The Florida Panthers played 69 games before the remainder of the schedule was postponed on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. While we wait to see if the 2019-20 season can be concluded in some fashion, lets take a look back at the campaign and see which one of these five things surprised you the most.
If there is something else that surprised you more (other than the season being shutdown) you can vote and tell us in the comment section.
Sergei Bobrovsky’s rocky start as a Panther
The Panthers signed “Bob” to a monster seven-year, $70 million contract on July 1, 2019. To say they aren’t getting proper bang for the buck from the two-time Vezina Torphy winner would be a massive understatement. Bobrovsky, 31, came to the Cats sporting a career 2.46 GAA and .919 save percentage. His numbers this season: 23-19-6 / 3.23 GAA / .900 save percentage / 1 shutout. There have been games where Bobrovsky has been Florida’s best player and too many others where has appeared pedestrian. We all know it’s unfair to pin all the blame for his lackluster numbers on him, but he’s got to be better going forward.
Chris Driedger’s quiet ascension to the number two job
On the flip side of the goaltending coin is the arrival of the unheralded Driedger as Florida’s new number two. Dridger signed an AHL deal with the Springfield Thunderbirds in the summer of 2018 and quickly parlayed that into a two-way contract with the Panthers in February. After he led the AHL in save percentage, the Cats re-signed Driedger to a two-year, two-way deal this past summer. After starting the season out in Springfield, Driedger was recalled in late November to replace Samuel Montembeault and blanked the Nashville Predators 3-0 in his first start with the Cats. Driedger is currently 7-2-1 with 2.05 GAA and .938 save percentage. Those are pretty eye-popping numbers considering the troubles that Bobrovsky, Roberto Luongo and James Reimer have had the past couple of seasons.
Noel Acciari hits the 20-goal mark
In addition to bringing Bobrovsky in to shore things up in goal, the Panthers also added UFAs Noel Acciari, Anton Stralman and Brett Connolly to the roster mix during the July free agent frenzy. The best of those signings (at least for this year) might be Noel Acciari, who was brought in to deepened the club’s bottom-six. Acciari came to Florida with 18 goals in 180 career games with the Boston Bruins. He surpassed his previous season-best number of 10 goals after he produced back-to-back hat-tricks against the Ottawa Senators on December 16 and the Dallas Stars on December 20. He then scored nine other times to hit the 20-mark for the first time. Quite the feat since his NCAA-best was just 15 markers. Acciari has also chipped in seven assists to give himself 27 points, which is almost double his previous career-high in points (14).
The Vincent Trocheck trade
The Panthers dealt their second line center to the Carolina Hurricanes on deadline day for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark and prospects Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen in a move that was widely panned around the league and in the press. The surprise factor in this was twofold. Many at the start of the season would not have foreseen Trocheck being moved at all. As the deadline approached and chatter increased, so did the awareness, but the prime thought was the former 75-point man would be shipped out for a top-4 defenseman to help solve Florida’s woes in it’s own end. That didn’t happen and a player long considered a piece of “the core” is now skating for another team.
The Cats continue to leak goals at an alarming rate
Maybe this one isn’t all that surprising considering, but I think that the expectation was that the combination of new head coach Joel Quenneville; new starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky; and veteran defenseman Anton Stralman combined with some more maturation from Florida’s in-house group of talented young defenders would help tighten things up to get the club to the postseason. That hasn’t happened, or at least it hasn’t happened to a large enough degree. After giving up an average of 3.33 goals a game (28th in the NHL) in 2018-19, the Cats find themselves in the spot in the league this season, giving up an only slightly better 3.25 goals a game. The Coach Q factor might not be enough, at least not yet, to offset the fact the roster hasn’t been turned over enough to fix this nagging issue.
What is the biggest surprise of the season?
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Other (please explain in the comment section)