Panthers Will Search For Answers Under New GM

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There are just two NHL teams that have failed to win a single playoff series since the owner-led lockout, a labor dispute that scuttled the entire 2004-05 NHL season. One team is the Toronto Maple Leafs and the other is the Florida Panthers.

Photo by Doug Kerr

For the Panthers, though, their playoff drought is much more far reaching. In point of fact, the Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since the spring of 1996. That was a magical year in which the third-season NHL club drove all the way to a surprising appearance in the Stanley Cup final, where the Panthers were swept by the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avs won another Cup in 2000-01 and look like a serious contender again this season. The Panthers have been forced to live on that one season of glory for almost a quarter century.

Taking Tallon Out Of South Beach

The Panthers have gone through 15 head coaches and nine general managers since they last enjoyed success in the postseason. They’ll spend this offseason in search of No. 10 to add to that latter list.

Dale Tallon was fired as GM of the team after the Panthers fell 3-1 to the New York Islanders in the best-of-five play-in round. At the start of that series, online sports betting sites saw it as a virtual toss up. The Islanders were -120 favorites in the Vegas NHL odds, with the Panthers very close +100 underdogs.

On the ice, though, it was no contest. New York’s smothering defense slowed the high octane attack of the Panthers and exposed the many warts of this Florida team in other aspects of the game. Florida scored just three even-strength goals the entire series.

Tallon, who built this squad, paid the price for the failures of the Panthers.

“For the last decade, Dale raised the team’s profile, attracted key players to South Florida and brought character and class to our franchise,” Panthers owner and governor Vincent Viola said in a statement. “When we purchased the Panthers in 2013, we did so with a singular goal – to win a Stanley Cup. We have not seen our efforts come to fruition. We will now begin an organizational search for the next general manager.”

What About Bob?

Tallon’s major offseason addition was the free-agent acquisition of two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Bringing in an all-star netminder was supposed to help the team cover up some of its warts.

Instead, it was the deficiencies in the Panthers ability to defend that only succeeded in exposing the flaws in Bobrovsky’s game, as he endured a dreadful first season in Florida.

Bobrovsky posted a 3.23 goals-against average to finish 65th overall among NHL netminders. His save percentage of .900 ranked 58th, while he was 11th in wins with 23.

“I tried to do my best,” Bobrovsky told Associated Press. “I tried to stay focused and tried to stay with it.

“We have to learn and move on and get better for next season.”

Time For A Shake Up?

Should the Florida Panthers move some offense to shore up their defense? Photo by: Sarah Connors (flickr).

It’s interesting to note that four of the top six teams in goals scored per game during the 2019-20 NHL regular season are no longer in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That includes the Panthers, who netted 3.30 goals per game to rate sixth overall in the league.

The Panthers may need to ship one of their high-end offensive players to acquire defensive help. But this is a team that hasn’t assessed personnel well at all in recent years. Florida allowed Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault to escape to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, where both are key pieces in a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

The Panthers have drafted poorly beyond the first round. They’ve made major-league swings and misses on expensive free agents.

The truth is that one or two moves are not going to come close to fixing all that ails this team. Major surgery is needed to excise all of the Panthers’ problems.

Florida will select 12th overall in the 2020 NHL entry draft. That’s two late into the first round to find a player who’ll make an instant impact.