It’s no surprise that Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon is considering cleaning house just 19 games into the season. He’s trying to manage a team that’s won just four of those games and ranks towards the bottom of the NHL in about every statistical category imaginable. Tallon made strides last week by cutting ties with head coach Kevin Dineen, whose strategy had clearly been ineffective. Now there’s plenty of chatter surrounding the roster and who might be on the trade block.
Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Erik Gudbranson, Marcel Goc. Who are the five players on the Florida Panthers who cannot be had in a trade right now? Anybody else on the Panthers are available in trade. The younger guys there that are available - Shawn Matthias or Dmitry Kulikov - they’re the guys now that most teams are kicking tires on. The veterans that are making the bigger money; not so much.
Huberdeau, Barkov, Bjugstad, Gudbranson, and Goc are all young guys that will eventually be the core of the Panthers in the future. These are great guys to build a franchise around. As far as the veterans go and everyone else that is so-called available for trade, why jump ship now when you have barely given your new bench boss an opportunity to prove what he can do with them?
The Panthers have solid depth at every position aside from goaltending, which is the major problem in South Florida. Tallon tried to bring in a near 40-year old Tim Thomas who isn’t playing like his old Vezina self. Jacob Markstrom is nowhere near the goalie the team had hoped he’d be at this stage in his career. It’s tough for a group to rally around a goaltender that gives up more than three goals per game.
Let’s not forget that this is a roster full of veteran firepower including guys who have had success in this league. Could Tallon possibly be bluffing about cleaning house?
Tallon brought in Peter Horachek from his AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage in hopes of turning his team around. The Panthers played two hard fought games in Horachek’s first two appearances behind the bench as an NHL coach. Yes, they lost both games by one goal to the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators respectively, but he prepped his troops to bounce back nicely in his home debut with a solid 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
One thing was clear, the players did not buy into Dineen’s system. But you have a solid group of guys right now and the season is still very young. There’s always the chance that Tallon could be bluffing about the trade talk in an attempt to motivate his players to perform better on the ice.
All he needs to do is give it a chance with Horachek. You never know what a coach can do until you see what he’s capable of. Horachek has only served as an assistant in the NHL, so Tallon should just give it a little bit of time before jumping off the deep end with his talented roster.
If the trade deadline is looming and no change is imminent, then we can revisit talk of the Panthers cleaning house. But for now, that talk is nonsense and unnecessary.