It has been 20 years since the Florida Panthers entered the NHL. In that time they have been in the Stanley Cup Finals once (1995-96), been in the playoffs only four times, had 9 different General Managers, 11 different head coaches, and have had a top-5 draft pick eight times including one first overall selection (Ed Jovanovski 1994). In all twenty years, as is the case with every team in every sport, the complexion of the team has changed tremendously over that time frame. In charge of it all now is Dale Tallon. Tallon is the Panthers current General Manager coming by way of the Chicago Blackhawks, where he worked to help build the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions. Since taking over the reigns of the Panthers in 2010, they enjoyed instant success with a playoff birth in the 2011-12 season only to falter last season and to struggle so far this season. General Managers are heralded as heroes if the team does well and are usually the first to go when they don’t. There are many ways to build a winner, whether it is through the draft, trades, or free agency. Here is a look at how the 2013-14 Florida Panthers were constructed.
The main place teams focus their attentions to build a franchise is the NHL Entry Draft. Teams can either strike gold as it appears the Panthers did with their pick in the 2013 draft with Aleksander Barkov (pictured above) or bust as so many others have done before. As previously mentioned, the Panthers have had the opportunity to draft in the top-5 eight times in their 20 years. Five of their eight drafted players on the current roster were selected in the first round.
- Dmitri Kulikov – 2009 1st round (14th overall). Kulikov was the 6th defensemen selected in the 2009 draft.
- Drew Shore – 2009 2nd round (44th overall)
- Erik Gudbranson – 2010 1st round (3rd overall). The Panthers selected Gudbranson with the third overall pick in 2010 and was the first defensemen taken. So far this season he has played in the second defensive pairing along side Ed Jovanovski. The veteran’s presence can only help progress Gudbranson’s career.
- Nick Bjugstad – 2010 1st round (19th overall). The Panthers held two first round picks in the 2010 draft. The first they used on Gudbranson and the second they traded to the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings were slotted to draft 19th, so they traded that pick along with a 2nd round pick that year to move up four spots. The Kings took defensemen Derek Forbort who has yet to see time in the NHL. The Panthers would send the 2nd round pick acquired in the trade with LA to Minnesota for a 3rd and 4th round pick in that draft (Joe Basaraba, Joonis Donskoi). Bjugstad is centering the top line for the Panthers in his first full season in the NHL and is in the top five in points.
- Alex Petrovic – 2010 2nd round (36th overall). The Florida Panthers and the Boston Bruins struck a deal at the deadline in the 2010 season which sent Dennis Seidenberg from Florida to Boston in exchange for a Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and the Bruins 2nd round pick. The pick turned into the big physical defensemen Alex Petrovic.
- Jonathan Huberdeau – 2011 1st round (3rd overall).
- Aleksander Barkov – 2013 1st round (2nd overall). There were many mock drafts out there that had the Panthers selecting defensive stud Seth Jones with the second pick in last June’s draft. Instead the Panthers selected Aleksander Barkov in that slot instead. Eight players from the draft have made it into the NHL so far this season. Barkov is second to only Nathan MacKinnon in points.
[su_tabs][su_tab title=”2009 Signings”]
Scott Clemmensen signed on as a free agent with the Florida Panthers in 2009 after spending time in New Jersey and Toronto[/su_tab]
[su_tab title=”2010 Signings”]
Mike Weaver has played the last four seasons of his twelve year NHL career with Florida after spending time in St. Louis, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. The “journeyman” has played in a total of 576 NHL game registering 83 points (7g – 76a). Is paired with Kulikov on the team’s bottom defensive pairing.
[su_tab title=”2011 Signings”]
- Sean Bergenheim – Signed on as a free agent in 2011. Former first round selection of the New York Islanders in 2002 (22nd overall), Bergenheim has played for the Islanders, Lightning, and is now in his third season with the Florida Panthers. He was suspended by the Panthers last season for sustaining an injury during the lockout.
- Tomas Fleischmann – Former second round pick of the Detroit Red Wings, Fleischmann was involved in a trade that sent him to Washington for Robert Lang. The Capitals also received two picks in that deal including a first round selection in 2005 where the Capitals selected star defensemen Mike Green. Fleischmann is on the Panthers top line with Bjugstad and Scottie Upshall.
- Marcel Goc – Signed on as a free agent in 2011, Goc has been serving as the teams alternate captain this season.
- Scottie Upshall – Another graduate of the 2002 draft, Upshall was a former first round selection of the Nashville Predators. After spending four seasons in the land of country music, Upshall was sent packing to Philadelphia in a deal that would send future Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg to Nashville. Upshall is currently in top five in points on the Panthers [/su_tab]
[su_tab title=”2013 Signings”]
- Brad Boyes
- Tom Gilbert
- Scott Gomez
- Ed Jovanovski – This is the captain’s second stint with the Panthers. Former first overall selection in the 1994 draft, Jovanovski was involved in a big trade in 1999 that sent him to Vancouver for Pavel Bure who is still ranked third all-time in goals scored for Florida.
- Mike Mottau
- Tim Thomas – Former Stanley Cup Champion, Thomas brings a lot to the table and is playing the role of stop gap until one of the Panthers younger goalies are ready to step in and take over.
- Jesse Winchester[/su_tab][/su_tabs]
- Jimmy Hayes & Dylan Olsen – The Florida Panthers acquired both Hayes and Olsen from the Chicago Blackhawks for Kris Versteeg and Phillipe Lefebvre earlier this season. This is the second time Versteeg has been on the Blackhawks. He was shipped to Toronto shortly after winning the Stanley Cup.
- Krys Barch – Former selection of the Panthers, Barch was traded to the Dallas Stars in 2011 only to be re-acquired this season from the New Jersey Devils for Scott Timmins.
- Brian Campbell – After signing a lucrative free agent contract with the Chicago Blackhawks following the 2007-08 season, Campbell won the Stanley Cup and then was shipped to Florida for Rostislav Olesz in June of 2011.
- Tomas Kopecky – In yet another trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Panthers acquired the forward for a conditional 7th round pick.
Teams are constantly looking to get better. Everyone within the organization works non-stop trying to make that one deal or one trade that puts them over the top to win the leagues most prized possession. The Stanly Cup. The Florida Panthers were there once and will keep going until they reach the pinnacle of the sport.
John Is a contributor with The Hockey Writers covering the Buffalo Sabres. He is also a Senior Writer and Editor at MetsMerizedOnline.