Florida Panthers: Mike Matheson has Shown Signs of Improvement

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 19: Mike Matheson #19 of the Florida Panthers skates against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on October 19, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 19: Mike Matheson #19 of the Florida Panthers skates against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on October 19, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Even after the first month of hockey, we’ve already seen significant improvements in Mike Matheson’s game for the Florida Panthers.

When the Florida Panthers drafted Mike Matheson, they imagined they were getting a budding, first-pairing defenseman. He had performed great at the collegiate level with Boston College, and it seemed the next step to the NHL would be an easy one for the Canadian skater. But, as his career began, Mike started off with some struggles.

As he jumped into the big leagues, the young defenseman had some young, unexperienced coaches to lead the way. Specifically, the one that lasted the longest was Bob Boughner, a first-time head coach that came from the San Jose Sharks, where he previously served as an assistant. Let’s just say Matheson didn’t have the best influence from the inexpert mind of the Boogieman.

Matheson’s play had not been what the team had expected when they drafted him. They thought they were getting a quick, offensive defenseman that could provide stability at the back. What they got out of Boughner was what seemed to be a turnover machine, leading many, including myself, to count him out as a part of the future blue line.

In June, the Florida Panthers said goodbye to head coach Bob Boughner as they had an opportunity that was too good to pass up. They had hired Joel Quenneville, the second-winningest head coach in NHL history, a coach who happened to have multiple championships under his belt.

With a new body behind the bench, the Cats were looking to revamp their blue line, including some changes to one of their potential top defenseman.

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Once the Panthers got their new guy to lead the squad, many changes came to the way the team operated. A new “no excuses” mentality was implemented and the Panthers have benefitted through it. Under a new system, Mike Matheson’s game seems to be getting better, proving he can be a reliable force for the Cats.

On the defensive side of things, Matheson’s game has been noticeably improving, one step at a time. His fast-paced game and quick stick have gotten the Panthers out of many jams, but unfortunately, the 25-year-old suffered an undisclosed injury on October 22nd against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which will sideline him for a total of two weeks (has missed five games so far).

Last season, Matheson’s biggest issue had to be the number of turnovers he generated from making silly mistakes. His poor positioning is one thing, but his brain wasn’t adapting to where it should’ve been when attempting to move the puck.

Ideally, when he attempted to make a pass or clear the puck, he practically gave the puck away. Now, these things are starting to change, and Quenneville’s system can be accredited towards that.

Under the new coach, Matheson has changed the way he plays completely. Before, it was about taking too long to find the right guy to clear the puck to. Now, it’s moving with a quick pace to clear the zone and join the rush. With his new playstyle, Mike Matheson’s game has made a complete 180, contributing to the team’s success.

Offensively, the numbers haven’t quite shown up yet on the stats sheet. In nine games, Matheson has only put up one point, in the form of an assist.

Yes, the points aren’t there yet for the young defenseman, but the defensive turnaround he’s had will eventually lead to some positivity for his offense. This system follows the ideology that defensive first will lead to offensive success.

When Mike Matheson’s NHL career got underway, it seemed that there was no success in his future. A lot of South Florida, including myself, was ready to move on from his flawed game.

But, once a new mindset came in behind the bench, his career was resurrected under a new head coach. Overall, Joel Quenneville’s new system has helped Mike Matheson step up his game and has ultimately put him in a position to succeed.

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Under a new system and a burst of confidence, Mike Matheson has immensely improved his game. His return from injury is highly anticipated, and once he’s back, he should find his rhythm again within a game or two.