This off season the Florida Panthers have seen some changers to player personnel. Some of these changes were good, while some of them the exact opposite. There are four main players that Florida acquired that will be playing for the Panthers come the 2014-15 season. Willie Mitchell, Jussi Jokinen, Dave Bolland and Shawn Thornton.
All four of these players were signed by Florida on the opening day of free agency thinking that they could help the Panthers have a turnaround season in 14-15. I would like to go through each player and discuss what exactly it is they bring to the table, and whether they will really be able to help the team.
Willie Mitchell has two Stanley cup rings in the last three years. Safe to say that he brings so much experience and leadership to a Florida team trying to make an identity. Mitchell actually has some pretty solid stats from last year to reinforce exactly why Florida wanted him.
To start, he was six games short of playing a full season. This is positive as it shows he is able to stay healthy for a full year, even at the age of 37. He should be able to do so again in a less physically demanding eastern conference.
His possession numbers are very promising. His Corsi-for percentage is in the top tier of 55.5% which is nearly a full 5% better than Florida was as a team last season. What this stat means is that when Willie Mitchell was on the ice the LA Kings were creating 55.5% of the shooting chances. Essentially this means that they were driving the play.
His goals for % (measures the percentage of goals his team scores with him on the ice) was impressive for a defenceman. At 57.7% he is ranked 13th out of 86 defenceman who played 90% (74 games) last season.
Willie Mitchell will bring the experience and stability on the back end that Florida needs in order to help develop the younger players in Florida’s system. He is consistent on the back end and will help drive possession in the Panthers favour. Step Forward.
Jussi Jokinen has some very impressive stats from last season. He played with the Pittsburgh Penguins and contributed 21 goals to a team that had the fifth most goals in the NHL. Considering the Panthers were 29th out of 30 last year in total goals for, this signing will absolutely give them an offensive boost.
Jokinen, like Mitchell, was a positive possession player last season. He managed to post a 54.8% corsi for percentage on a team that was a mere 49.5%. Jokinen was one of Pittsburgh’s top possession players and I believe he can bring that to this Florida team.
Jokinen Started 57% of his shifts in the offensive zone in Pittsburgh. However, I think a top line of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathon Huberdeau and Brad Boyes will take most of the offensive workload. Jokinen will use his experience and offensive capabilities to help drive the play into the opponents zone. Step Forward.
Shawn Thornton played last season with the Boston Bruins who finished the season as Presidents Torphy winners. He is a fourth line player who is able to grind out the competition using his size. He is a known enforcer and will help protect the teams young stars.
Thornton has the ability to create some offensive chances by battling hard along the boards. He can chip in a few goals a season, however he is what he is and he knows his role. He won’t have a huge impact on the ice.
Thornton will bring valuable playoff experience as he won the Stanley Cup in 2010-11 with the Boston Bruins. This signing is a good locker room signing in my opinion. Step Forward.
Dave Bolland is an interesting signing for Florida. Considering their current position at Centre, one would assume that he is not really needed.
In this group of centre’s who played for Florida last season, you can see quite a few players who are younger, cheaper, and have similar or better numbers than Bolland.
As of right now Dave Bolland will playing as a third line centre behind Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad followed up by Brandon Pirri. In my opinion Pirri earned his spot with the team and should be playing higher in the lineup, but Bolland is far too overpaid to be playing as the fourth line centre. I digress.
Dave Bolland has won two Stanley cups with the Chicago Blackhawks in recent years so again, he is bringing loads of valuable experience. He has shown abilities to be a solid offensive player, and it would be of great help if he could return to form for the Panthers.
One thing of concern is that Bolland Was injured for the majority of last season with a severed tendon in his ankle. This could be something that plagues Bolland for a while this season whether it be nerves going into corners, or simply some discomfort.
Dave Bolland is the one step back for this Florida team. He is overpaid by a few million per year in comparison to what he truly brings to this team. His position could have easily been filled with one of the younger players with experience in the system. Bolland does not put up enough points to really fuel this Panthers offence. I think this is overall a bad signing.
Where does this leave us?
With these four players signed with Florida for next season, I think that the Panthers will have a much better season. There is still room for improvements in this lineup on the back end, however their main need was addressed – scoring. They brought in valuable qualities in all players, mainly leadership and playoff experience. These guys know what it is going to take to win a cup, and are going to help the Panthers elevate their game. All four will have an impact on some aspect of the game, whether it is scoring goals, winning battles, shutting the opposition down or defending the team they play for. This new Panthers team is more ready to compete come the 14-15 season.
Avid fan of hockey at all levels. Writing for The Hockey Writers covering the Florida Panthers and Habs Addict covering the Montreal Canadiens. Follow him at @Darrinharmy on twitter.