2017-18 Florida Panthers Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
There are a lot of bad decisions made every year in the NHL, but the unquestionable winner last season as far as I am concerned was the move to fire Gerard Gallant as head coach of the Panthers in November. He was above .500 at the time, and he was a year removed from a very solid season. Not to mention that he is definitely one of the better coaches in the league - as was proven when the Vegas Golden Knights wasted no time before tabbing him to be the first coach in the history of their team. It would be one thing if a team made a bad move like that in order to install another available, accomplished coach. Instead, GM Tom Rowe, who was lousy at that job, too, moved himself into the head coach role even though he had never been a head coach in the league. Needless to say, it created chaos, and a season that wasn't in terrible shape was lost.
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Rowe doesn't hold either of those jobs anymore, now just serving as a token team adviser because that's cheaper than firing him. To replace him they finally made a good decision, bringing in Bob Boughner, who dominated Canadian junior hockey as a coach before serving as an assistant with San Jose. He's a strong hire. On a personal level I'm happy to see Boughner succeed; he joins new Buffalo coach Phil Housley and Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan as guys I watched play for my hometown Flames growing up.
Florida Panthers Offseason Moves
Instead of making major moves, the Panthers shuffled the deck a bit this offseason. They let a couple of guys move on - most notably the ageless Jaromir Jagr, who sure looked last year like he was still playing a key role on the team. Perhaps Boughner just wasn't interested in coaching his former Pittsburgh teammate. The most notable addition was Radim Vrbata, who is 36 but could be a bargain at $2.5 million if he comes close to replicating his 55-point season with the Coyotes last year. He's not nearly as talented as Jagr, but he's almost a decade younger, so he could conceivably step into the same role.
The oddest offseason move, by far, was allowing themselves to lose Jonathan Marchessault in the expansion draft. He's only 26, and he scored 30 goals last year for a team that was second-to-last in the Eastern Conference in goals scored, so exposing him seems almost criminally stupid. At the very least, if he didn't factor into your plans for some reason then trading him would have returned a pretty decent asset.
The team gambled by bringing back Evgenii Dadonov, a free agent from the
KHL, for three years and $12 million. He's 28, but his entire NHL
experience boils down to 55 games over three seasons ending in 2012 with
the Panthers - the team that originally drafted him. He really wasn't ready
for the NHL back then, but the winger had 66 points in 53 games in the KHL
last year, so his game has clearly matured. KHL performance doesn't always
translate the NHL - most often it doesn't really - so it is no guarantee
that this move will pay off.
The Panthers got a nice player in Owen Tippett in the first round of the draft, but the winger is young and will take time.
Florida Panthers NHL Outlook
You need to score goals to win in the NHL. They were lousy at that last year, and they certainly haven't done enough to change that. They are relying heavily on Dadonov, but he has a lot to replace in Jagr, Marchessault, and veterans like Jussi Jokinen and Thomas Vanek who were dispatched. It's hard to see how this group is significantly better - or even as good as last year, offensively, and that will ultimately determine their fate. I like Boughner, and they have some pieces to build with in the longer term, but right now they just haven't improved enough.
Florida Panthers Schedule
The schedule is really tough out of the gate, with their first nine against playoff teams. What really stands out as I write this, though, is the uncertainty about what the team could be faced with early in the season and through camp. As I write this Hurricane Irma is a couple of days from landfall and could impact Miami. If it does then it's a potential distraction that could weigh on a team that doesn't need distractions.
Florida Panthers NHL Futures Odds
Bovada has Florida at +4000 to win the Stanley Cup, which places them ahead of 11 teams. That feels generous. BetOnline has them at +2000 to win the Eastern Conference, which has them behind 10 teams. They are the sixth choice of eight teams at +1000 to win the Atlantic - a division they won just two seasons ago. The season win total is set at 38.5, which is up 10 percent from the 35 wins they had last season.
2017-18 Florida Panthers Predictions
I am not optimistic. In fact, I like the under on the win total a lot. They won't be able to score, and that puts too much pressure on a backend, which is top heavy but not deep enough to handle that burden.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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