The Florida Panthers are a very young franchise compared to the rest of the NHL. They joined the league in 1993 with the Disney-themed Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (they should go back to that name). Where we are now, as trades and signings have slowed down, it got me thinking about the all-time face of each franchise.
Some teams have so many superstars that it’s hard to pick, more deserving of a series of faces, like Mount Rushmore. Mario Lemieux is the clear answer for the Pittsburgh Penguins, right? Yet, some would argue that it’s Sidney Crosby. Multiple names come to mind for the Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, etc.
Yet, you could argue that there are teams with one clear player. Alex Ovechkin is the all-time face of the Washington Capitals. For the Ottawa Senators, it’s Daniel Alfredsson. Dallas Stars, Mike Modano. New Jersey Devils, Martin Brodeur. What is the name you immediately think of when you hear Florida Panthers?
The Russian Rocket. Man could this guy fly. Pavel Bure was a stud in the 90s. He was one of the most exciting players to watch during his career, and he may have been ahead of his time. He was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 1989 where he most of his career. He played 223 games in a Panthers sweater and joined the team in 1998.
When you think of the NHL in the 90s and early 00s, you think of big hits, gritty, intense hockey, when hooking was legal and fights happened every game. That wasn’t Bure’s style. Don’t get me wrong, he definitely laid some dirty hits in his career, but his speed, stickhandling, quick hands, and his fast release would match any player coming up in today’s game. He would be a superstar in any era.
He played four seasons with the Panthers. Not his longest stint with a franchise, but he holds the all-time record for hat tricks and won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy twice with the club. Is he the first name you think of when it comes to the Panthers?
Olli Jokinen was ‘good ole’ reliable for the Panthers in the 2000s. Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1997, Jokinen didn’t make his way to Sunrise, Florida until 2000. However, the best seasons of his career were in Florida where he put up 89 points and 91 points in back-to-back seasons. He played 567 games as a Panther and was the captain for five seasons through some down years, but he always put up numbers and was considered a class act.
He played with the Panthers for seven seasons and is the all-time leader in goals (that will change soon). He is definitely one of the first names that come to mind when you mention the Panthers, but is he the first? He lands on the team’s Mount Rushmore at the very least.
The Panthers’ all-time leader in points and assists was selected 3rd overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the club and has since played 536 games. He’s had an incredible career so far and he’s nowhere near finished. He’ll add to his totals in the coming seasons and will continue to climb the all-time ranks in Panthers history. Is the 27-year-old already the Panthers’ “GOAT”?
He’s one of the most underrated players in the NHL according to NBC Sports. He had an incredible 92-point season in 2018-19 and has the talent to repeat that number in the near future. He’s been ‘the guy’ for the franchise since he came into the league in 2012, but perhaps he’s been overshadowed by his linemate. He wears the “A” as an alternate captain and he’s earned it.
Another one of the most underrated players in the NHL as voted by his peers in 2018 is Aleksander Barkov. He was drafted 2nd overall in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Panthers. He’s been nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy three times in his seven-year career and won it in 2019 putting up 96 points. He plays well in his own zone and has incredible offensive talent. He’ll join Huberdeau in the all-time ranks and will be chasing his tail for franchise records throughout their careers.
Barkov has played 479 games in his career, all with the Panthers. He is the first Panther to record five assists in a single game. He is the captain and the face of the franchise today, but does that make him the all-time face? It’s hard to put that label on a 25-year-old who may (and probably will) get there eventually, but I don’t think he’s there yet.
LUUUUUUUUUUUUU! Roberto Luongo is a class act with a wonderful sense of humor. He is an outstanding guy on and off the ice. He best represents the Panthers and will be remembered for the very touching speech he gave after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018. He was a brick wall in net for the organization for 11 seasons, he calls Florida his home and he loves the franchise as much as the franchise loves him.
He won Olympic gold medals with Team Canada in 2010 and 2014, a William M. Jennings Trophy and a Mark Messier Leadership Award. He holds the franchise record in wins with 230 ahead of John Vanbiesbrouck who has 106. He has almost 9,000 more saves than anyone else in franchise history and has played the most games by a goaltender with 572. His 38 shutouts are the most in franchise history and he’s 2nd in save percentage (.919) behind Tomas Vokoun (.923). The list goes on.
He is the all-time face of the Florida Panthers.
I’ve left out some all-time Panthers greats on this list, like Scott Mellanby, Stephen Weiss, Paul Laus, Vanbiesbrouk. But the names listed above are on the Panthers’ Mount Rushmore or headed there in their careers. Who do you think is the all-time face of the Panthers?