It’s no secret that success in the National Hockey League (NHL) can be a challenging and often unpredictable journey. Teams can go from Stanley Cup champions one year to barely squeaking into the playoffs the next. For the Florida Panthers, this has been the case for many years. The franchise has had its share of struggles, with a lack of consistent success and a revolving door of coaches and players. However, in recent years, they have defied the odds and made an impressive turnaround. From being at the bottom of the league, the Florida Panthers have risen to become one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Let’s delve into their journey and how they have transformed into a force to be reckoned with in the NHL.
The Florida Panthers are based in Sunrise, Florida, a suburb of Miami. The team was founded in 1993 and has been playing in the NHL since then. However, they have only qualified for the playoffs five times in their franchise history, with their last appearance being in 2016. This lack of success has led to the Panthers being one of the most overlooked and underrated teams in the league.
In recent years, the Panthers have made significant changes to their management and coaching staff. In 2016, Dale Tallon was promoted to president of hockey operations, and Tom Rowe was named general manager. They brought in Bob Boughner as head coach, who had a successful run as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks. This new leadership trio has been the catalyst for the Panthers’ turnaround.
One major improvement was the team’s focus on recruiting and developing young players. The Panthers have invested heavily in their minor league system, with their AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, consistently among the top teams in the league. This has allowed the Panthers to have a deep pool of talented players ready to step up and contribute at the NHL level when needed.
One of the Panthers’ first moves after restructuring their management was signing star forward and former first overall pick, Aleksander Barkov, to a long-term contract. The 2018-2019 season saw Barkov explode onto the scene, recording career-highs in goals (35), assists (61), and points (96). This marked the beginning of a dominant, consistent performance from Barkov, who has become the face of the Panthers franchise.
The Florida Panthers have also made some shrewd trades and acquisitions to strengthen their roster. In the 2019 offseason, they acquired former NHL MVP and three-time Stanley Cup champion, Sergei Bobrovsky, to solidify their goaltending. They also traded for skilled defenseman, Mark Pysyk, who has become a key defensive player for the Panthers.
But perhaps the most significant change the Panthers have made is their style of play on the ice. They have transformed into a fast-paced, high-scoring team that is always a threat to score. Under Boughner’s leadership, the Panthers have found their identity as an exciting, offensive team that is not afraid to take risks.
This approach has paid off, as the Panthers have been one of the top-scoring teams in the league in recent years. In the 2018-2019 season, they had seven players who recorded 50 or more points, with three players hitting the 30-goal mark. This offensive firepower has made the Panthers a dangerous team to face on any given night.
The Panthers have also put an emphasis on building a strong team culture. They have a dedicated leadership group, with Barkov as the captain, supported by players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, and Keith Yandle. This group has fostered a positive and competitive atmosphere within the team, leading to their success on the ice.
The Florida Panthers’ turnaround is a testament to their dedication and perseverance. Despite their lack of success in previous years, they have continued to push forward and make changes to become a top team in the NHL. With their talented roster, exciting style of play, and strong team culture, the Panthers are now a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.
The Florida Panthers have come a long way in recent years. From being at the bottom of the league, they have transformed into a top team, thanks to their investment in young players, strategic trades and acquisitions, a and exciting style of play, and a strong team culture. The Panthers will continue to be a team to watch out for in the NHL, and their impressive turnaround serves as an inspiration to other struggling teams in the league.