ORIGINALLY POSTED AT
29 September 2008
The Florida Panthers haven’t played a game in the postseason since 2000. After finishing nine points out of a playoff spot in 07-08, the club made adjustments. Team Captain and leading scorer Olli Jokinen was traded for help on the blueline. A rookie head coach, Peter DeBoer, was hired. Will these changes bear fruit in 08-09?
The Panthers have been called OUT of the playoffs (per OGA) in early DECEMBER (05-06, 06-07) or JANUARY (07-08) in each of the last three seasons, finishing each season with an average of -3.83 against the Playoff Qualifying Curve, or PQC.
Statistics of note from last season:
- Panthers games were full of shot: Florida ranked 4th in the NHL in Shots For/Game (31.1), and 29th in Shots Against/Game (33.6)
- Florida struggled to hold leads, finishing with the league-worst win percentage when leading after two periods (.724)
- A bright spot for the Cats was their power play, which was 6th in the league (19.17%)
- Their 38 wins (38-35-9) represented the Panthers’ highest win total since 99-00, and 3rd most in franchise history
Florida’s Achilles heel last season was team defense. Were it not for the All-Star performance of Tomas Vokoun, who faced more shots than any other NHL goalie last season, the Panthers’ Goal Differential of -9 would’ve been much worse. Once they cleared their own zone, however, Florida’s group of speedy young forwards did a good job of putting the puck on the opposing net. The catch, of course, was getting the puck out of their own zone, which was the driving force behind many of the teams’ offseason moves.
While some might view the Olli Jokinen trade as a step back for the Panthers, OGA believes the upcoming season will prove the wisdom of the move. Not only did Florida receive two solid defensemen in return for their Captain, but they also sent a message to the remaining forwards: We believe in your ability to get the job done, and now is the time for you to step up. With a beefed-up blueline and a bunch of swift-skating kids up front, the Panthers will be a tougher team to play against in 08-09.
The Panthers’ first ten games are played 10 OCTOBER – 1 NOVEMBER. Our research indicates that in that timeframe, Florida earns an average PQC rating of 4.83 and about 10 points in the NHL standings. Last season, the Cats played consistently just below (within one point) of the PQC through the first 40 games. In games 41-50, the post-holiday hangover manifested itself once again. Florida dropped to -1.5 against the PQC during the month of January, which resulted in an OGA call of OUT of the playoffs on 22 JANUARY. After hitting that low point, the Panthers rebounded, trending generally upward along the PQC through the end of the season. Unfortunately, it was a classic “too little, too late” scenario, and Florida finished 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Some statistics of note for the first month of the season:
- The Panthers have a combined post-Lockout record of 14-15-1 in their first ten games, but have trended downward, going 6-4, 4-5-1 and 4-6 from 05-06 to 07-08
- They play two back-to-back sets in the first ten games, and historically win just 25.6% of second games
- Four of Florida’s first ten games fall on Saturdays, and the Panthers have only won 34.4% of Saturday games over the last three seasons
The coming season brings with it a sense of cautious optimism where the Florida Panthers are concerned. Last season, they were competitive and posted a winning record, but fell well short of the playoffs. The Panthers’ summer moves are proof positive that management is committed to improvement, and OGA fully expects to see that reflected in the Cats’ play in relation to the PQC. Will Florida’s improvements keep pace with the rest of their suddenly very competitive division? Check out The OGA Blogs for updates, and the Panthers’ G10R for a comprehensive progress report. Who knows what playoff potential lurks in the hearts of (Florida’s) men? OGA knows…and you can, too.
From Atlantic to Pacific: Tune in Tuesday for the Los Angeles Kings SPR. Until then, Big Tex says, “Try the corny dogs.”
TAKE ME BACK TO www.ongoalanalysis.com