Florida Panthers 18-19 Season In Review

Florida-Panthers-18-19-Season-In-Review

There’s a reason “one-dimensional” isn’t used as a compliment. Successful NHL teams typically display at least some semblance of balance between their offense and defense. The only exceptions to this rule are fueled by otherworldly firepower.

The Florida Panthers were indeed “one-dimensional” in 2018-19, and while their attack was fearsome, it wasn’t potent enough to mask the team’s serious three-zone issues. Leaky defense and horrendous goaltending yielded a 17-20-8 record (27th) by mid-January. Florida did mount an admirable 19-12-6 push (7th) to close out the year, but the damage had already been done and the club ultimately finished 10 points shy of the playoffs. This marked the third straight year for the Panthers without a postseason appearance.

At the very least, their fans got to enjoy a coach’s nightmare: loose, viewer-friendly hockey. Bob Boughner was blessed to ice a stellar top six that had been rounded out in the summer. General manager Dale Tallon took advantage of a bizarre personal situation involving Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman, adding the talented winger in exchange for a few draft picks. The 29-year-old proceeded to set career highs in goals (36) and points (70). He enjoyed his best linemates to date and they benefited from his absolute cannon of a shot. That trait was never more apparent than on the power play, where his one-timer threat changed the entire complexion of Florida’s man advantage. It jumped from 21st in the league to second in the span of one year.

The acquisition of Hoffman deepened a forward corps headlined by two-way monster Aleksander Barkov (96 points in 82 games) and nifty playmaker Jonathan Huberdeau (92 points in 82 games). They both shattered their previous bests, creating magic on the rush and fending off defenders down low to generate offense in more congested areas. They were virtually unstoppable in all situations throughout the season.

Dynamic winger Evgenii Dadonov (70 points in 82 games), mobile blueliner Keith Yandle (62 points in 82 games) and first-year Panther Frank Vatrano (39 points in 81 games) all set new high-water marks as well. While Dadonov is hardly a power forward, the 30-year-old isn’t afraid of getting his nose dirty. After all, 82% of his goals came from the slot or closer. His finish and willingness to compete in the trenches made him a great fit alongside more puck-dominant forwards. Meanwhile, Yandle remains one of the more underrated offensive defensemen in the world. For all his warts on the other end of the ice, the 32-year-old knows how to chip in on the attack with his swift skating and great shot. He finished third leaguewide in power play points last season. Finally, Vatrano was a wonderful surprise. Tallon shipped a third-round pick out for his services and the 25-year-old registered 24 goals. That total eclipsed his career high in points.

On the flip side, center Vincent Trocheck (34 points in 55 games) missed some time due to injury and wasn’t quite as effective as in years past. However, he remained a solid contributor and filled out a top six that could take on all comers.

Overall, Florida ranked ninth offensively and scored the most goals in franchise history.

Unfortunately, the Panthers have never allowed more goals either. Their eagerness to generate chances came at the expense of their defensive structure. Boughner just couldn’t strike a two-way balance, as the club repeatedly overcommitted to the attack and blew assignments in their own zone. Those poor fundamentals were reflected in their underlying numbers: The closer you got to prime real estate, the worse they performed. At 5-on-5, Florida controlled 49.4% of the shot attempts (16th), 48.8% of the scoring chances (18th) and 46.0% of the high-danger opportunities (26th).

As mentioned earlier, Yandle has never been particularly sound defensively and that trend was not broken in 2018-19. He was perfectly happy trading chances with opponents and often looked downright lazy in coverage. That’s not ideal, but it’s palatable if you can insulate him with a stay-at-home defender capable of handling top-pairing responsibilities. Though Aaron Ekblad enjoyed a bounce-back season, he and Yandle were not a suitable fit. The Panthers performed better when the two were apart. 2013 seventh-round pick MacKenzie Weegar was actually the most effective foil for Yandle (53.0 CF%, 56.2 SCF%, 53.3 HDCF%, 64.7 GF%), offering a quiet and steady counterpoint to Yandle’s explosive albeit erratic tendencies.

