The Florida Panthers find themselves in a very familiar place: on the outside looking in. At 29-20-6 the Panthers find themselves 2 points back of the third playoff spot for the Atlantic division and 5 points behind for a wildcard spot.
In most cases, you might be okay with this as a Panthers fan. In years of Panthers past, you could even say you’d be satisfied. With 27 games left, the Panthers control their own destiny to get back in to the playoffs.
That may be the root of the problem.
This year is suppose to be different. This was the year everything was suppose to change. For the most part, they have. The Panthers used most of their cap room in the off-season. They signed the biggest goalie free agent. They got into a room with Artemi Panarin. They hired arguably one of the five best coaches in NHL history in Joel Quenneville. The pieces were filled to sorrowing the core, a problem they’ve needed to fix for years. The winning culture was in place.
For the first half of the season, we saw the changes. The value signings the Panthers made were paying dividends. Noel Acciari has 18 goals. Brett Connolly has 17. Daddanov has 23. This led to early success, for the most part of the first half of the season, the Panthers held or were within 4 points of a playoff spot. Going into the all-star break, the Panthers were playing their best hockey, winning 6 straight games. Going into the break, the Panthers were 4 points up on Toronto for third in the Atlantic and only trailed Tampa by a point.
Due to the All-Star break and the scheduled bye week, the Panthers went 10+ days without playing a game after the winning streak.
Since the All Star break, it has been a much different start. The Panthers are 1-4-1 and have been out scored 22-10 in that time span. They’ve lost about 5 points in the wild card race and 6 in the division. Though, they still have a game in hand so we’ll call it 4.
With the trade deadline coming up, you can almost expect the Panthers will be buyers. Dale Tallon will be aggressive to make sure this team gets in. The Panthers are starved for upgrading their defensive line. They have assets, picks and prospects to try to swing a deal. Or they may use their NHL talent on the offensive side of the puck to get a defensive. Whatever way they do it, they need to make a move.
If the 2019-2020 Panthers want to separate themselves from past Panthers teams, the turnaround needs to start now. The Panthers play a last place Devils team tonight, a big wild card swing game on Thursday vs the Flyers and the Oilers. 5 of 6 points might be necessary for them.
Since the All-Star break, #FlaPanthers have seen their six-game winning streak come a crashing halt, have been outscored 22-10 and are 1-4-1. Ouch.
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) February 11, 2020
These next few games will see if the culture has changed for Panthers hockey, or we will see if they are heading towards missing the playoffs again for the 18th time in the last 20 years.
For the sake of the Panthers, we hope this is just a rough patch and we see them playing hockey in mid-April.