21 games into the season, the Florida Panthers find themselves pretty much where most people thought they would be. They boast a 9-6-6 record, with a dismal 45 goals to show for themselves and 53 against.
In terms of scoring, the Panthers have received production from Jussi Jokinen and Nick Bjugstad in particular. Both have a dozen points, with Bjugstad’s eight goals leading the team. Jokinen has shown up in terms of assists, with 10 to show for himself thus far. Florida has received power play production from centre Brad Boyes, who has three goals on the man-advantage.
The issues are many, from the fact that goalie Roberto Luongo has faced down 508 shots in just 17 games (only Mike Smith and Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth have been hung out to dry more this season) to a lack of overall offensive production. Many are suggesting that now’s the time to pull the trigger and invest in the young Panthers for a change.
There’s some truth to that.
For one, Vincent Trocheck seems to be faring nicely. In a dozen games this season, he has eight points and is a plus-five. The 21-year-old from Pittsburgh is a big part of the future of the Florida organization and he’s already turned heads in some highlight reel moments, including his assist on Jimmy Hayes’ goal from Friday night.
Trocheck is an offensively-aware hockey player and he plays with his head on a swivel, so that makes him an ideal candidate for a top-drawer playmaker.
The Panthers have also got Jonathan Huberdeau making things happen, with eight points in 18 games. The 21-year-old has been generating shots like there’s no tomorrow, with 42 to his name already. With just two goals, however, he could work on getting a few more high-percentage chances.
Florida is also looking to youngsters like Rocco Grimaldi to make things happen, which shifts the attention to assets they could see walk if they had to make room. At the top of the list is Tomas Fleischmann. With just three points in 19 games, the 30-year-old winger hasn’t exactly been turning heads.
And Tomas Kopecky hasn’t fared much better. In 21 games, he just has three assists. Three assists. Of course, it’s not like the 32-year-old is known for putting up big digits. Still, his best season came in Florida in 2011-2012 when he was good for 32 points in 80 games and produced 10 goals. It’s hard to imagine him hitting that level this season.
So is it time to start making moves? Probably. The Panthers have a fair chunk of change wrapped up in Kopecky and Fleischmann and sooner or later have to start thinking about ROI. They’re both in the final years of their respective contrasts, too, so time is money – and then some.
Pushing Fleischmann and/or Kopecky out the door doesn’t necessarily spell the start of the youth movement for the Florida Panthers, but it would be a nice start. They aren’t the only underachievers on a team in trouble, but they do represent a good piece of the cap and could clear up some room.
For this hockey club, that’s probably as good a way to start a movement as any.