When It Rains Rats Again: How Will Florida Get Back to the Playoffs?

Eric LaForgeCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2010

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 5: Dennis Seidenberg #4 of the Florida Panthers is congratulated after scoring a second period goal against the Calgary Flames on February 5, 2010 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Flames defeated the Panthers 2-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Years of frustration have plagued fans of the Florida Panthers. This frustration has been taken out on ownership, coaches, players, and even goalies. Over the past decade, Panther fans have made sure that nobody is immune from the blame game, and in a situation like this, fans have a right to be critical of their team.

The only player that has consistently shown that he deserves respect is Tomas Vokoun. Most fans consider him the reason that the Panthers are still in the playoff hunt for 2010.

However, that "playoff hunt" is beginning to look like a failure. Their losing streak before the Olympics could be a critical nail in the coffin for the team. Like we've been doing for many years, we are once again being forced to think about all of the changes that Florida needs to make.

The biggest problem that the Florida Panthers need to tackle is offense. During their current five game losing streak, they have been shutout twice, and in the last 13 games, they have not been able to score more than two goals. The last time they scored more than two goals in a game was January 16th when they scored five goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This is because the offense is suffering from a severe lack of depth. Granted, losing Nathan Horton didn't help, but if anything, that illustrates my point even more. While Horton has been out, the offense hasn't produced anything, simply because they don't have enough people that can.

Like we all know, the Panthers need to make some serious changes on their team to make the playoffs. Thankfully, it looks like the front office is finally starting to act. The owners have delegated the authority of making trades to GM, Randy Sexton. That's different than a lot of other teams because we usually see owners getting very active in the trade process.

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The good news for Florida is that Sexton is also frustrated with the team. From the comments he made to the media, you can tell that he is very passionate about making the necessary changes and seeing the Panthers succeed.

Like I said before, the Panthers need to make trades that will create more offensive depth. They have a really good bargaining chip in Steven Reinprecht, who would fit well in some other teams. He could bring in some of the lower line players that, together, will make a significant difference in Florida's offensive production.

Another thing that the Panthers need to do is make smarter draft choices. The players that they choose in drafts will be the players that help carry the team into the playoffs. More importantly, they will need the experienced players to step up and guide these young prospects. Right now, it looks like Horton and Weiss will be the future leaders of the team. Any system in Florida will need to have these two players as the leading proponents.

With a team full of under-performing players, the Panthers may be forced into giving up a couple of "gems." However, they need to do everything they can to keep the gems they have. They have to figure out a way of getting rid of the "under-performing" players and keeping the productive ones.

They could do that through trades, but they could also refuse to resign players to more contracts. They could use those players to pick up some draft picks, or, they could deal away some of those players to create cap room. Either way, this is going to be a very active offseason for the Florida Panthers.

See more of my thoughts on the NHL at Tips for Hockey

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