose their third seeding to a team who’s barely (at best) looked like a playoff team.
And because of that, I think it’s both safe and fair to say that the three Atlantic Division spots are just too far out of reach for the Panthers at this current stage.
This leads me to our 2019 New Year’s Resolution, where all I (and most others) ask is for the Florida Panthers to turn things around and start playing consistent hockey.
The first thing we all need to recognize and understand is to not be disappointed if the Panthers don’t finish top three in the Atlantic Division.
Based on their play through 2018 and how far they are behind teams like the Sabres, Leafs, and Lightning, I think we can all be truthful here and recognize that it’s fairly unrealistic to be asking for one of those three spots.
And, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we should be able to understand that this team just doesn’t deserve any of those three spots with the way they’ve played throughout the course of 2018.
Does that mean that playoffs aren’t a possibility? Absolutely not. The Panthers can still shoot for one of the two wild-card spots where they’ll be competing not only against teams in their division but teams in the Metropolitan, as well.
Now that leads me to what I want to specifically see in 2019, which touches more on our New Year’s Resolution. All I ask is for the players to turn the page, see whatever light is left in the tunnel, and start playing as consistently as possible.
Make it a point to cut out slow starts to a game. Make it one of your goals to eliminate the constant defensive breakdowns that occurred frequently in 2018. Make it a point or even a goal to allow no more shorthanded goals. And, finally, make it your primary goal to play a full sixty minutes, no matter how big that may sound.
It may be a lot to ask for, but all the fanbase really asks is for some playoff hockey. The Panthers won’t make it if they don’t touch up what I mentioned above, and in a season where playoffs is a must, the Panthers have no room for error.
They at least owe this to the fans who have stuck by this team for the last fifteen years. These last fifteen years in franchise history have been nothing short of painful, and if there’s ever a way to make it up to those loyal fans, it’s by booking a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Think about, the Cats sit just six points out of the last wild-card spot with about half the season left to go. In addition, they’ll also have some reinforcements heading their way.
Nick Bjugstad, who’s been a solid depth piece offensively, is close to returning and giving the Cats that much-needed scoring depth up front.
On the other hand, Vincent Trocheck, the Panthers’ No. 2 centerman, is about 5-6 weeks away from returning from his long-term injury.
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So, in hindsight, there’s really no excuse to be made on the Panthers’ front once these two come back. The Panthers have more than enough talent (even without those two) to be gunning for a playoff position.
In reality, there’s just too much talent on this roster to be missing the playoffs and to be wasting the glorious years of our young stars in Aleksander Barkov and even Jonathan Huberdeau among others.
I could honestly care less how this team makes it, and am only concern on whether or not we actually make it come the time in April.
Part of me still believes that this group can jump over the hurdle and make the postseason if they focus on the things I mentioned above. There’s still time to get in, but the results need to be shown now and not on some other day.
If the Florida Panthers can pick up where they last left off and begin to play some consistent hockey all throughout the remainder of the year, there could be a chance that they squeak into the playoffs, ending their miserable playoff drought.
Thanks for reading! Let’s hope that 2019 is the year where the Panthers wake up and make a push for the postseason. If you like our work, be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our daily newsletter to keep up with your most beloved team.