First-year pro Bogdan Kiselevich also fared quite well in a limited role. He looked poised, seldom forced the issue and flashed solid instincts in his zone, resulting in the highest xGF% (53.9) on the entire team.

However, there wasn’t much in the way of dependability otherwise.

Mike Matheson was still very raw in his third pro campaign. The 25-year-old former first-rounder coughed up pucks like nobody’s business and was made to look foolish by a number of talented forwards. His wheels are terrific…but they’re not all that valuable if they keep taking him to the wrong places.

Elsewhere, Mark Pysyk and Josh Brown delivered replacement-level value. They weren’t disasters, but they made virtually no impact on the outcome of games. 23-year-old Ian McCoshen struggled to protect his house with a team-low 39.4 HDCF% and Alex Petrovic was such an all-around liability (46.5 SCF%, 40.6 HDCF%, 30.8 GF%) that he was dealt to Edmonton and subsequently scratched after just nine games.

The last line of defense only added salt to the wound. 40-year-old Roberto Luongo (3.12 GAA, 89.9 SV%) battled injuries and Father Time throughout the worst season of his career. Behind him, James Reimer (3.09 GAA, 90.0 SV%) and Sam Montembault (3.04 GAA, 89.4 SV%) did little to shore up the back end. A shaky blue line playing in front of an even shakier goaltending trio was bad news. Unsurprisingly, these sore spots sunk the Panthers. Their defense ranked 28th (3.33 GAPG) and they posted the second-worst on-ice save percentage in the league. No offense was ever going to overcome those shortcomings.

Now for the good news: Joel Quenneville is the new head coach. Judging by his time in Chicago, he knows how to establish a winning culture and deploy a competitive defense.

That’s a massive development for a couple of reasons. First, that was obviously the club’s biggest weakness. Second, a slight offensive regression is to be expected following banner years from Barkov, Huberdeau, Dadonov, Hoffman and Yandle. Tightening up the Panthers’ three-zone play will go a long way toward mitigating that offensive dip and propelling the squad back into the playoff conversation.

Tallon’s work in free agency should provide additional help in that regard.

The seven-year, $70 million contract required to obtain star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky’s (2.58 GAA, 91.3 SV%) services was steep, but this was such a glaring area of need that Tallon had to address it. The 30-year-old is a two-time Vezina Trophy winner coming off a terrific playoff run (2.41 GAA, 92.5 SV%). He also plays a position that ages more gracefully than most. Meanwhile, bringing Anton Stralman on board was a nice under-the-radar signing that will bolster the right side of Florida’s defense. The 33-year-old struggled with an upper-body injury last season, but a summer to fully recover and a lesser role on the second pairing should allow him to provide sturdy contributions.

Up front, Tallon inked Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari to mid-term deals. Though Connolly’s breakout year did coincide with his UFA status, he carries a reasonable cap hit and offers Quenneville the luxury of mixing up his lines when they need a spark. Acciari, for his part, is a reliable energy player who should improve the bottom six. Youth-wise, 2017 10th overall pick Owen Tippett and 2017 40th overall pick Aleksi Heponiemi will

2018-19 Season Review: Florida Panthers

There’s a reason “one-dimensional” isn’t used as a compliment. Successful NHL teams typically display at least some semblance of balance between their offense and defense. The only exceptions to this rule are fueled by otherworldly firepower.

The Florida Panthers were indeed “one-dimensional” in 2018-19, and while their attack was fearsome, it wasn’t potent enough to mask the team’s serious three-zone issues. Leaky defense and horrendous goaltending yielded a 17-20-8 record (27th) by mid-January. Florida did mount an admirable 19-12-6 push (7th) to close out the year, but the damage had already been done and the club ultimately finished 10 points shy of the playoffs. This marked the third straight year for the Panthers without a postseason appearance.

