4-14-14: Nick Bjugstad finished the season as Florida's leading scorer with 38 points, and a loss in Game 82 of the season secured 29th overall in the NHL for the Panthers. That means Florida has a great chance at having a top three pick come June for the NHL Draft. They passed on defenseman Seth Jones last year and I can’t see them passing on Aaron Ekblad this year, who is the top rated defender in the 2014 draft class.
4-7-14: The Panthers have one victory in their last 10 games, but they somehow found a way to beat the Dallas Stars this past Sunday. Little do we remember that just two years ago the Panthers were not just a playoff team, but had two excellent chances at winning their first-round series before losing in seven games to the New Jersey Devils. The Cats are young and talented team that will be a force in the future.
3-31-14: Panthers’ fans should focus on the upcoming NCAA hockey tournament. Florida has eight total prospects in the tournament and some names to watch are Mike Matheson, Ian McCoshen, and Rocco Grimaldi. I’ve said it for the last couple of weeks, but the future for the Panthers is bright. What they do with the head coaching position in the offseason will be interesting. Peter Horachek is only coach on an interim basis and there could be some intriguing names on the open market.
3-25-14: The Panthers had a surprising start to their week when they beat the Sharks in San Jose, but then dropped their next three games. Since arriving in a trade with the Canucks, Roberto Luongo is 3-4-1 with a 2.62 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Those numbers are just okay for a goaltender that was expected to bring more to the table. The Panthers have the young talent to succeed in a few years from now.
3-17-14: Roberto Luongo is 2-2-1-1 since returning to Florida. He’s been ok, nothing stellar or special. The Panthers brought him back to South Florida with an eye on the future. They’re still a ways away from being a playoff team but the young talent is there. With the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Brandon Pirri, and Quinton Howden, the Panthers are primed for the future. Not to mention, another top 10 pick this year.
3-10-14: Not quite sure what the Panthers are doing here. They traded for Roberto Luongo: an inconsistent, expensive goalie with a $5.3 million cap hit through 2022. They traded backup goalie Tim Thomas to Dallas for journeyman netminder Dan Ellis. Florida is still a terrible team with a ways to go. They got the young players to succeed, however, it’s just a matter of when they can pull it all together. When they do, watch out.
3-3-14: The Panthers went 1-2 this past week but rallied Sunday to beat the Islanders 5-3. Florida currently sits second to last in the Eastern Conference and one has to wonder if they will make any changes to their roster as the deadline approaches. Goalie Tim Thomas and defenseman Tom Gilbert could be in play for the Panthers. No doubt, the talent is their in South Florida. The Panthers just need to continue to groom their young players. In due time, Florida will be a team to reckon with.
2-10-14: The Panthers have just one victory and five regulation losses in their past six games played. Goaltender Tim Thomas has allowed 21 goals in his past six starts and one has to think if this is his last season in the NHL. He’s played well enough this season to garner some attention in the offseason as a potential free agent pickup for some teams. The only question is will Thomas be satisfied with taking a backup job instead of a starting one?
2-3-14: The Panthers have allowed 16 goals in their last three games played with losses to Columbus, Toronto and Boston. The Panthers’ organization as a whole has talented players. Their pipeline of young talent is as best as it gets in the NHL. The problem is no free agent NHL talent wants to play for a dismal team in South Florida. In theory, it sounds like a wonderful place to play, but the reality of the situation is Miami is not a hockey market.
1-27-14: The Panthers rallied from a two-goal deficit this past Sunday to beat the Red Wings in Detroit. The Cats are 3-1-0 in their past four games played and 6-4-1 in their past 11, not a bad stretch for a team that started with a grisly 3-11-4 record. Florida’s season is over, and it's just a matter of how young players develop and what general manager Dale Tallon can get for veterans at the trade deadline.
1-20-14: Florida has just one non-shootout win in its last eight games. The Panthers are nine points back of the final wild-card spot in the East, and even if the Cats were to make up that margin they would lose the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker. One bright spot for the Panthers this season has been the play of Tim Thomas. The 39-year-old took last season off, but has provided Florida with a .917 save percentage in net.
1-13-14: Since winning five straight in late December, the Panthers are 3-4-2 and fading in the Atlantic Division. The ‘Cats are not completely dead in the playoff race, but they’re slipping and their death is almost inevitable. Brad Boyes has 37 career shootout goals, most in the NHL since the skills competition was used to break ties during the 2005-06 season. The Panthers look as if they’ll be in contention for another top five draft pick in the 2014 NHL draft.
1-7-14: After stretch of games following the firing of Kevin Dineen, Florida has dipped again. The Cats’ have just one regulation win in its last six games If the season ended today, Florida would be looking at picking fifth in the NHL entry draft. A few eyebrows were raised when the Panthers drafted Aleksander Barkov second overall this past summer. He currently leads the team in scoring with 21 points and has more than half of those in his last 11 games.
12-30-13: The Panthers are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games, but they dug themselves too deep of a hole to have any shot at the playoffs this season. Similar to the Oilers and Sabres, Florida will look to the WJC to get hope for the future. Ian McCoshen, who plays at Boston College, was a +1 in the first game for Team USA. The Panther’s powerplay sits dead last in the NHL operating at just 11.2%.
12-23-13: Peter Horachek was hired as head coach at the end of November and he had the dubious task of turning the Panthers around. Florida is 7-3-0 in December. On December 1, the gap between the Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs (the team in the final wild card spot) was 12 points. Just three weeks later, that gap has fallen to seven. Tom Gilbert, the Panthers number two defender, has 13 points in 37 games, and is averaging 21:08 in ice-time per night.
