As August rolls around, many teams are settling in for next season. With the summer and many blockbuster deals, being all but wrapped up, it’s now safe to ask which teams won the summer. While many organizations made terrific additions, the Florida Panthers off-season seems to be one of the clear favorites.
A few years ago, many fans would simply write off the Panthers. Jokes were constantly made, poking fun at the team’s low attendance and lack of success. After such a great summer, though, the Panthers now boast one of the most well-rounded rosters in the league. General manager Dale Tallon‘s ability to reel in talent at every position has been impressive. Now, the Panthers are primed to put up a great fight for a playoff spot.
Florida Panthers Off-Season Sets Them Up for Playoffs
The duo of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky were very highly-touted headed into the summer. The Panthers pursued both players but were only able to land one. They signed elite, Vezina-caliber, goaltender Bobrovsky to a seven-year contract with a ground-breaking cap hit of $10 million. While Bobrovsky will make an enormous impact, his signing has overshadowed the team’s greatest addition of the off-season: Joel Quenneville. Quenneville agreed to a five-year contract with the Panthers, taking over the head coaching role from Bob Boughner.
Quenneville is exactly what the Panthers needed to give them the kick start to become a true competitor. He has proven that he has the pedigree to do it. He’s won the Stanley Cup four times, three while in a head coaching role. This prowess will undoubtedly carry over and revamp the Panthers play. Quenneville, a man full of emotion although a lack of patience for younger players, has the capability to reconstruct the Florida Panthers into champions.
The Panthers showed no trouble putting the puck into the net last season. They ranked ninth in the league in goals-for, with 267. Despite their ability to score, winning games proved to be difficult for the Panthers. While they had no issues offensively, they struggled immensely in their own zone. They ranked 28th in the league in goals-against, with a staggering 280. Winning games can be tremendously difficult when you can’t stop other teams from scoring. Bobrovsky will be big a component in addressing this issue but won’t be able to fix everything.
The Panthers were in need of a “stay-at-home” defenceman to help Bobrovksy feel more comfortable in the crease. Anton Stralman may just be the addition that addresses that issue. Over his 12-year career, he’s proven to be a prolific, defensively-minded player. He’s recorded a Corsi of over 50 in every season, save for last year when injuries forced his hand. He’ll be a great addition to the team’s top-four, likely to see well over 20 minutes of ice time each game.
On the offensive side of things, the additions of Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari, who both bring a great amount of playoff experience, will help in creating scoring opportunities among the Panthers depth players. Connolly, one time Stanley Cup Champion, has recently come off his most productive season yet. He recorded 46 points, scoring 22 goals and 24 assists, despite playing third-line minutes with the Washington Capitals. Connolly has only been in the league for a short time and has showcased steady improvement each year.
Acciari will be as equally as helpful. He boasts the same “grinding” mentality that Connolly does, while also being a terrific addition to his team’s special teams. Last year, with the Boston Bruins, Acciari recorded 14 points in 72 games. He tacked on an additional four points in 19 playoff games. Where he really shined, though, was on the team’s penalty kill. The Bruins had a fairly prolific penalty kill last season and the rough-and-tough style of Acciari was a main fixture of it. He’ll look to bring that same special teams prowess to the Panthers.
The Panthers top players are all signed under contract for the next few years, allowing Tallon and Quenneville the time needed to reconstruct the team into a competitive franchise. Levels of excitement and curiosity are high surrounding the Panthers upcoming season. Tallon has been experimenting with the Panthers for quite some time now. With some success generated off a tremendous Florida Panthers off-season, this coming year definitely feels different than before. While the Eastern Conference, as a whole, has gotten better, the Florida Panthers are expected one of the teams most people will have their eyes on throughout the season. Especially when the playoffs roll around next April. With the newfound changes, it seems the sky is the limit for Florida.