It’s been a pretty rough few months down in the Sunshine State.
The Florida Panthers were the darlings of the NHL Playoffs last season, and now their in the basement. Riding the pine. Playing golf in April. And it sucks.
But you know what makes it better? Ruining other teams’ chances of making the playoffs as well. If we can’t make it, neither will they! *Cue evil, maniacal laughter.
Rebuilding is tough – and the fans (as well as the management) thought the process was well underway less than a year ago when the Panthers clinched the division for the first time this division. Even with some incredible talent under the legal drinking age, the Panthers faltered and must look for solutions once again.
There’s really no way to sugarcoat a last-place finish. Actually wait there is – beat a team trying to remain in playoff contention in their 3rd to last game of the season. ESPECIALLY after said team embarrassed you less than a week earlier. And even more especially when said team is in the 8th and final playoff spot – now currently only 1 point ahead of the 9th place Winnipeg Jets.
Oh you Panthers, always the sneaky ones.
The win gave Florida the two-game season sweep over New York after a fairly convincing victory in Madison Square Garden back in mid March. In fact, I was actually in attendance for that game – along with possibly 4 other Panthers fans – and the ‘Gahden’ was quieter than a cemetery, save for the occasional obviously well thought “come on you f***ing bums” from the loyal and eccentric Rangers fans.
Even more exciting is the Panthers’ chance to take on the spoiler role once more before the final horn of the season blasts this Thursday when they host the (currently) 5th place Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs are hoping for a continued slump on the part of the Montreal Canadiens and to be able to leapfrog into 4th after a quick Floridian road trip. Well wouldn’t that be nice for them.
Time for the boys to forget about the inviting beaches and spoil someone else’s fun one last time.
And how could we forget about the final game of the season? Against state rivals Tampa Bay. Now wouldn’t that be the ultimate cherry on top of this rather sour season? A win against the Lightning would help the fans forget about that little notion of being in 15th and help the club save some of its dignity heading into the offseason. Sounds like a plan to me.
Looking back on the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season that was, it’s not so simple to find a silver lining. But it’s there! Just look a little deeper.
Like at the young gun who took the league by storm. Jonathan Huberdeau is leading all rookies with 28 points – 14 of which were goals. That’s more than 50 points in a regular NHL campaign. Good to know that third overall draft choice can be officially checked off as “not a bust”.
Huberdeau was second on the team in points and 12th in total ice time – showing that he is developing into a real leader for the young Panthers squad. I like what I see from him and he will be a cornerstone in the team’s rebuilding process.
It’s good to know that with five more days until the draft lottery this team is capable of drafting solid players even without winning the #1 spot.
So, back to the team. It’s going to be a less-than-exciting summer, but not all hope is lost. This may be a lame excuse but after all is said and done this was a lockout season and anything could have happened with another 34 games to play. Seriously.
Next year this club will be back with another top-5 pick on its roster, a little more experience and a chip on its shoulder. The real test is how you bounce back from a 3rd to 15th slide and the result will show the true colors of the Florida Panthers.
This time next year, with a little elbow grease added into the mix, this club could be playing spoiler in an entirely different way – by knocking Stanley Cup contenders out of the competition. Sending them to the pine, golf course and looking for answers. I like that spoiler alert a lot better. Don’t you?