The Panthers got off to a great start and finished up strong with victories in their season opener and finale. The middle 46 games of this abbreviated season, however, were mostly ones to forget. The Panthers won just 15 games and finished in last place for the first time. At least the season only lasted three-plus months.
FIVE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG
1Injuries took apart the Panthers as they led the league with 338 man-games lost. Sure, some minor players were gone, but Florida really struggled without the likes of Stephen Weiss (17 games played), Kris Versteeg (10), Jose Theodore (15), Ed Jovanovski (six) and Sean Bergenheim (none).
2The Panthers felt good after a rousing 5-1 win over Carolina to open things up, but things went south in a hurry. Florida lost its next five games and never recovered, finishing last among the 30 NHL teams.
3Goaltenders Theodore and Scott Clemmensen got off to rough starts with Theodore tearing two groin muscles right as he was turning things around. Jacob Markstrom came up and showed promise as the future starter.
4Florida’s penalty kill was not only last in the league, but was statistically the worst since at least 1997-98 (that’s as far back as the NHL stats go). The Panthers gave up power play goals almost 26 percent of the time.
5The Panthers got shut out seven times this season as consistent scoring was a problem throughout. The Panthers ended tied for next-to-last in goals scored and 29th in 5-on-5 scoring.
FIVE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT
1With so many injuries, the Panthers were forced to plug holes with younger players. The experience could prove beneficial in the future as Markstrom, Drew Shore, Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden found what it takes to succeed at this level. Jonathan Huberdeau looks like a future star as he tied for the rookie scoring title.
2Without Weiss, Versteeg and Bergenheim, the Panthers got strong offensive seasons from Tomas Fleischmann (who led the team in scoring for the second consecutive season), Tomas Kopecky, Huberdeau and Shawn Matthias.
3Florida’s power play went through stretches without production, but for the most part was pretty good. The Panthers ended with a 20.4 percent success rate — ranked sixth in the league.
4Believe it or not, finishing last for the first time in franchise history may prove to be something that went right.
The Panthers will find out Monday whether they will pick first or second in this top-heavy draft.
Florida ended the season with 10 players on the roster who are 25 or younger and will add to that youth in June.
5If you are going to have a season like this, at least let it be a short one.