The Florida Panthers may have only made two playoff appearances in the 2010s but that does not mean they were completely bereft of talent. From career journeymen, to one-and-doners, to franchise players, to future Hall of Famers, the Cats have been able to see every type of hockey player you can think of. Now that the 2010s are winding down we here at LBC have decided to field an all-decade team that would make Panthers fans proud. We will use the traditional 20-man lineup and choose to go forward line by line, then by defensive pairings, and finally 2 goalies. We will also have 3 honorable healthy scratches.
- Center, Aleksander Barkov
- Left Wing, Jonathan Huberdeau
- Right Wing, Evgenii Dadonov
This first line seems a bit too easy as these three players presently play together on Florida’s first line but this is without a doubt the best first line one could construct out of the Panthers players from 2010-2019. The chemistry featured on this line is one that would make Michael Faraday shriek in delight. Dadonov’s first stop in Sunrise was not much to write home about but his second stint has been deemed a success as he has perfectly complimented the raw talent seen across the ice.
Jonathan Huberdeau has, almost in a low-key way, become a genuine star and has made himself one of the most elite passers in the league with how many assists he seems to rack up. Huberdeau’s points take a gradual increase year-by-year but 2018-19 was when he made the jump from good to great. Huberdeau did not become a one-and-done Calder Trophy winner and is one of the successes of the “Blueprint” replenishing of the prospect pipeline.
This line is nothing without Aleksander Barkov and he truly has made himself one of the NHL’s elite players. Barkov has been showcasing his two-way game since he was a rookie (which included a selection to Finland’s Olympic team). For many years Barkov frequently was labeled by players and analysts alike as one of the NHL’s most underrated players. However, Barkov could only fly below the radar for so long before the secret got out of Sunrise. Thankfully, Sasha Barkov has stayed tried and true and has welcomed the responsibility of being “the” guy for the Florida Panthers. Barkov gets selected to the All-Star Games, wins the Lady Byng Trophy, is assigned the captaincy, and has his face plastered on the glass of the BB&T Center. He is by far the best player in the past decade and arguments can be made for the best one the franchise has ever had.
- Center, Vincent Trocheck
- Left Wing, Jussi Jokinen
- Right Wing, Jaromir Jagr
This line features key pieces to the Cats’ 2016 Atlantic Division championship season. Vincent Trocheck sits at center and has been a fixture on the second line for the most part since he debuted in 2013-14. Trocheck made a huge leap during the Cats 2016 Atlantic Division championship season as he doubled his offensive output. In 2017-18 Trocheck again took another leap forward in performance as he put up 31 goals. Unfortunately, a terrible leg injury sidelined Trocheck in 2018-19 limiting him to 55 games and it seems like he has not fully recovered since. However, there is still hope that Vinny will find his past mojo.
Jussi Jokinen came to Florida via free agency in the 2014 offseason that saw the Panthers reconstruct their lineup with well-seasoned veterans to complement their raw, talented youth. Jokinen would peak in Sunrise in 2015-16 as an integral part of the depth scoring chart reaching 60 points for only the second time in his career.
Jaromir Jagr was dealt to Florida at the end of the 2014-15 trade deadline to try to push the Panthers into the playoffs but unfortunately, the team did not make it. However, the 2015-16 season was when all the magic happened for Jagr and the Cats. It could be argued that the Jagr trade was the most important of the decade as his presence in the Panthers locker room as the wise legend has had a lasting effect on the two players that were his linemates, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Jagr ended the season at age 43 with his tenth All-Star selection, voted the captain of the Atlantic Division All-Stars, the Bill Masterton trophy, and led the Panthers with 66 points. By the time Jagr finished with the Panthers he set countless records due to his age with the most important NHL career milestones being that he was 3rd in goals scored, 5th in assists, 2nd in points, and 1st in game-winning goals.
