The Florida Panthers have nothing to be ashamed about. They had the second-best record in the central division and the fourth-most points in the NHL. The Panthers made the playoffs for the first time in five years, but that euphoria was short-lived as they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.
Fans shouldn’t worry. Things are looking up for the Panthers, and that should continue into next season.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 20.53% (15th in the league)
Penalty Kill: 79.76% (18th in the league)
Goals For: 189
Goals Against: 153
For the Panthers, it would be a tie between Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov for the best player on the team. Both contributed to the season’s success, racking up 119 points between them with 46 goals and 73 assists. Barkov led the Cats in goals (26), even-strength goals (18), even-strength points (38), and shots on goal (176). Huberdeau was second in goals (20), fourth in even-strength goals (15), and fourth for shots on goal (122). Huberdeau led the team with the most points (10), followed by Barkov with eight while they were in the playoffs. Both players will be a big part of the Panthers’ future and will give the team a chance to be competitive in all postseasons to come.
Losing in Round 1 of the playoffs. Not just that, but losing to the Lightning. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but losing to the defending Stanley Cup champions is a lesson they can learn from. They’ll need to not only figure out their goaltending situation but work on improving special teams. They proved to the league and fans they are contenders, and so the front office will need to add a few more pieces to give them more chances to show what they can do.
Behind the Bench (Coaching) Analysis
Joel Quenneville has now spent two seasons as the coach for the Panthers, although both have not been full seasons. If given a chance to coach for a full season, it’s exciting to think about what he can do with the team. He was able to get them to the playoffs this season, but will he continue to pull good performances from players while also getting them to improve. If that’s a possibility, then the rest of the conference and league will need to keep their eyes on the Panthers.
Front Office Analysis (GM)
Bill Zito has now gone through his first season as the Panthers’ GM. He made a good decision when deciding to acquire Patric Hornqvist from the Pittsburgh Penguins last September. He also acquired Sam Bennett from the Calgary Flames and Brandon Montour from the Buffalo Sabres during the season. He’s signed a few players to their entry-level contracts, and overall his first year has been okay. The true test will come during the draft and decisions made after, affecting the upcoming season.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks/Prognosis
The Panthers currently have five draft picks. They would have had seven, but they traded two away through deals with the Buffalo Sabres and the Chicago Blackhawks. Picking late in Round one, the Panthers will need to focus on forwards or defensemen that will fit into their style of play. Zito has done a decent job so far with his choices, so fans will have to wait this one out to see what he has in store for the franchise.
Off-Season Wishlist/Checklist and Prognosis for 2021-22
The Panthers will need to get Barkov signed because next season will be the last season on his current deal, and they can’t afford to let him go to another team. Also, it seems they have a future with goalie Spencer Knight, but at 19, he still has a lot to learn from Sergei Bobrovsky. If the Panthers continue on the path they’ve chosen, then the 2021-22 season should be their best one yet.
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