When the Panthers take the ice Thursday night to open their new season, it will have been almost six months since they were kicked out of the first round of the playoffs by the Islanders.
Much has changed around the Panthers since.
Despite the changes -- Florida has 10 new players on its roster from last year's opening night lineup -- the Panthers go into this season with higher expectations on them than perhaps ever before.
The Panthers, picked by almost all NHL prognosticators to finish at least within the top three in their division, say they are ready for the challenge.
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"Our guys are confident. We had a great year,'' said Gerard Gallant, a finalist for NHL coach of the year last season.
"But we have to put that behind us, worry about this year and our first game. But everyone knows we're a good team. We're not going to sneak up on anyone. The last two years, we've had positive results. Teams come in here knowing they have to play well to beat us."
Last year, the Panthers had a franchise-best regular season. Florida won a record 47 games, notched a record 103 points.
Before Thursday's game against the New Jersey Devils, the 2015-16 Atlantic Division banner will drop from the rafters, just the second such honor (Florida won the Southeast in 2011-12) since the team's inception in 1993.
"That was awesome," Gallant said. "We became a real good team last year; that was the fun part about it."
Yet this was an offseason of upheaval and change.
Florida reworked its front office, changed up Gallant's coaching staff, traded players and brought in new ones.
The moves, the Panthers say, were done solely in the name of improvement.
"The easy thing," new general manager Tom Rowe said before camp started, "would have been to stand pat."
The Panthers felt some flaws were exposed by the New York Islanders in that six-game loss in the opening round of the playoffs.
Florida felt it was the better team in that series, felt it outplayed the Islanders in many games yet lost four of the six.
During the offseason, the Panthers retooled their defense trading Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov as Willie Mitchell and Brian Campbell departed.
The Panthers kept their top two lines intact but tinkered with their bottom six, hoping to bring more scoring and be able to truly roll out four lines and not rely so much on their top six.
Preseason injuries have hit Florida hard. Nick Bjugstad, Florida's third line center, fractured a hand when rolled into the goal cage in Dallas and will miss the first month.
Top line winger Jonathan Huberdeau suffered a serious lower leg injury last Saturday against the Devils and is out until 2017.
For what it's worth, this may the deepest the Florida talent pool has ever been.
If any Panthers team could sustain the losses of Huberdeau and Bjugstad, it's this one.
"We have a lot of good players on this team," veteran Shawn Thornton said. "Just look around."
As much fun as last year was -- the team's 'Spacey in Space' phenomenon started during a franchise-record 12-game winning streak -- things weren't always so sunny.
Florida was out of a playoff spot at Thanksgiving, barely above the .500-mark before kicking off that 12-game run against the Islanders in December.
The team quickly began to believe in itself by the time 2016 rolled around and were legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference.
"We really had a team that could have gone further," said rookie defenseman Mike Matheson, who played in three regular season games last year before excelling in five postseason ones.
"I think there's a lot of confidence within the organization that the changes we made, made us better. We have the potential to do more this year. We're excited to get to that point and push forward."
The Panthers feel like this year, despite the changes, their core group remains intact and they are a team to be reckoned with.
Game 1 of 82 -- and beyond -- begins Thursday.
"When you make changes," opening night goalie Roberto Luongo said, "it's to improve the team. That's what they had in mind when it was done. I think the new guys mesh very well, they fit right into our group. It should be a pretty smooth transition."
THURSDAY: DEVILS AT PANTHERS
▪ When, where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
▪ TV/radio: FSFL; 560-AM, 640-AM, 990-AM (Spanish)
▪ Series: New Jersey leads 52-30-7
▪ Scouting report: The Panthers took two of three from the Devils last year, the first time Florida had a winning record against New Jersey in four seasons. Since 2013, Florida has won four of five home games against New Jersey.