The Florida Panthers took a dive in 2018-2019, generating just 86 points thanks to a 36-32-14 record. That’s 10 points less than the preceding season’s totals, which also saw them miss the playoffs but led to some resemblance of reinstated confidence.
So, what went wrong?
Remarkably, the 2018-2019 edition of the Panthers scored more goals than the 2017-2018 edition. They managed 267, fifth overall in the Eastern Conference and just six shy of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Panthers boasted five players with over 24 goals, including Frank Vatrano, Evgenii Dadonov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Mike Hoffman.
Hoffman’s first year in Florida was a doozy. He produced career-best totals in goals, points, power play goals, power play points, and shooting percentage. But he fell in other areas, posting a career-worst minus-24 rating.
Barkov led the team in points with 96, a career high. He managed 13 power play goals. Big things are expected from the 23-year-old and 2018-2019 was another step in the right direction.
Huberdeau also hit career-best totals with 92 points – including 30 goals and 62 assists. The 26-year-old punished on the power play with 11 goals.
Where things went wrong was in goals against, however, and the Panthers were pretty awful. They allowed 280, making them the third most porous team in the East. Only the Flyers and Senators allowed more.
The tandem of Roberto Luongo and James Reimer did not produce between the pipes. The now-retired Luongo put up numbers he hasn’t seen since his debut season in New York. His 3.12 goals against average was his second-worst total ever, “bested” only by a 3.25 goals against average on Long Island in 1999-2000.
Reimer, now a Hurricane, did not fare better. He started 29 games, picked up 13 wins, posted a goals against average of 3.09, and settled on a .900 save percentage.
The good news is that the Panthers understood the weakness and took hold by signing goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year deal worth $70 million. That’s a big money deal for a big money player, but Dale Tallon addressed his most conspicuous need in resounding fashion.
Coaching, too, looks to be fittingly positioned with the hiring of Joel Quenneville.
With Luongo and Reimer out, a new coach behind the bench, a superstar goalie, and an electrifying young core, it’s safe to say the Panthers have picked up the pieces from a calamitous 2018-2019 and did their level best to address what went wrong.
Whether this approach amounts to higher numbers in the wins column remains to be seen, but there’s a lot to like about next year’s model.
(Lead photo credit: NHL.com)