Heading into the upcoming season, the Florida Panthers need as much scoring balance as possible if they want to endure success.
One particular area that has really limited the Florida Panthers over the years is the lack of scoring depth they have received from all four lines.
Last season, the Panthers ranked ninth in goals per game with 3.22 goals, according to NHL.com. Their success in the offensive department comes in thanks to their first line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov, who did the unquestionable amount of scoring last year.
The Panthers’ top line seems to never let the team down. Over the last few years especially, they have always done their part to ensure that enough offense is being created from a first-line standpoint.
However, there is only so much they can do, which brings us to why scoring depth is so important in this league. Without having to explain the obvious too much, there are going to be nights where your top line is going to be shut down or even experience a dry period.
That’s why being able to roll out four lines and expecting all of them to chip in within some sort of capacity is crucial when setting up a team for instant success. Being able to trust or rely on any one of your four lines to score at any given moment is really what separates the best teams from the other teams.
Apart from the first two lines, the Panthers received minimal production from their third and fourth. In fact, their bottom six ranked in the bottom half of the league in scoring and generating chances last year, which is problematic, especially when you get into the playoffs and face the deeper teams.
Now, that isn’t to say that the Panthers don’t have forward depth, because there are promising pieces. What it means is that they need to deploy these forwards accordingly, and ensure that matchups are aligned as best as possible.
Forwards like Henrik Borgstrom cannot be deployed as a defensive forward, like he was last year under Bob Boughner‘s command. Borgstrom, who will center the team’s third line, needs to be given the chance to drive and push play.
The third line needs to be turned into an offensive line, and one that pushes and breaks off counter-attacks with its speed. With Quenneville now at the helm managing the bench, you can ensure that these changes will be made.
The bottom line should have a system formulated, where the forwards wear down their opponents by utilizing the cycle down low in the corners. It’s essential that this line is able to retain enough possession of the puck, unlike the previous years.
Of course, you can’t expect the bottom line to produce at the same rate as the other three; however, if you’re getting the odd goal here and there, and if they’re keeping the puck out of your zone and in the opposition’s end, then you really can’t ask for too much more from your bottom line.
The addition of Brett Connolly will also help spread out the scoring, as he’s known distinctly for his even-strength scoring.
Last season, according to NHL.com, Connolly ranked 47th in even-strength scoring league-wide, near the likes of Aleksander Barkov and Sean Monahan. Connolly scored 21 of his 22 goals through 5v5, with only one goal coming off the power play.
The Panthers don’t have this type of player down their lineup (apart from maybe Vatrano), which is what enticed them to go out and sign Connolly.
While it could be said that appearing in the top 50 in even-strength scoring may not seem so impressive, considering his linemates were Andre Burakovsky (who struggled throughout the year) and Lars Eller, this feat shouldn’t be taken so lightly.
The tools are there for the Panthers to display enough scoring balance across the lineup. And that’s not even me mentioning the offensive guns the Panthers have on their blue line like Keith Yandle, Aaron Ekblad, and Mike Matheson.
The days of seeing Riley Sheahan on the third and Micheal Haley on the fourth are long gone with the new arrivals. And, with Coach Q now implementing the team’s new systems, forwards like Borgstrom shouldn’t feel out of place positionally.
It’s crucial that Florida receives enough scoring from all four of their lines throughout the course of the season. Relying heavily on their top line to do all the scoring will see them experience another postseason-less year, which cannot happen at any cost.
With the new personnel now running the show and putting the pieces together, the Panthers should be a balanced scoring team. Gone *should be* the days of relying on a certain few to shoulder the scoring weight.