Last Season: 47-26-9 (103 points), 1st in the Atlantic, 3rd in the East
It was the most successful season in franchise history with records set in wins (47) and points (103), and a second division title banner earned. There was also a bit of Hollywood involved with the “Spacey in Space” fun.
Jaromir Jagr remained ageless; Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov enjoyed breakout seasons; Aaron Ekblad kept on course for superstardom; and Roberto Luongo played Vezina-calibre goal. Their season may have come to an end in six games at the hands of the New York Islanders in the first round, but the Panthers are setup for sustained success.
The architect of the roster, Dale Tallon, moved upstairs in the executive offices as Tom Rowe took over at the team’s new general manager. New additions were made on the backend, promising last season as no fluke.
2015-16 Season, In One Picture
Did They Get Better, Worse, Or Are They About The Same?
Better. Florida’s losses over the summer weren’t the type that would affect the team this season in drastic ways. Brian Campbell might be missed, but the additions of Keith Yandle and Jason Demers will go a long to improving their blue line and power play. James Reimer’s five-year deal might come with a puzzling term, but he’ll certainly provide a solid backup presence for Luongo.
Five Most Fascinating Players
1. Jaromir Jagr. The 44-year-old forward was the Panthers’ leading post-getter last season (66), which helped earn him an All-Star Game appearance. He’s growing out his mullet and has become a beloved player in the league again. A workout freak, it’s not impossible to think he can have another strong season of production, setting more milestones along the way.
2. Nick Bjugstad. Migraines and a head injury during the playoffs cost the young center some time last season, which played into a dip in production. When healthy, he can provide some very important secondary scoring.
3. Keith Yandle. Aaron Ekblad (3) provided the only power play goals from Panthers’ defensemen last season. The addition of Yandle will help with the extra man production from their blue liners and improve a unit that was sixth-worst in the NHL (16.9 percent).
4. Jonathan Huberdeau. After a pair of 50-plus point seasons, the Panthers gave their young forward a 6-year, $34.5 million extension earlier this month. He excelled playing alongside Barkov and Jagr, and now with a fatter wallet, that production will need to continue.
5. Vincent Trocheck. Like Huberdeau, Trocheck got paid in the off-season, inking a 6-year, $28.5 million extension after a 25-goal, 53-point season. Along with Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith, the second line produced with efficiency and will be needed to step up again.
Mascot Hijinks Video Break
Stanley C. Panther IS ON A BOAT!
Can We Trust Them At Even Strength?
Florida was strong at even strength scoring with 159 goals. Jagr (22), Trocheck (20) and Smith (20) were among seven Panthers to hit double digits in that category. Defensively they were just as good, allowing only 126 goals (third-best in the NHL) while Roberto Luongo posted a .935 ESSV.
Can We Trust Them On Special Teams?
Following their off-season additions, “yes” to the power play and “no” for the penalty kill. Yandle and Demers will help an extra man unit that succeeded 16.9 percent of the time last season.
The PK didn’t get any help from free agency, so the likes of Barkov, Smith and Jokinen will have to improve. There is also the fact that their top four defensemen in regards to shorthanded TOI (Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov, Willie Mitchell, Brian Campbell) are all gone.
Can We Trust Their Goaltending?
Yes. Luongo was fantastic last season with a .935 ESSV and four shutouts and with an improved team in front of him he should be ready for another solid year. Bringing on James Reimer as a backup was a smart move given Luongo’s age. Reimer posted a .940 ESSV last season in 40 appearances.
Player Mostly Likely To Be In Vegas Next Season
Alex Petrovic. Due to be a restricted free agent in the summer, the 24-year-old defenseman would make for a nice piece on the backend for the Vegas [Something] Knights.
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)
1. Gerard Gallant was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for good reason. The Panthers were successful and there’s no reason to believe they’ll take a step back this season. Even despite all the off-ice changes in the organization, it’s clear the head coach’s seat is far from warm.
Florida will once again be in a battle with the Tampa Bay Lighting for the Atlantic Division crown. After years of the fan base wondering when the team would be a playoff contender again, that time has arrived and the roster that has been built over the last several years will keep the Panthers a contender in the years to come. Expect another postseason berth with the question now being can they get out of the first round.
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