Most NHL teams have started or are just a few days away from training camp; a time where young rookies look to impress and fight for a permanent spot on the roster. This is one of the most exciting times for rookies, returning NHL veterans, coaches, and of course, the fans.
Panther’s fans certainly have plenty of reasons to be excited this season. The Florida Panthers are coming off a record year and hope to build on that recent success. The Panthers finished first in the Atlantic Division and third overall in the Eastern Conference with a record of 47-26-9. Florida Panthers GM Tom Rowe moved quickly to keep the core players from last season, offering contract extensions to forwards Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck and defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Star Forward Jonathan Huberdeau signed a six year contract extension recently as well.
Together, these players tallied a massive total of 198 points last season. Clearly these guys know how to score goals. And when you factor in the 126 points, courtesy of veteran’s Jaromir Jagr and Jussi Jokinen, it’s difficult to see this team finishing anything lower than third this year.
And the additions of defensemen Keith Yandle and Jason Demers will provide Head Coach Gerard Gallant with some much needed depth in the defensive end. The veteran Yandle will likely be paired with Ekblad on the powerplay while Demers will rotate the lines and kill penalties. Either way you look at it, this team’s roster has the perfect mix of youth and experience to be able to progress deep into the playoffs this year.
Between the Pipes:
There may still be questions as to whether veteran goalie Roberto Luongo will be able to carry the Panthers into the playoffs yet again. Luongo posted a 35-19-6 record with the Panthers last season and played six playoff games as well. This guy loves playing under pressure and has proven he can still compete with the best. He may have went 2-4 in the playoffs last year but let’s be fair, three of those losses were in OT. Regardless, the off season signing of former Sharks goalie James Reimer will certainly help balance out the work load for Luongo.
So whether it’s star-studded offense, old-school goaltending, or even the new team logo, there are plenty of reasons to watch hockey in the sunny south this season.