Florida Panthers 2008 Offseason Report
The Panthers have successfully not made the playoffs for the 7th straight season. What really sucks for the franchise is that Florida is always less than 10 points out of the 8th spot and always look to have chance, but always slowly fade and fail.
This season the Panthers lost over 400 man games due to injury but not one was on their most important players. Former captain and recently traded Olli Jokinen, Nathan Horton and Jay Bouwmeester did not miss a single game all season. Richard Zednik was out for many weeks after he was accidently brutally sliced in the neck by Jokinen’s skate in a game. That was a serious injury that sadly related to the Panthers season.
Florida had so many injuries this year that they had to dress 37 different players in 2008, making it hard to develop team chemistry. How does a team mend together when you do not know who your line-mates will be?
On the positive side, they completely rebooted the defensive core with the acquisitions of Nick Boyton and Keith Ballard who both add leadership and grit. Newly signed coach, Peter DeBoer has one of the youngest teams in the league in Florida that just need to be led the next step. His tough duty will be to bring out the talent of his prospects to improve the 38-35-9 record of 08’; mission impossible.
The Panthers did make the Stanley Cup finals in 1996, losing to the Colorado Avalanche for the first and possibly last time. Looking down the line, Florida does not have the roster to contend for the playoffs for at least 3 years, never mind the Cup.
With Jokinen gone, who will step up to be the new leader on and off the ice?
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Notable top players staying for the Florida Panthers:
Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss, Richard Zednik, David Booth, Bryan Allen, Tomas Vokoun
Florida Panthers - Notable free agents (restricted and unrestricted):
Jay Bouwmeester, Jassen Cullimore, Rostislav Olesz, Anthony Stewart
What Florida has:
A hell of a lot of youth and a great goalie in Tomas Vokoun. They also have a new coach in Peter Deboer
What Florida needs:
- A scoring threat not named Nathan Horton. Jokinen’s departure leaves a huge hole in the forward position and in the scoring presence. So the Panthers need at least 2 above average forwards.
- They solved the defensive issue Florida had is now filled with trading for Keith Ballard, Nick Boyton on draft day and Wade Belak at the trade deadline.
Expectations for the Panthers next year:
- At this time next year, I will be writing about how the Panthers have failed to make the playoffs in 8 straight seasons. No playoffs, no winning season and GM Jacques Martin will get fired. At this pace, it is hard to imagine a franchise in Florida in less than 10 years.
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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