So here we sit mere hours before the conclusion of Florida's 18th season, a campaign which likely won't find a cherished spot on any of our mantles. As with any sport, hockey is defined by a team's up-and-down stretches from year to year, and the past 20 or so months have provided an abundance of pleasure and (lately) pain, enough to keep us guessing what management will/could/should do for an encore as summer approaches. Though the club's overall performance in 2013 will forever be etched at the bottom of the league's standings, there remains hope going forward, but equally notable are the number of various concerns the season has raised:
- Minus-61 goal differential (107GF/168GA)
- A 3-10-2 record vs the Northeast, FLA's soon-to-be "home"
- Depending on the source, a league-"leading" 265 man-games lost
- Of 833 NHL players ranked by plus-minus, the Panthers currently own spots 812 (Stephen Weiss/-13), 813 (Tyson Strachan/-13), 822 (Jonathan Huberdeau/-16), 823 (George Parros/-16), 829 (Brian Campbell/-20), 832 (Filip Kuba/-22), and 833 (Erik Gudbranson/-22). No comment.
- Goaltending has been utterly atrocious, save for the odd performance sprinkled sporadically through the season, as the Cats have allowed 3.55 goals-against per game through 47 appearances. That's "good" for 30th overall, and not even realistically close to #29 Calgary's 3.27.
- While the power play has been generally good (currently 13th), the penalty kill (73.8/30th) is unspeakably poor. Blame it on injuries, blame it on rookies, blame it on whatever makes you feel less likely to become violent, but this crew has put the "special" in special teams.
- Is it yet fair to begin questioning the efforts of Florida's coaching staff, or is a free pass in line given what they had to work with/through?
We could go on, of course, but you get the idea. Going to take some mammoth soul-searching by management to plug these holes over the next few months.
Anyway there's a game on tap this evening, and thankfully or not, it's the final hurrah of the year, as the Panthers close the books from Tampa Bay. For those still interested, the Cats are 4-7-5-1-1 in 18 series-finale games vs the Lightning, and haven't scored a victory since 2007. Further, Florida is 1-4-2-1 over the past eight against the Bolts, though that lone win (3-2 in a shootout) happened to come in their latest meeting back on April 2.
As always give our pals at Raw Charge a shout, and tune in to the LBC Live GameThread at 6:30 tonight.