12-16-13: The Florida Panthers have been playing some good hockey as of late. The Panthers have strung together some solid performances recently as they've won five out of their last six games, including a 2-1 road win against the Canadiens this past Sunday. Despite the hot streak, the Panthers are still 10 points back of a playoff spot. They have a three-game road swing this upcoming week, as they'll face Toronto, Ottawa, and Winnipeg. Tim Thomas should be considered for Team USA for the Sochi Olympics.
12-9-13: Florida finished last week with a .500 record, despite some tough opponents. They lost to Ottawa at home but beat the Jets. The Panthers then went on the road to take on Detroit and Chicago. Surprisingly, Florida beat the Red Wings in Joe Louis Arena, but was destroyed by Chicago 6-2. Averaging 27:02 per game, Brian Campbell ranks third in the NHL in average ice time. Florida is not making the playoffs so I would not be shocked to see Campbell’s name involved in trade rumors come deadline time.
12-2-13: Florida had three games this past week, which was the beginning of a five-game home stand. The Panthers won only one game over the Flyers on the back of a 38-save performance from Tim Thomas. The Rangers and Penguins both lit up Thomas and the Panthers for ten goals against. Peter Horachek’s top defensive pair of Brian Campbell and Tom Gilbert has been relatively successful this season. The trouble is that the rest of the defense corps is a combined minus-40.
11-25-13: It was a strange week for the Panthers won once in the shootout, lost in the shootout once, and lost in regulation to the Oilers. Florida still needs a ton of work before they become a contender in the East. It’s a real shame the Panthers don’t get the support they deserve in South Florida. If they were in a true hockey market the names Jonathan Huburdeau Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad would be household names.
11-18-13: The Panthers actually had a good week beating the red-hot Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche. They did however lose to Minnesota. Tim Thomas stopped 64 of 67 shots (0.955 save percentage) in Florida’s two wins but allowed three goals on just 20 shots (0.850 save percentage) versus the Wild. The Panthers are the only team in the NHL below 10 percent on the powerplay. The Cats are clicking at an abysmal 9.5 percent. Florida must turn that number around quickly if they want any chance of salvaging their season.
11-12-13: The Panthers haven’t won a game in nine contests and head coach Kevin Dineen got the axed and was fired last week along with both his assistants. The Panthers have only three wins on the year and one of those wins came via the shootout. Florida along with the Oilers are the only two teams in the NHL with sub-900 save percentage five-on-five. If you can’t stop the puck you won’t win many hockey games. That’s a fact.
11-5-13: The Panthers are currently in midst of a five-game losing streak. They have only three regulation wins on the season and only one in their last 13 games since their opening win against Dallas. This team and franchise is a flat out joke. They have no fans whatsoever. They have a bunch of young talent that is going to waste such as Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. It’s time to start the Kevin Dineen coaching watch now.
10-29-13: After a dismal start to the year, the Panthers had a chance to make up some ground with a five-game homestand. Well, that hasn’t gone according to plan. The Panthers have only a shootout win during that stretch and lost all three games this week. When will the 31st overall pick in 2008, Jacob Markstrom, take control of the net for Florida? He’s looked awful in his nine starts this year with a 1-4-2 record and an abysmal .887 save percentage.
10-21-13: Much was made about Tim Thomas’ disappointing loss to his former team, the Boston Bruins. The Panthers followed up their loss to Boston with a solid shootout victory against the Minnesota Wild. It’s already been an up-and-down season for Kevin Dineen and his squad. Much of Florida’s success will hedge on Tim Thomas’ health and how well he plays throughout the year. That’s something I would not like if I were a Panthers fan. Brian Campebell and Tom Gilbert have been steady on the blueline thus far.
Getting off to a quick start has been the problem for head coach Kevin Dineen and the Florida Panthers. They have given up the second most goals in the NHL and starting goalie Tim Thomas is recovering from a groin injury. Center Nick Bjugstad was taken off injured reserve and could an option in next coming days. The lone bright spot for the Panthers was their 6-3 victory last Friday against the high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins.
10-7-13: Florida had a big opening night win in Dallas, in which rookie Aleksander Barkov scored his first career NHL goal. They followed up that win with a 7-0 drubbing to the hands of the St. Louis Blues. Tim Thomas has actually looked okay in his return to the NHL.
8-22-13: The Florida Panthers went from a division title to the worst team in the NHL last season. They were decimated by injuries and did not get production from their top players; however there is hope in South Florida. Florida possesses the deepest prospect pool in the NHL and the Panthers brass is hoping their youth movement will translate into success in the realigned Atlantic Division. Florida kicks off their 20th anniversay season Oct. 3 in Dallas, which is the beginning of a four-game road trip. The Panthers home open against Pittsburgh on Oct. 11 will be a “throwback” night.
8-3-13: The Panthers have signed two-time Stanley Cup champion Scott Gomez to a one-year deal.
Panthers 2013 NHL Draft Summary
Pick #2: Aleksander Barkov, C
Pick #31: Ian McCoshen, D
Pick #92: Evan Cowley, G
Pick #97: Michael Downing, D
Pick #98: Matt Buckles, C
Pick #122: Christopher Clapperton,LW
Pick #152: Joshua Brown, D
Pick #206: MacKenzie Weegar, D