Welcome Back Panther Fans!
First off I’d like to apologize for my prolonged absence, however, I am back and will be writing articles consistently for the foreseeable future. A lot has happened since we have spoken last, including a coaching change, another incredibly strong draft, and a free agent frenzy that has left Panther fans with an excitement not felt, well almost ever. I feel like a fat kid trying a Baconator for the first time, it is almost too good to be true. Over the coming weeks leading up to training camp I will be writing about the rapid development the Florida Panthers have undergone to essentially go from bottom-dweller, to perennial cup contender. The Panthers may not be there just yet, but it is undeniable that this is a team that is on the way up, and is very reminiscent of a now powerhouse L.A. Kings team that was in a similar transition only a few years ago.
The biggest and perhaps most crucial improvement for the Panthers has been there focus on increasing the depth at center. Prior to hiring Dale Tallon (2009-2010 season) the Panthers sported a roster of centers that after Stephan Weiss included such studs as Steven Reinprecht, Dominic Moore, Kamil Kreps, and Greg Campbell. The prospect pool offered little help, as DrewShoreand Shawn Matthias were realistically the only two centermen in the system with any form of potential. Matthias was being hailed as a saviour and a future first liner amongst Panther fans, expectations that were perhaps slightly inflated due to Panther fans cringing hope that the Luongo trade would net at least something of value. As for Drew Shore, well he had yet to take the major step forward that he did this past season and was still a very raw rookie, being drafted in the second round in 2009. Fast forward just two short years to the present and the Panthers own one of the deepest teams in the league at the pivot position. Weiss is following by Mike Santorelli, a player who took a major step in solidifying himself as a top 6 forward last year, Marcel Goc, a very strong 3rd line centermen, and Shaw Matthias, a player still developing. Now that may not be overly flashy, but when you add in a prospect pool booming with potential first and second line pivots this is a team primed for success. The Panthers have it all in their system, blue chip center prospects in Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and Drew Shore, risky, high-ceiling centers such as John McFarland, Angelo Esposito, and Rocco Grimaldi (although I suspect he will be moved to the wing), and even project players with large upside in Corban Knight, Kyle Rau, and Vincent Trocheck. This is a team that in a mere two seasons has transformed a glaring weakness into the organization’s greatest strength.
Until next time Panther Fans…
Filed Under: Florida Panthers
About the Author: Florida Panthers blog writer, hockey player, and beer drinker. Born and raised in Toronto, but I've been a Panther fan since the days of the Beezer.