The Florida Panthers are coming off one of, if not the busiest summers in franchise history. They brought in one of the best goalies on the planet and a few other vital pieces, but what fans should be most excited about is the acquisition of Joel Quenneville.
The Florida Panthers have, on paper, a roster that should compete for the Stanley Cup. However, for the past several years, fans have been tortured. Having watched this club underperform year in, and year out, I can personally say that it has been a painful ride.
This year, that pain that Panthers fans know all too well should finally subside. Even if the Cats planned on icing the same roster without any offseason additions, having coach Q behind the bench is a massive upgrade.
Having said that, what should Joel Quenneville focus on during his first year as the Panthers bench boss?
The first thing that comes to mind is the team’s flaky defense. If Florida wants to see any real playoff success, Quenneville’s main priority should be shoring up the blueline.
Matheson and Ekblad are already efficient on the offensive side of the puck; however, the two of them have some weaknesses in their end.
And it’s not only those two defencemen who had defensive issues last year. The whole team was subpar on that front. The Cats as a whole had the second-most defensive zone giveaways in the entire league with 695.
To put that into perspective, the Columbus Blue Jackets had the least amount of d-zone giveaways with just 267 so for the Panthers; there is room for improvement.
Aside from the defensive woes that haunted the team last year, coach Q should focus on continuing the Panthers’ special team success.
Florida had the second-best powerplay percentage last year at 26.8%, and they had the tenth best penalty-kill percentage with 81.3%. What was also encouraging was the team’s discipline. The Panthers only played short-handed 230 times which was the ninth-lowest sum league-wide.
Those are impressive stats for a team that missed the playoffs.
Coach Q should put some effort into making sure the club replicates that kind of special team efficiency. After all, it was one of the few positives that came out of last year.
If the defensive core can clean up its act and special teams continue to impress, I don’t see how the Panthers could miss the playoffs. When it’s all said and done, Joel Quenneville’s primary goal is bringing the Stanley Cup to Sunrise.
There’s no doubt that Quenneville’s experience and expertise make Florida an instantly better team. Hopefully, Coach Q can whip this team into shape and get them into the postseason.