Over the past couple of seasons, slow starts have put the Florida Panthers behind the eight ball early on, ultimately hurting their playoff chances.
Last season, the Florida Panthers got off to a horrid start of 2-5-3 in their opening ten games. The offense was inconsistent, performing hot and cold between those matches.
The power play was virtually non-existent, as the Panthers’ man advantage ranked at the very bottom at the start of the year. The first unit, especially, wasn’t able to get anything going.
On top of that, the defense wasn’t able to keep anything out, while the goaltenders failed to provide any relief.
The Panthers did manage to rally back with a five-game win streak after their first ten games; however, the extremely slow start proved to be too much to overcome, as they never quite found any level of consistency throughout the remainder of the season and missed the postseason for the third consecutive year.
The year prior to last season (2017-18), the Panthers also got off to a slow start (4-5-1) but considering the lack of offensive depth that they had, the slow start was anticipated by many.
And, if we were to compare both in relative to both seasons rosters, it was actually 2017-18’s team that got off to a better start than 2018-19, who unquestionably were deeper and more talented.
But with all that said and done, the Panthers are now a different team structurally. Former head coach Bob Boughner is no longer behind the bench; the team replaced him with Joel Quenneville – an experienced coach who knows how to get the most out of his players while holding them accountable at all times.
While the coach doesn’t “lace up the skates,” he is still responsible for ensuring that his team is meeting expectations at all times, which includes starting the season off strong.
Boughner failed to do that during his two years in South Florida, which eventually led to his dismissal as the team’s bench boss.
Coach Quenneville knows very well how a hot/cold start can make or break a team’s chances of booking a spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With his proven experience, winning pedigree and stern coaching style, you can bet that the past starts that formed under the former coaches won’t occur under his command.
In addition to finding that winning-pedigree coach, the Panthers addressed their most glaring issue on their roster this summer with the signing of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Goaltending has been a weakness on the Panthers roster for quite some time. Roberto Luongo – who struggled to stay fit – wasn’t always able to provide the amount of relief that the Panthers were hoping for, especially when they struggled early on.
James Reimer, on the other hand, wasn’t good enough to solely rely on, especially in the moments where the game was on the line.
With Bobrovsky, you have a goaltender capable of providing you with relief at just about any time. As well, you can also count on him to steal you some games when you’re struggling or having an off night.
This season, the buck simply stops here. The Panthers now have a coach who has won just about everything you could win in the game of hockey, regarded simply as one of the best coaches in the league today.
Moreover, the Cats also have their starting netminder, which has been on the top of their shopping list for countless offseasons. I haven’t even mentioned the other additions (Connolly, Stralman, and Acciari) that Florida also brought in this summer.
With a proven coach in Quenneville, an arguable top-five goalie in Bobrovsky and with the same amount of talent that was on the roster last year, the Panthers have more than enough to get the job done.
Another slow start to the season would be abominable, which would cause certain individuals to lose their jobs. However, with a new man steering this ship (arguably by the best coach in hockey), the slow starts should undoubtedly come to an end.
With the Panthers checking almost everything off their summer wishlist, they now have the tools to ensure long-term success. If playoffs are going to be in sight for this year, then they’re going to have to ensure that they get off to a start that we haven’t seen before, especially in this crowded division and Eastern Conference.