One of the most talented clubs under the average age of teams within the NHL are the Florida Panthers. Unfortunately for the 'Cats, the inexperienced youth, along with injury issues and inconsistency, brought the team's dreams back to reality.
Current record- 31-34-12, 74 points (13th in East) When they were mathematically eliminated- Pending - will be any day now The stretch that killed them- March 11 through March 31 (3-6-2)
As much of a hope the playoffs were at one point, they are now crushed images to the players donning the Panther logo on the front of their sweaters. However, the theme of "see you next year" is more of a positive outlook on next year and the 'Cats have an inspirational one.
The taste of the 'second season' was splashing on the their tongues. Close enough to the playoffs that it was beginning to look like a positive season.
With Alexaner Salak seeing some pro club ice-time and Jacob Markstrom gaining further development currently playing for Brynas IF in Elitserien, the Panthers have a decision to make on the status of goaltender Tomas Vokoun. A very difficult choice at that to have to let go of a top-flight goaltender in this league due to salary and age issues. It becomes an even harder pill to swallow if the Panthers are pressured to be competitive next season.
Between the pipes it seems as if the Panthers are set for years. Especially if the development pans out for Salak and Markstrom.
Up front, youngsters currently steal the show as is. Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton, Michael Frolik and currently injured David Booth have shown spark and have set fear in their opponents due to the level they are progressing at.
On the blue-line, Dimitri Kulikov has the abilities to develop into a top pairing D-man for the Panthers. Keaton Ellerby remains a top prospect who is not far away from a full time spot with the club. He has already appeared in 17 games this year. Keith Ballard is only 27 years old, and with Bryan McCabe on board through next season, pieces are in place.
The Panthers will forever remain in limbo as to how long they last down in the Sunshine State. If all goes well, the playoffs are right around the corner and that will help fill the seats instantly.
It's time to not only have to sun shine in South Florida.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.