The preseason games have dwindled, training camps are over, and the regular season is set to begin for the Florida Panthers. They have not been to the playoffs since the year 2000. It needs to be different this season.
In the past the Panthers have struggled coming out of the gates—losing games that they shouldn't, taking bad penalties, and not scoring goals. This has created a losing attitude in the Panthers' organization. Not many people have faith in Florida's squad, but I believe this is the year the Panthers will scratch their way to a playoff berth.
The Panthers have always been good near the end of the season, but falter because of the fatigue and injuries felt after a long season. Newly acquired veterans Cory Stillman and Bryan McCabe have to make sure this young team accumulates points early on. This would ensure that they would not have to go on an extreme winning streak just to contend for a playoff spot.
I believe Jacques Martin was not the right coach for this team, but I believe Peter DeBoer is. DeBoer works excellently with young fast skaters, such as Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton, David Booth, Kamil Kreps, Brett McLean, and Rostislav Olesz.
These young players can attack the zone well, but were reluctant in the past due to Martin's trap style and the Panthers' suspect defense.
That will change this season and it's all thanks to Panthers GM Jacques Martin. Martin has made some excellent acquisitions defensively. Bringing in Ballard and Boynton will hurt their offense, but will definitely bolster their defense and defense wins championships. Just ask the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks.
I believe another key acquisition was Bryan McCabe. McCabe had an injury-riddled season last year. He became the subject of harsh words from Toronto fans, but I think the change of scenery will do him well. When on his game, McCabe is a potential all-star, and with Jay Bouwmeester and McCabe operating the power-play the Panthers will have one of the best units in the NHL.
The lack of leadership also has hurt the Panthers, but that will not be a problem any longer with a team full of leaders like Cory Stillman, Bryan McCabe, Nick Boynton, Wade Belak, and Tomas Vokoun.
With a state perpetuated in mediocrity as far as sports it is the Panthers' time and chance to take the state of Florida by storm.