Panthers: Building on last spring?
Last season for the Florida Panthers was nothing short of a roller coaster. After winning the Presidents' Trophy the season before, the team had a precarious start, almost missing the playoffs. A dramatic first-round comeback against the Boston Bruins set the stage for an unexpected run that eventually landed them in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Last Season's Ups and Downs
In the regular season, despite their difficulties, Florida's ESBC Power AI metrics remained robust. The team seemed to be underperforming relative to their underlying stats, with bad luck characterizing much of the first three-quarters of the season. When it came to the playoffs, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky turned up the heat, and the metrics started aligning with outcomes—propelling the team to the Finals, where they ultimately fell to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Roster Changes and Injuries
The most significant changes for the Panthers are on the defensive end. Exit Radko Gudas and Marc Staal, and enter Niko Mikkola, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Dmitry Kulikov. These newcomers are expected to bolster the back six, but there are some injury concerns. Both Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad might miss some time early in the season, creating potential vulnerabilities.
Offensive Additions and Future Prospects
On the offensive side, the top acquisition was forward Evan Rodrigues, who is projected to contribute 15-20 goals. Center Anton Lundell is another player to keep an eye on. At just 21, Lundell has been showing great promise, and his development curve suggests he could be a vital cog in the Panthers' machinery this season.
The Coaching Continuity
Paul Maurice will continue as the head coach, providing stability and continuity to a team that remains a strong contender.
With their strong core of players, the Panthers are expected to be in the 100-point range for the upcoming season. However, this team knows better than anyone that metrics and expectations can often differ from reality. They'll need to start strong to avoid the mid-season drama of last year. The decline of Tampa Bay and Boston gives Florida better chances to challenge Toronto Maple Leafs for the Atlantic division title.
The Florida Panthers are a team in a strong position to make another deep playoff run. Their solid ESBC Power AI metrics indicate that their last regular season was more of an anomaly than a trend. With roster adjustments mainly on the defensive end and a couple of promising offensive additions, Florida is well poised for the 2023-2024 NHL season. However, they'll need to manage injuries carefully and hope for continued development from their younger players to ensure that this season's roller coaster has more ups than downs.
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