The Florida Panthers have had an amazing start to the season as they rank 12th in the entire NHL with a 6-1-2 record. While the team has had some underrated heroes, they have also had some players who have been bad and need to improve going forward if the team wants to have success.
Before the beginning of the season, many fans had Sergei Bobrovsky pegged as their “comeback player of the year” pick. However, that has not been the case.
Bobrovsky has started the season with a 3-0-1 record. However, all those wins have been due to his team’s offense, not him, as he carries a .881 save percentage, -3.01 goals saved above average (GSAA), and -4.65 goals saved above expected (GSAx). He has been heavily outplayed by career-backup Chris Driedger for the last two years and is slowly losing his grip on the starter role in Florida.
The real reason that Bobrovsky is still consistently starting at this point is due to the fact that he is being paid $10 million per season for six more years, and the team can’t just have him rotting on the bench. However, with Driedger performing at an elite level and young talent like Spencer Knight & Devon Levi in the pipelines, he will have to get his act together quick before he ends up finding himself on the outside looking in.
Just a couple of years ago, during the 2016-17 season, Bobrovsky had a .931 save percentage and a whopping 45.10 GSAx in Columbus. So it’s known that when he’s on his game, he is one of, if not, the best goaltender in the NHL. However, he hasn’t shown this level of play since arriving in Florida.
If Bobrovsky can get back to where he was a couple of years ago, the Panthers are Stanley Cup contenders.
Remember that guy who got back-to-back hat tricks last season? Yeah, that was Noel Acciari.
Acciari finished the 2019-2020 campaign with a career-high 20 goals and 27 points. He has since fallen back down to earth and has been one of the worst forwards on this Panthers’ core, being held off the scoresheet in his first eight games. To say fans were expecting another 20+ goal season would be unrealistic, but we were sure hoping for at least some sort of flash from last season, which just hasn’t happened.
Acciari ranks dead last on the Panthers in goals above replacement (GAR) with a -2.20 and has a horrific even-strength goals above replacement (EVO_GAR) as well, with a -1.60, meaning he has been below replacement level both offensively and overall.
With the amount of young guys eager to make an impact, it’s important that Acciari starts producing before he ends up finding himself on the outside looking in, permanently.
Coming into this shortened season, Owen Tippett was regarded by many as a potential Calder candidate. However, this has not been the case, and his NHL “debut” season has been quite underwhelming.
The Panthers really took their time with the development of Tippett after he was chosen 10th overall in the 2017 draft. He played two more seasons in the OHL, where he put up 69 goals and 149 points in 105 games, just tearing the league up.
The team then gave Tippett a full year of professional hockey in the AHL, where he had 19 goals and 40 points in 46 games with the Springfield Thunderbirds. With all these in place, it seemed like Tippett was set to light up the NHL in a top-six role in Florida. However, it just never happened.
Tippett thus far has one point in seven games this season and also ranks second-last in GAR on the Panthers, right ahead of previously stated Acciari, with a -1.60 GAR. Tippett has struggled both offensively and defensively and proved to be a liability. Tippett has the potential to be a very good goal scorer in the NHL, but he hasn’t tapped into that part of his game at the NHL level yet.
What is Next?
The Panthers take on the Detroit Red Wings, and Bobrovsky will get the nod in goal, hoping to have a good game to help pad his statistics. As for Acciari and Tippett, they’ll need to take whatever limited chances they can get at this point and make the most of them as they look to cement themselves into the lineup.
PIT Penguins Writer THW. Instagram: puckempire. Formerly a Florida Panthers writer.