At the very least, their fans got to enjoy a coach’s nightmare: loose, viewer-friendly hockey. Bob Boughner was blessed to ice a stellar top six that had been rounded out in the summer. General manager Dale Tallon took advantage of a bizarre personal situation involving Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman, adding the talented winger in exchange for a few draft picks. The 29-year-old proceeded to set career highs in goals (36) and points (70). He enjoyed his best linemates to date and they benefited from his absolute cannon of a shot. That trait was never more apparent than on the power play, where his one-timer threat changed the entire complexion of Florida’s man advantage. It jumped from 21st in the league to second in the span of one year.

The acquisition of Hoffman deepened a forward corps headlined by two-way monster Aleksander Barkov (96 points in 82 games) and nifty playmaker Jonathan Huberdeau (92 points in 82 games). They both shattered their previous bests, creating magic on the rush and fending off defenders down low to generate offense in more congested areas. They were virtually unstoppable in all situations throughout the season.

Dynamic winger Evgenii Dadonov (70 points in 82 games), mobile blueliner Keith Yandle (62 points in 82 games) and first-year Panther Frank Vatrano (39 points in 81 games) all set new high-water marks as well. While Dadonov is hardly a power forward, the 30-year-old isn’t afraid of getting his nose dirty. After all, 82% of his goals came from the slot or closer. His finish and willingness to compete in the trenches made him a great fit alongside more puck-dominant forwards. Meanwhile, Yandle remains one of the more underrated offensive defensemen in the world. For all his warts on the other end of the ice, the 32-year-old knows how to chip in on the attack with his swift skating and great shot. He finished third leaguewide in power play points last season. Finally, Vatrano was a wonderful surprise. Tallon shipped a third-round pick out for his services and the 25-year-old registered 24 goals. That total eclipsed his career high in points.

On the flip side, center Vincent Trocheck (34 points in 55 games) missed some time due to injury and wasn’t quite as effective as in years past. However, he remained a solid contributor and filled out a top six that could take on all comers.

Overall, Florida ranked ninth offensively and scored the most goals in franchise history.

Unfortunately, the Panthers have never allowed more goals either. Their eagerness to generate chances came at the expense of their defensive structure. Boughner just couldn’t strike a two-way balance, as the club repeatedly overcommitted to the attack and blew assignments in their own zone. Those poor fundamentals were reflected in their underlying numbers: The closer you got to prime real estate, the worse they performed. At 5-on-5, Florida controlled 49.4% of the shot attempts (16th), 48.8% of the scoring chances (18th) and 46.0% of the high-danger opportunities (26th).

As mentioned earlier, Yandle has never been particularly sound defensively and that trend was not broken in 2018-19. He was perfectly happy trading chances with opponents and often looked downright lazy in coverage. That’s not ideal, but it’s palatable if you can insulate him with a stay-at-home defender capable of handling top-pairing responsibilities. Though Aaron Ekblad enjoyed a bounce-back season, he and Yandle were not a suitable fit. The Panthers performed better when the two were apart. 2013 seventh-round pick MacKenzie Weegar was actually the most effective foil for Yandle (53.0 CF%, 56.2 SCF%, 53.3 HDCF%, 64.7 GF%), offering a quiet and steady counterpoint to Yandle’s explosive albeit erratic tendencies.

First-year pro Bogdan Kiselevich also fared quite well in a limited role. He looked poised, seldom forced the issue and flashed solid instincts in his zone, resulting in the highest xGF% (53.9) on the entire team.

However, there wasn’t much in the way of dependability otherwise.

Mike Matheson was still very raw in his third pro campaign. The 25-year-old former first-rounder coughed up pucks like nobody’s business and was made to look foolish by a number of talented forwards. His wheels are terrific…but they’re not all that valuable if they keep taking him to the wrong places.