- Center, Stephen Weiss
- Left Wing, Tomas Fleischmann
- Right Wing, Kris Versteeg
Once again we decided to put together a line of players that did indeed play together and that worked really well for a fantastic 2011-12 season. Stephen Weiss still had enough good years left in him to make this list and he was one of the few players willing to stay in South Florida after Dale Tallon’s takeover and institution of the “Blueprint” rebuild that sought to restock the Cats’ farm system. What Tallon did not expect was that his slew of cast-offs and journeymen would pull it all together and catch a wave of success to break the Panthers out of a decade long playoff drought.
This surprising ‘11-12 season was headlined by the first line of Weiss, Kris Versteeg, and Tomas Fleischmann. Versteeg was seeking some stability after being shipped out of Chicago and Philadelphia in the wake of getting his name etched on the Stanley Cup in 2010. Tomas Fleischmann was trying to continue his career after blood clot scares almost derailed his career. And Stephen Weiss was racking up Panthers records due to his longevity with the team but he had not even experienced playoff hockey as the Panthers had missed it for ten consecutive seasons.
The Panthers caught fire to begin the 2011-12 season and this first line was among the best in the NHL up to the 2012 All-Star Break. And although they lost steam following that, this line was good enough to deliver the Panthers first ever division championship as the Southeast division was wide open as the Washington Capitals were not there usual dominant selves.
- Center, Nick Bjugstad
- Left Wing, Mike Hoffman
- Right Wing, Reilly Smith
This line is full of some very streaky players, but when these guys were hot, they were hot.
Mike Hoffman’s off the ice circumstances landed him in Sunrise for little value, but the potential to pay off immensely and in 2018-19 Hoffman did pay off. 70 points in 82 games for Hoff as he scored 36 goals with 17 of them being on the power play as he made vital use of a lethal slap shot from the top of the circles.
Nick Bjugstad was a fan favorite as his gentle giant attitude won over so many. His play in the calendar year of 2014 earned him a nice contract extension and saw him finish with 43 points at age 22. The Cats hoped that this was the start of Bjugstad being a fixture at center on the first or second line but Bjugstad never seemed to make the leap that Aleksander Barkov or Vincent Trocheck made in their development. Bjugstad would be moved about from line to line, from center to wing, and was finally traded to Pittsburgh in 2019.
Reilly Smith was traded to Florida from Boston as the Panthers saw a guy that was likely to break out if given a more prominent role. In 2015-16, Smith did just that as he broke the 50-point plateau for the second time in his young career and provided key depth scoring on a Cats team that rode a hot wave to the Atlantic Division title. Unfortunately, Smith would have an off-year due in part to some big changes in the summer of 2016 that changed the makeup of the Panthers and led to the dismissal of head coach Gerard Gallant early in the 2016-17 season. With a modified NTC set to kick in a year down the road, Smith would be dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights for a fourth round pick during the 2017 Expansion Draft. A June day that will long live in infamy for many a Panthers fan.
- Aaron Ekblad
- Brian Campbell
Aaron Ekblad burst onto the scene for the Panthers in 2014. Ekblad was the 2014 draft lottery prize for Florida as he was selected first overall that offseason. Ekblad then played so well that he was selected to the 2015 All-Star Game. Ekblad capped off his stellar rookie season by nabbing the Calder Memorial Trophy as his rookie season saw him post 39 points. Ekblad since has had some growing pains on the defensive side of his position, but he has scored double digit goals in his first five seasons.
Brian Campbell was traded to Florida in the 2011 offseason and his penchant for driving the offense from the blue line came along with him from Chicago. Campbell made his presence known in 2011-12 as he earned himself an All-Star Game selection, played all 82 games, helped the Panthers win the Southeast division, and was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy for his excellent play and lack of penalty minutes. Campbell was a great teacher for Aaron Ekblad and aided in Florida’s division title run in 2016. Brian Campbell played every game all five seasons in Sunrise.
