The Starting Six series comes to you to dive into the best player at each position all-time for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments in franchise history. Here is the Florida Panthers all-time lineup.
Starting Six: Florida Panthers All-Time Lineup
The Florida Panthers first emerged in the league in the 1993-94 season. From that point, they had bright moments such as making the 1996 Stanley Cup Final in their third year. Sadly for them, the majority of their success has been overshadowed by inconsistency, only qualifying for the playoffs in five of their 23 years of existence. During this time though, the franchise has dressed great and Hall of Fame players. They may not be generational talents at all positions, but this all-time lineup would put up quite the fight.
Centre: Olli Jokinen (2000-08)
Early on the 1997 third overall pick of the Los Angeles Kings was not living up to expectations. Even after joining the Panthers via a trade from the New York Islanders in 2000, that also saw Roberto Luongo shipped down south, Jokinen struggled. He accumulated only 15 goals and 45 points in his first two seasons. It was not until Pavel Bure left for the Rangers that the switch flipped.
Jokinen went five straight seasons of scoring at least 26 goals and accumulated a total of 374 points in 409 games. His 173 total goals in that span ranked seventh in the league. Some players behind him were Mats Sundin, Markus Naslund, Martin St. Louis, and Daniel Alfredsson.
He holds team records in points (419), goals (188), powerplay points (153), overtime goals (10), and game-winning goals (36). Jokinen was the face of the franchise when there seemed to be nothing but dust in Florida. The Kuopio, Finland native also wore the “C” on his jersey from 2003 to 2008.
Right Wing: Pavel Bure (1998-2002)
The Russian Rocket made his presence felt during his short time in Florida. One of the best pure goal scorers the league has ever seen proved he was so with the Panthers.
In his fist full season in 1999-2000, he potted 58 goals to help capture the Maurice Richard Trophy. Combine that with 36 assists, and the Russian was only two points shy of Jaromir Jagr for the NHL points lead. Even more impressive, under the stat “goals created” he finished first with 41.2. Jagr came in second trailing by 4.6 goals.
Bure followed up that campaign with another extraordinary one. He set a team record with 59 goals in one season and won his second straight Richard Trophy. In his brief time with Florida, he sits third all-time in goals with 157 and ninth in points with 251. He did this while dressing only 223 games. The two men ahead of him in goals played at least 329 more contests. The divide is similar in terms of points, but to a lesser degree. In his career, Bure, the 1989 sixth round pick, averaged over a point-per-game. Additionally, Bure’s average of 25:24 of ice time per game ranks second all time in The Sunshine State. He played five more minutes per game than the next closest forward on the list.
Left Wing: Nathan Horton (2003-10)
In one of, if not the best NHL Entry Drafts in 2003, the Panthers selected Nathan Horton third overall. The forward was known for being a big and physical scorer coming up and he continued the trend at the next level.
After his rookie campaign and the lockout, the Welland, Ontario native went five consecutive seasons scoring 20-or-more goals. Horton was not afraid to go to the dirty areas to score. The 6’2″, 229-pound man was a tough customer night in and night out.
One of the main reasons the Panthers struggled to win while Horton was there was their inability to keep pucks out of their net. That did not affect his stats much though. While the team sported a goal margin of -103. It’s a shame Horton experienced a shortened career due to injuries, but when he was healthy and in his prime for Florida he was a dominant force.
He played a total of 422 games down South, ranking fifth in goals (142), fourth in points (295), and second for even-strength goals (100) in the franchise. Horton could go down as one of the best players ever drafted by the Panthers.
Right Defence: Robert Svehla (1994-2002)
The most offensively talented defencemen ever to play for Florida. Robert Svehla was one of the main pieces that assisted the Panthers to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. When the Russian had the puck, he would make the correct pass more often than not. In order for a team to be successful in the league and have the opportunity to contend in the playoffs, they need a player similar to Svehla.
He’s holds most of the offensive records for the franchise when it comes to defencemen. He is first all-time in Panthers’ history for power play assists (106) and third in total assists (229). Svehla, or possibly Ironman, spent eight of his nine NHL years with the Panthers, missing only three games.
Left Defence: Jay Bouwmeester (2002-09)
Jay Bouwmeester isn’t a player that jumps off a screen when one watches a game. What his game entails is a reliable all-round defence. He developed this style in Florida.
The Edmonton, Alberta native was picked third overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. The franchise threw a ton at the youngster right from the get go. After his rookie season, where he averaged over 20 minutes, he was given the responsibility to play top pair minutes against the opposing team’s best forwards. Of course on a struggling team, the Canadian got exposed no matter how talented they were.
He slowly earned a reputation as being one of the most reliable and durable blue liners. Bouwmeester played all 82 games in five of his six seasons in Florida, while playing over 26:30 per game.
Goalie: Roberto Luongo (2000-06 and 2014-Present)
Number one is not just the best goalie in franchise history; he’s the best player. The numbers speak for themselves. When the Panthers struggled in Roberto Luongo’s first five years, he had a record of 108-154, which looks awful. If you look deeper into the numbers, the Montreal, Quebec native did what goalies are supposed to do: keep his team in the game. He had a 2.68 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage. Luongo assisted in dragging the Panthers back to relevance.
Since being traded back to Florida from the Vancouver Canucks, Luongo is 80-53-24 with a 2.43 goals-against-average and save percentages of .924, .921, .922, and .915 in each of his seasons since his return. He has picked up where he left off in 2006, even though the Canadian is at the tail end of his career. The 1997 fourth overall pick is six wins shy of hitting 200 with the Panthers, and his 453 career wins currently sits fifth in NHL history. He’s one back of Curtis Joseph for fourth and 31 away of Ed Belfour for third.
When it is all said and done, the Panthers will retire Luongo’s number and he will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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