The Florida Panthers have had a turbulent offseason, and have changed key components of their team. The Panthers hired a new coach, traded away Olli Jokinen, signed Cory Stillman, had Jay Bouwmeester go to arbitration, and to top it all off they are rumored to pick up veteran defenseman Bryan McCabe. Will these new changes finally result in a playoff berth?
It has been eight years since the Panthers last playoff berth. Florida's problem has always been getting off to a good start. The Panthers have struggled to gather points at the beginning of the season, which has led to them barely missing the playoffs, just about every year.
The Panthers missed the playoffs last season, but it wasn't a totally lost season. The 2007-08 season did bring positives to the Panthers franchise.
Young forward David Booth was incredible. In his first full NHL season he tallied 22 goals and added 18 assists. Booth was a key component to arguably the Panthers best line. Booth was teamed up at Left Wing ,with Center Stephen Weiss ,and Right Wing Nathan Horton.
The Panthers also saw Richard Zednik play the type of hockey that made him a household name in Montreal. Tragically Zednik's season was cut short by a near fatal injury. Zednik's line with Olli Jokinen and Brett Mclean provided the Panthers with two scoring lines, something they never had in the past.
The 2007-08 season did bring negatives to the Panthers also. They missed the playoffs, and were unable to capitalize when it mattered most.
In the last few games of the season the Panthers cracked under pressure, and gave up two very winnable games against the Atlanta Thrashers, and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Players are going to have to step up, and help create four solid lines of offense.
Here are my projected lines for the Panthers:
LW Centers RW
1st line: Cory Stillman Brett Mclean Rostislav Olesz
2nd line: David Booth Stephen Weiss Nathan Horton
3rd line: Richard Zednik Shawn Matthias Radek Dvorak
4th line: Ville Peltonen Kamil Kreps Wade Belak
1st paring: Jay Bouwmeester and Bryan Allen
2nd pairing: Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton
3rd pairing: Noah Welch and Karlis Skrastins
There is no doubt the Panthers defense will be solid, especially if they acquire Bryan McCabe. If the Panthers could also receive Alexei Ponikarovsky in the deal too, it would be a big boost to the Panthers forwards.
It should be an interesting year, but I just think the Southeast divsion has improved too much. I think the Panthers will just miss the playoffs again, due to a poor start at the beginning of the year. Here's hoping I'm wrong.