After 82 games, the Florida Panthers proved many pundits this season that they were in fact right, that Florida would finish at or near the bottom of the NHL's standings. The Panthers, if they lose against the Blue Jackets tonight, would finish with 66 points, which could be the second-lowest total in the league. The Cats are once again looking at a top three draft selection in the upcoming NHL draft this June, but at this point one would surmise that GM Dale Tallon had hoped not to be in that spot yet again. Regardless, the Cats showed very little organizational progress this season beyond some continued development for the wave of the future, albeit in a losing environment and with two different coaching staffs.
On the other side of the coin are the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that has seen nearly as much futility as the Florida Panthers. Columbus' fortunes seem to have been turned however, as the continued development of their top picks combined with trades and signings of solid veterans have vaulted the Jackets into a playoff spot in the East. There's no question that the realignment helped Columbus, who would be fighting the Dallas Stars for the final wildcard spot in the West this year. But that's no knock on the Jackets, who have played very well at times this season behind a balanced attack and the excellent goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky.
This is it folks: the final game of yet another dismal season. Yes, there is much hope for the future in the hands of many of the talented, young players that have passed through the revolving doors of the Florida locker room. However, there is still a ton of work to do here and another offseason, this one marked by wheelbarrows of cash available for Tallon to spend courtesy of new owners Vincent Viola and Doug Cifu, should be the first step towards one of two outcomes: the resurrection of the Florida Panthers, or the timely demise of Tallon as general manager.
Join the LBC Game Thread for the season finale tonight at 7 PM EST, and go congratulate the awesome CBJ fan base at The Cannon on their postseason berth. Enjoy the game, and we'll see you at the lottery... again.