More teams in the NHL make the playoffs, 16, than miss the playoffs, 14. So the fact that the Panthers have missed the playoffs nine consecutive seasons is hard to believe. And the fact that they have not won a playoff game since 1997 is even harder to believe.
What is not hard to believe is that the Panthers have tied the NHL record for postseason futility and another postseason miss will set the new league standard for consecutive seasons without a postseason trip.
There is hope in South Beach to end that streak but it is probably not going to happen this season. The Panthers version of the Miami Heat’s ‘Big Three’ is David Booth, Michael Frolik and Dmitry Kulikov. These aren’t exactly household names, but in hockey circles the trio are considered a group of prospects with plenty of potential.
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Without question this is as complete of a rebuilding effort as you will see in the league this year. Florida management is not worried about setting the NHL record for postseason futility, its goals are further down the road and the on-ice product will suffer this season.
There is potential, but there are also problems. Like their 2.5 goals per game last season (28th in the league), 28.4 shots per game (27th), 14.2-percent power play (29th) and 34.1 shots against per game (30th).
The fact that the team ranked last in shots allowed but 19th in goals allowed is a testament to goalie Tomas Vokoun, the most valuable player on the Panthers. He was only 23-39-7, but that was hardly his fault. His goals-against average was 2.55.
The Florida Panthers schedule starts with a three-game road swing through Canada starting Oct. 10 in Edmonton, winding through Vancouver and ending at Calgary. The Panthers open the home part of their schedule Oct. 16 against Southeast Division rival Tampa Bay.
Florida dumped winger Nathan Horton (team best 37 assists) and center Gregory Campbell (15 goals and 17 assists) along with defensemen Keith Ballard, who appeared in 82 games last season. They added mostly draft picks, but also some players that could make an impact including center Marty Reasoner (Atlanta) and wingers Steve Bernier (Vancouver) and Chris Higgins (Calgary).
Florida Panthers Predictions: Outlook
The outlook is a positive one, but that is long term as in four years down the road. The immediate future looks like a rough road for Florida and even being in the playoff discussion will come as a shock to many.
Florida Panthers Futures Odds
Florida’s odds to win the Southeast Division are +4000 and to win the Eastern Conference, +5000, the longest shot in the conference tied with the Islanders. Their odds to win the Stanley Cup are +10,000. The most telling future line for Florida is their ‘over/under’ for points which is 71.5. The Panthers finished with 77 points last season so the 71.5 points represents an even further regression from last season and also represents the lowest total in the league with nobody really close them including the Oilers (76.5), Islanders (78.5) and Blue Jackets (79.5). NHL odds are courtesy of BetUS.
NHL Predictions for Florida Panthers
Florida will be looked out as an easy out to most opponents this season, and that alone will give them the chance to sneak up on some teams, especially in the ever-easy Southeast Division. Vokoun is entering the last year of his contract and he could be trade bait as the trade deadline nears. If that happens Florida will struggle to win but still 71.5 points is not exactly setting the bar high. Look for the Panthers to find a way to go ‘over’ 71.5 points.
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