Last season – 3rd in the Eastern Conference
The Panthers had a surprisingly good season last year, finishing third in the Eastern Conference, but couldn’t manage to knock off the Islanders in the playoffs. They will start the season with several key injuries, but for a team who scored plenty and defended well last season, they should be able to find a way to be competitive again this year.
GM – Tom Rowe
A lot has changed for the Panthers prior to this season. Dale Tallon has moved up into an executive position (President of hockey operations), the team has rebranded both their logo and their jerseys, and they have a new GM in Tom Rowe, who at age 60 will be in his first GM-position after being a coach for much of his career.
Rowe was the head coach for the franchise AHL-team from 2013 to January earlier this year, before he was promoted to assistant-GM and this summer the new guy in charge. There is some questions toward how this will play out though, because according to the Panthers, the title changes are just that, and Tallon will still be the guy with the most responsibility, and that decisions will be taken by the whole management group. Previously Rowe has also been an assistant coach with the Hurricanes when they won the Cup in 2006.
Head Coach – Gerard Gallant
Gallant did a great job with this team last year, and they earned their first division title. He has shown a lot of faith in the young players on this team and managed to find the right roster spots for the veteran players within the team. Especially having Jagr finding his way within the group and now the newly appointed captain Derek MacKenzie
Keith Yandle (D), James Reimer (G), Mark Pysyk (D), Jason Demers (D), Reto Berra (G), Jonathan Marchessault (C), Colton Sceviour (C), Jared McCann (C), Graham Black (C), Paul Thompson (RW), Brody Sutter (C),
38th overall pick (Adam Mascherin, F), 89th overall pick (Linus Nassen, D), 2nd round pick 2016, 2nd round pick 2018 (conditional), 3rd round pick 2017, 4th round pick 2016, 195th overall pick (Benjamin Finkelstein, D)
Dmitry Kulikov (D), Brian Campbell (D), Erik Gudbranson (D), Teddy Purcell (RW), Al Montoya (G), Lawson Crouse (LW), Rocco Grimaldi (LW), Connor Brickley (C), Dave Bolland (contract, C), Marc Savard (contract, C),
33rd overall pick (Rasmus Asplund), 2nd round pick 2018, 4th round pick 2017, 5th round pick 2016, 6th round pick 2016, 7th round pick 2017
The teams biggest “obstacles” though the summer was to re-sign all of their important young players, and that they managed magnificently. The other thing they have done is to totally revamp their defense, and the biggest question will be if it’s for the better or for the worse. To become a team that can spend up to the cap, the Panthers also managed to get rid of both the Bolland and Savard contract, which was worth giving away a prospect like Lawson Crouse for.
Goaltending – 8/10
When you line up a duo of Luongo and Reimer, you can’t really complain. It’s a solid duo, but neither has been absolute stellar over the last few years, and one have to expect that Reimer is going to want to play more than what Montoya did.
Defense – 7/10
A total change up from what they iced last season, and by Panthers standard, last season were pretty good. There are several question marks to this group, and some might say that the ones brought him might be a coin flip in terms of skill when comparing to those who left the team this offseason.
Much will come down to how they adapt to Gallant and the teams playing system. Ekblad is one of the best young d-men in the league, but the uncertainty among the many changes in this group keeps the grade down.
Yandle – Ekblad
Matheson – Demers
Pysyk – Petrovic
Kindl – Kampfer
Forwards – 8/10
Offensively, there was a lot of fun to watch this group last season. Injuries on Bjugstad and Huberdeau sat aside, this group should be able to bring it this season as well. In addition, players like Barkov, Trocheck and Bjugstad are expected to improve even further.
Huberdeau – Barkov – Jagr
J. Jokinen – Trocheck – R.Smith
McCann – Bjugstad – Sceviour
Marchessault – MacKenzie – Harper
(McKegg – Malgin – S. Thornton)
Team Composition – 8/10
This team is built after a well-planned strategy, with the core being the youngsters of the team. They might not be Stanley Cup contenders this season, that will probably come too soon for them, but the mix of veterans and youth with offensive and defensive skilled qualities gives the team a good foundation to be contenders soon.
A question mark in regards to how good the defense is, and if the lack of depth on the wing will hurt more than they believe it will.
Leadership presence – 8/10
When you can ice Jagr at mid 40’s you got decades of leadership presence. Also finding the new captain to be a 35 year old 4th line center shows that what leadership is there, get recognized. There still might be a lack of a few more guys who have gone through certain things.
Which is a “bad thing” now, but will matter less in a few years when the “young guns” contend for the cup for real.
Skill Value – 8/10
Jagr, Barkov, Trocheck, Huberdeau, Ekblad, Bjugstad, Luongo and Yandle. There is plenty of skill to go around the roster. There are also good complimentary players and some holes and questions marks, but overall a roster that continues to be intriguing and improving.