- Erik Gudbranson
- Keith Yandle
Keith Yandle has been as advertised when he was traded to Florida from the Rangers in the 2016 offseason. The Panthers went full bore into analytics and saw Yandle as a suitable replacement for Brian Campbell as the engine of the offensive-minded Panthers defense corps. Yandle is a fantastic locker-room presence as he always looks like the most psyched guy on the roster. Yandle has been in the top 12 in scoring for defensemen each of the past three seasons including now. Yandle made the All-Star team in 2019 and currently owns the longest active consecutive game streak among active players which currently, as of this writing, stands at 4th longest in league history.
Erik Gudbranson was the first of the big pieces during Dale Tallon’s “Blueprint” rebuild of the Panthers. Gudbranson was drafted third overall in the 2010 NHL Draft by Florida, made his league debut in 2011-12 and stuck around to see the Panthers make it back to the postseason. Along the way, Gudbranson was able to forge himself into a hard-nosed defenseman that had a nice amount of Old Time Hockey in him as he was not afraid to push his opponents around or get into fisticuffs. Gudbranson was the definition of a fan-favorite as his trade to Vancouver during the infamous 2016 offseason is still lauded as a mistake by a large contingent of Florida fans that to this day still want him back.
- Jason Garrison
- Dmitry Kulikov
Well, hello there 2012 Panthers, we meet again. Jason Garrison only played 190 games over four seasons with the Gatos, but it’s his 2011-12 season that saw him breakout into an offensive threat from the blue line. Garrison put up a score line of 16 goals, 17 assists, and averaged 23:42 minutes of ice time and finished +6. Garrison would get a nice, fat contract from the Vancouver Canucks thanks to this season, but what a way to depart Sunrise.
Dmitry Kulikov started his NHL career when he was 19 for Florida and was able to carve out himself a nice career. One of the few players to play for the Panthers in multiple playoff seasons, Kulikov saw his best offensive season in 2011-12 by putting up 28 points from the back end, and probably had his best defensive season in 2015-16. Kulikov would be sent to Buffalo for Mark Pysyk in the great flurry of Cats trades in the 2016 offseason.
- Roberto Luongo
- Jose Theodore
The return of Roberto Luongo during the 2013-14 season may have been the most significant player acquisition of the decade. By that season, Luongo had already built himself a Hall of Fame career, had become one of the NHL’s best personalities on and off the ice, and was on a Vancouver Canucks team still only a couple of seasons removed from making it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Thanks to a goalie controversy which left Luongo snubbed from the 2014 Heritage Classic, Dale Tallon was able to swing a trade to bring Luongo back to Sunrise for a second time. Luongo was one of the few high profile players that truly wanted to play for the Panthers and considered himself a South Floridian since he was first traded to Florida in 2000. It took 16 years, but Luongo finally experienced playoff hockey in Sunrise during the 2015-16. Luongo also earned himself 2 more All-Star games appearances in 2016 and 2018 at the ages of 36 and 38, respectively. Finally, Lu retired following the 2018-19 season and finished 3rd All-Time in Career Wins, 2nd in Games Played, and 2nd in Career Saves.
Jose Theodore was seen by some as a has-been when he signed on with the Cats in 2011. Theodore had a Vezina Trophy, Hart Trophy, and 2 All-Star appearances to his name, but by 2011, that was seen as part of a by-gone era. Expectations in Sunrise were low as Theodore had to follow some stellar seasons put up by the Cats previous starting netminder Tomas Vokoun. But Theodore, together with Scott Clemmensen, put together a solid enough season in 2011-12 with a .917 save percentage, 2.46 goals against average, and 22 victories to get the Panthers a division title. Theodore would end his career in Sunrise as well.
- Mike Weaver
- Jonathan Marchessault
- Tomas Vokoun
So what do you think? Is there a snub from this list that we should have taken another look at? Please comment below with any changes you would make to this All-Decade team and here’s to the 2020s being much better than the 2010s.