Elsewhere, Mark Pysyk and Josh Brown delivered replacement-level value. They weren’t disasters, but they made virtually no impact on the outcome of games. 23-year-old Ian McCoshen struggled to protect his house with a team-low 39.4 HDCF% and Alex Petrovic was such an all-around liability (46.5 SCF%, 40.6 HDCF%, 30.8 GF%) that he was dealt to Edmonton and subsequently scratched after just nine games.

The last line of defense only added salt to the wound. 40-year-old Roberto Luongo (3.12 GAA, 89.9 SV%) battled injuries and Father Time throughout the worst season of his career. Behind him, James Reimer (3.09 GAA, 90.0 SV%) and Sam Montembault (3.04 GAA, 89.4 SV%) did little to shore up the back end. A shaky blue line playing in front of an even shakier goaltending trio was bad news. Unsurprisingly, these sore spots sunk the Panthers. Their defense ranked 28th (3.33 GAPG) and they posted the second-worst on-ice save percentage in the league. No offense was ever going to overcome those shortcomings.

Now for the good news: Joel Quenneville is the new head coach. Judging by his time in Chicago, he knows how to establish a winning culture and deploy a competitive defense.

That’s a massive development for a couple of reasons. First, that was obviously the club’s biggest weakness. Second, a slight offensive regression is to be expected following banner years from Barkov, Huberdeau, Dadonov, Hoffman and Yandle. Tightening up the Panthers’ three-zone play will go a long way toward mitigating that offensive dip and propelling the squad back into the playoff conversation.

Tallon’s work in free agency should provide additional help in that regard.

The seven-year, $70 million contract required to obtain star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky’s (2.58 GAA, 91.3 SV%) services was steep, but this was such a glaring area of need that Tallon had to address it. The 30-year-old is a two-time Vezina Trophy winner coming off a terrific playoff run (2.41 GAA, 92.5 SV%). He also plays a position that ages more gracefully than most. Meanwhile, bringing Anton Stralman on board was a nice under-the-radar signing that will bolster the right side of Florida’s defense. The 33-year-old struggled with an upper-body injury last season, but a summer to fully recover and a lesser role on the second pairing should allow him to provide sturdy contributions.

Up front, Tallon inked Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari to mid-term deals. Though Connolly’s breakout year did coincide with his UFA status, he carries a reasonable cap hit and offers Quenneville the luxury of mixing up his lines when they need a spark. Acciari, for his part, is a reliable energy player who should improve the bottom six. Youth-wise, 2017 10th overall pick Owen Tippett and 2017 40th overall pick Aleksi Heponiemi will be looking to convince the coaching staff that they’re ready for pro minutes. Neither player is a finished product of course, but they both bring high offensive upside and could carve out an offensive role on the third line. With a productive top six leading the charge, Florida can afford to be patient and ease its prospects along.

From defense to scoring depth, Florida focused on achieving greater balance this offseason. The Panthers’ games may not be quite as eventful next year, but they have bigger fish to fry. Barkov and Ekblad are approaching their prime, Huberdeau and Hoffman are in theirs, their power play is lethal, they strengthened their blue line, added a top five goaltender and replaced a bewildered head coach with a respected leader boasting championship pedigree.

They’re looking to win as soon as possible.

be looking to convince the coaching staff that they’re ready for pro minutes. Neither player is a finished product of course, but they both bring high offensive upside and could carve out an offensive role on the third line. With a productive top six leading the charge, Florida can afford to be patient and ease its prospects along.

From defense to scoring depth, Florida focused on achieving greater balance this offseason. The Panthers’ games may not be quite as eventful next year, but they have bigger fish to fry. Barkov and Ekblad are approaching their prime, Huberdeau and Hoffman are in theirs, their power play is lethal, they strengthened their blue line, added a top five goaltender and replaced a bewildered head coach with a respected leader boasting championship pedigree.

They’re looking to win as soon as possible.