Following an absolutely abysmal season defensively, Mike Matheson will need to perform better in 2020 for the Florida Panthers to clinch a playoff berth.
The 25-year-old native of Quebec experienced a career-worst season in 2019 for the Cats. Despite matching a career-high mark in points (27), Matheson was simply dreadful on the defensive end of the ice for the Florida Panthers.
While participating in 75 regular-season games last year, the Boston College product recorded a career-worst -24 rating as well as 135 turnovers, too. The 2019 campaign was essentially a forgettable one for the former first-round pick.
Mike Matheson found himself healthy scratched numerous times and consistently scrutinized by the Panthers fanbase. In essence, he was a turnover machine and played incredibly sloppy for the majority of the season.
Ultimately, his exceptionally poor play contributed largely to Florida missing the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, among other things.
Currently, albeit a relatively small sample size, Matheson appears to be treading on similar water under the coaching of new bench boss Joel Quenneville.
However, the home game versus the Carolina Hurricanes showcased the inconsistent, egregious side of Mike Matheson. Matheson was simply awful on the defensive end, recording a -2 rating on only 15 minutes of ice time.
Quite frankly, the Panthers will need the first pairing of Aaron Ekblad and Mike Matheson to perform consistently on both ends of the ice if they are to succeed.
Ideally, if that can’t happen, then the two should realistically be split, which will likely happen in their next game.
In order to be successful at the NHL level, Matheson must learn to limit the giveaways and blown defensive assignments.
He was ranked among the leaders in giveaways last year, which isn’t a statistic a defenseman like Matheson should learn to accept.
If he can reduce his number of turnovers from the previous year by half, then 2019-20 will already be a step in the right direction for the 25-year-old.
The significant role of playing over 20 minutes per night on the top pair might seem daunting, but Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff have confidence in Matheson’s ability to thrive.
Personally, Matheson’s struggles in the past can be largely attributed to Bob Boughner’s atrocious defensive system, which Matheson will need to unlearn.
Although, with the new and improved defensive system enforced by champion Joel Quenneville, Mike Matheson should flourish and further develop into a polished two-way defenseman.
Of course, it will take time for him – along with the others – to accustom to Q’s new philosophies and practices. It won’t be learned overnight.
Furthermore, if Matheson can make the proper decisions with the puck, then the Cats can be fully confident with keeping him for the future. Nevertheless, Matheson must perform well on a consistent basis in order to avoid a potential exile from Florida.
Objectively speaking, if Matheson cannot figure things out, then Quenneville will ultimately influence General Manager Dale Tallon to find a trade partner for Matheson’s services.
However, if Matheson fully develops into an adequate top-pairing defenseman in Quenneville’s system, then he will serve a crucial role in Florida’s quest for their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Ultimately, the Florida Panthers will need a revitalized, improved version of Mike Matheson in order to sustain success and become a Stanley Cup contender.
Thus far, Matheson’s defensive game has a lot of holes that need to be patched, but with a little time and work, it can be fixed.