Although the Florida Panthers are putting last season in the rearview mirror, their special teams’ success will be something they look to build on and replicate.
At the culmination of the season, the Florida Panthers ranked second in power play and tenth in penalty kill success.
Having both special team units rank in the top ten is quite the feat and usually guarantees any team a playoff position.
That’s quite some company to rank next to and still miss the playoffs. The Florida Panthers will look to build off of their success from last year and have already put some pieces in place to do so.
Any successful team knows that in order to have a successful penalty kill, you need to have strong goaltending. With the addition of Sergei Bobrovsky, the Panthers immediately upgrade their best penalty kill asset.
Bobrovsky is an outstanding goalie, with a penchant for making game-changing saves, whether on the penalty kill or five on five.
The 2x Vezina Trophy winner will backstop two units that have remained relatively untouched. The only two players not expected to return that attributed to the penalty kill last season are Troy Brouwer and Riley Sheahan.
In addition to Acciari and Bobrovsky, the Panthers added veteran defenseman and penalty kill specialist Anton Stralman to their defensive corps.
When healthy, Stralman is a force defensively and an ironman in penalty kill time on ice. Last season he ranked 15th among all players and averaged 2:55 of shorthanded ice time, thirty seconds more than any Panthers player last year.
Releasing pressure will allow both young players the opportunity to learn and gain experience in positions to succeed, in addition to putting their usage in offensive situations where they thrive naturally.
With the additions of Bobvrosky and Stralman, the Panthers bolster a much-improved penalty kill unit that looks ready to crack the top ten again this season.
Both players provide tremendous skill and experience and both come from last year’s top penalty kill teams as the Lightning, Blue Jackets, and Coyotes all ranked first with a penalty kill rate of 85%.
In terms of the power play, the Panthers had tremendous success last season. They finished second behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and relied on the man advantage through parts of the season to stay competitive and even win games.
The success gained last year from the power play will be hard to replicate but management has brought back all the major parts of last year’s units.
Many thought that Mike Hoffman may have been on the move this offseason, with his contract set to expire next summer. While the possibility still remains, it appears Hoffman will start the season with the Panthers this upcoming year.
The biggest development of the power play, and the team for that matter, is the signing of new head coach Joel Quenneville.
With the signing, Coach Quenneville brings his new coaching staff and systems to the Panthers’ power-play game.
It will be hard to judge now what the success will look like, but Quenneville has experience managing gifted players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and a slew of notable stars during his eleven-year tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks.
While the success will be hard to mirror, the Panthers are set up for success with their special teams. While expectations should be tempered from last year, the idea that this team can repeat with two top-ten units is not that implausible.