The Florida Panthers have been an unsuccessful team since the 2000-01 season. They have had eight different head coaches, ( Including interim coaching by Rick Dudley and John Torchetti in the 2003-04 season) in the last eleven years. The Panthers have only made the playoffs four times through eighteen years in the league.The instability of the franchise in terms of its location, profitability, and fan attendance – dismal before the 2011-12 season, left the Panthers out of the competitive question. Times have been tough for the Florida Panthers, but things are on the up and up as their team has come together to produce wins, and long-term fans.
5. Dale Tallon – The man that built the Chicago Blackhawks and was responsible for their success was brought into the Panther’s organization before the Blackhawks went on their cup run. Many Blackhawk players were upset when he was let go, showing his importance to their franchise. Dale Tallon is now doing with the Panthers what he managed to do with the Blackhawks who were also on a tight budget. As theExecutive Vice president and General Manager of Hockey Operations, he is overseeing everything that goes on from trades, to drafting. This is his forte. Bringing in the right players to fit the mould he constructed in Chicago, Panthers fans can already see a difference in what their team is now, and what it used to be.
4. The Veteran Presence – Stephen Weiss has been a part of the Panthers since the day he was drafted in 2001. Ten years of ups and downs, and his loyalty to the team make him a great Alternate Captain and will give him the drive to want to bring a cup to Florida even stronger. Weiss is a proven contributor, and eats up a lot of minutes. Tomas Kopecky has played for The Red Wings, The Blackhawks, and now The Panthers. He has been able to contribute more as his career develops and has his name on the Stanley Cup, which brings experience to the table.
3. The Fans Are Back – It was a different sight to see when the Panthers would be playing in front of a full house as they began to pick up steam working towards their first playoff appearance in ten years. With the help of new head coach Kevin Dineen, and the integration of new players, the excitement and energy was there. Not only the lower bowl, but the upper bowl was filled with fans for their playoff run and the infamous rats were back.
2. Gudbranson – Erik Gudbranson raised a lot of eyebrows with his play for Canada through a World Junior Championship, and with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. At the age of twenty, Gudbranson managed 8 pts as a defenseman in his rookie year in the NHL. That’s quite impressive for such a young defenseman. With time to mature and adapt to the league, get stronger, and faster, there are only good things to come. His size is impressive as well; 6’5″, 210 lbs. His stock can only go up from here. Jeff Marek of Sportsnet recently said Stephen Weiss commented on Gudbranson and said the potential Erik has is something nobody has seen yet.
1. Ed Jovanovski – The veteran defenseman is an integral part to the development of Erik Gudbranson. The learning curve that comes with entreating the NHL is enough on its own. Gudbranson’s training, conditioning, nutrition, and knowledge of the game will all be things Jovanovski can help him improve. The veteran leadership Jovanovski lends to the rest of the team can not be underestimated either.