Florida Panthers: Trocheck is Back, But Let’s Not Get Ahead of Ourselves

SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 21: Vincent Trocheck #21 of the Florida Panthers celebrates his third period goal against the San Jose Sharks at the BB&T Center on January 21, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 21: Vincent Trocheck #21 of the Florida Panthers celebrates his third period goal against the San Jose Sharks at the BB&T Center on January 21, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

For the most part, this season has been a nauseating roller coaster ride for the Florida Panthers and their entire organization from management to the players to the die-hard tweeting Panther fans.

This season hasn’t been what anyone in the organization or even in the league expected.

The Florida Panthers’ 2019 resume has been full of ups and downs ranging from extremely inconsistent 5-v-5 play, poor defensive play, overall misguided scheme, and goaltending to unexpectedly having one of the highest rated power plays in the league.

On first blush, one would suggest that this has been a year of the unexpected. I would suggest that nothing that has happened this year has been all that surprising.

While the Panthers fanbase may not be the biggest in the world by any means, there are plenty of dedicated fans who have followed this team for many, many years.

They have seen the changes in ownership and management and players from the days of Bure to Booth to Computer Boys. But one thing with this franchise that has remained: the lack of consistency.

This lack of consistency is alarming in all aspects of the organization on every level. Perhaps no year has highlighted the franchise long malaise. Let’s discuss what’s happened this year and why I am suspect to have too much faith in this team.

Henrik Borgstrom is a player with perhaps the most potential since Aleksander Barkov joined the team. Borgstrom is strong on the puck, has really developed into a solid two-way player, and has insane skills that complement a wicked shot.

So why did he start the year in the minors? The organization and Boughner really tried to sell the point that he needed to “develop and get bigger” to play at the NHL level, so they put him in the minors in favor of giving aging veterans such as Troy Brouwer and Micheal Haley a roster spot (yes, I know Haley wasn’t on to begin the year, but it was known that he would be coming back).

If your team is like Panthers management that has boasted on the precipice of serious success, it’s a mistake when you have a dominant talent in “the artist” and stick him on the 2nd and 3rd line in the minors while you have an aging gaping hole in your roster in the NHL for another playmaker.

This recurring example of mismanagement was the first red flag this season and given Coach Boughner’s continuing refusal to commit to or teach young players like Borgstrom and Jayce Hawryluk, this glaring mismanagement of young players is perhaps the Panthers’ biggest concern.

The second red flag was the failure to address the major defensive holes in the Panthers’ back line. Tallon went out and signed Bogdan Kiselevich, an unproven 28-year-old from the KHL to fix up the problems.

Kiselevich is now on the trading block. I was a fan of the move and was excited to see him play, but the Panthers insisted on playing others in favor of him when he was one of our more consistently sound defensemen when playing (although admittedly we are grading on a curve).

The last (major) red flag that was raised was management’s lack of attention to address the goaltending issue.

During the second half of the season last year, Roberto Luongo looked like Lu of old, but his play wasn’t a resurrection of his career, but rather a span of good play that you see from Hall of Famers like Bobby Lu as well as likely caused by his inspiration from the tragic Parkland event.

In other words, it was known that his solid play wasn’t going to carry past the year. It’s not reasonable for management to put all their eggs in the basket of a 39-year-old goaltender with normal injuries for a player of his age.

Additionally, James Reimer has consistently shown that, at best, he is a competent NHL back-up goalie but not someone who is going to carry a team.

This season, goaltending has been the biggest issue on the Panthers with both goalies boasting 3.10+ GAA and both having sub .900 save percentages, ranking near the bottom of the entire league.

Granted, poor defense has plagued the Panthers almost nightly, however, teams often win by having a goalie who can “steal” them a game and neither Luongo or Reimer have been able to do that this year.

Vincent Trocheck’s return inspired the Cats to a three-game win streak prior to the All-Star break with perhaps the team’s best play of the year.

Yes, we are aware of the Panthers’ near-miss finish last year. Is that likely going to happen again?  I think not.

My trepidation should take nothing away from Vincent Trocheck as a player because he is easily a top 3 player on the Panthers.

Trocheck also commands enormous respect in the locker room because of how fierce a competitor he is. BUT, his return isn’t going to amount to the resurrection of the Panthers this season.

Trocheck was playing at the beginning of this season when this team was stumbling out of the gates as well, and it wasn’t very pretty.

While taking nothing away from the last three games, it’s still too soon to be buying your Florida Panthers playoff tickets.

The Cats sit 10 points out of the playoffs with multiple teams in front of them that they’d have to jump over to get there.

And if anyone knows how difficult it is to make that last push, look no further than the Panthers’ last-minute efforts from last season where they fell just one point short.

This last three-game stretch has been based on temporary inspiration and may be nothing more than temporary.

If the Panthers wanted to become a real contender, they need to address the very serious and distinct deficiencies that this team has which starts with their desperate need for a top-four defenseman.

More from Editorials

They need to bring up netminder Samuel Montembeault to see if they need to make a run at someone like Sergei Bobrovsky to fix their goaltending situation beyond the next five minutes.

Finally, they also need to find a coach (and perhaps a GM) who is willing to immediately commit to what appears to be a phenomenal group of upcoming stars.

The pieces (both on the ice and as trading tools) are there. Management has an opportunity, even before the trade deadline appears to look to next season with players like (LIST THEM) on the verge of stardom in the right hands.

Prior to the Panthers winning three in a row, they first lost seven in a row. A team’s path doesn’t change because of the return of their star 2nd line center.

Rather, this last span of wins likely saved Boughner’s job for the year which seems to guarantee another half season of extremely inconsistent and unprepared year of hockey where the team’s future is compromised in favor of overplaying its top four players.

I love the Florida Panthers. I always have, and I suspect that I always will. If this streak continues I will be one of the first to admit that I was wrong.

However, I fear that the only thing that the team will do is negatively affect the positional quality of its draft selection, couple with another offseason of inconsistency and silence from ownership and management.

On the other hand, Trocheck is back and looks strong and ready to make a big push. Let’s strap in our seatbelts and hope that the rest of the team (especially Boughner) follows suit.

Next. Will it Be Boughner, Tallon or Both?. dark

Thanks for reading! Be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our daily newsletter to keep up with the Florida Panthers.