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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Should Florida’s Struggles Through First Half of Season be Concerning? – NBC 6 South Florida

Last summer, yours truly wrote a column for NBC 6 that said the trade by the Florida Panthers to acquire star forward Matthew Tkachuk would be costly because of what was given up. Through the first 48 games of the 2022-23 season, I have so far being proven right.

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At this point during the 2021-22 season, the Panthers were the story of the NHL with a 33-10-5 record on their way to winning the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team for the first time in franchise history. One season later, the Cats have 10 less wins and currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

It shouldn’t be a shock that the Panthers are having a downhill slide one season after success. The following season after making it to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, Florida finished with six less wins and was eliminated in the first round. The seasons after the Panthers won their division in 2012 and 2016? No playoff appearances and a losing record both times.

Florida’s latest issues are the result of several components. First off, the obvious trade of left wing Jonathan Huderdeau in the trade last summer with Calgary had a big part in the hiccups. “Hubu” was the pulse of the team and would likely still be around had Florida not given the contract he deserved to center and captain Aleksander Barkov – who so far this season has missed 10 games due to injury.

Injuries have been the story for Florida this season. Left wing Anthony Duclair still hasn’t returned from an Achilles injury last offseason while the injury report reads like a M*A*S*H* unit: defensemen Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour and Radko Gudas have all missed time along with centers Anton Lundell and Colin White, right winger Patric Hornqvist and goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight being out at various points.

All of that has made it quite the challenge for Paul Maurice in his first season with the franchise. At the same time, one has to wonder if it was the right move to part ways with interim coach Andrew Burnette after last season considering the fact Florida already has more regulation losses so far this season (20) than all of last season (18).

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It hasn’t been all bad for the Panthers so far. Florida has won seven of its last 10 games and sits three games above .500 for the first time since December 8. The Cats have also gotten good play from several younger players, including goaltender Alex Lyon and his combined 57 saves in his two wins for Florida this season.

The Panthers will be tested this week as they play four games before the All-Star break against the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins – teams Florida so far has a combined record of 1-5 against this season.

There is almost no chance Florida can get a second straight Presidents’ Trophy to make its way to South Florida. At this rate, they are going to have to do all they can just to make sure a second straight playoff appearance takes place.

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Last summer, yours truly wrote a column for NBC 6 that said the trade by the Florida Panthers to acquire star forward Matthew Tkachuk would be costly because of what was given up. Through the first 48 games of the 2022-23 season, I have so far being proven right.

At this point during the 2021-22 season, the Panthers were the story of the NHL with a 33-10-5 record on their way to winning the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team for the first time in franchise history. One season later, the Cats have 10 less wins and currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

It shouldn’t be a shock that the Panthers are having a downhill slide one season after success. The following season after making it to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, Florida finished with six less wins and was eliminated in the first round. The seasons after the Panthers won their division in 2012 and 2016? No playoff appearances and a losing record both times.

Florida’s latest issues are the result of several components. First off, the obvious trade of left wing Jonathan Huderdeau in the trade last summer with Calgary had a big part in the hiccups. “Hubu” was the pulse of the team and would likely still be around had Florida not given the contract he deserved to center and captain Aleksander Barkov – who so far this season has missed 10 games due to injury.

Injuries have been the story for Florida this season. Left wing Anthony Duclair still hasn’t returned from an Achilles injury last offseason while the injury report reads like a M*A*S*H* unit: defensemen Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour and Radko Gudas have all missed time along with centers Anton Lundell and Colin White, right winger Patric Hornqvist and goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight being out at various points.

All of that has made it quite the challenge for Paul Maurice in his first season with the franchise. At the same time, one has to wonder if it was the right move to part ways with interim coach Andrew Burnette after last season considering the fact Florida already has more regulation losses so far this season (20) than all of last season (18).

It hasn’t been all bad for the Panthers so far. Florida has won seven of its last 10 games and sits three games above .500 for the first time since December 8. The Cats have also gotten good play from several younger players, including goaltender Alex Lyon and his combined 57 saves in his two wins for Florida this season.

The Panthers will be tested this week as they play four games before the All-Star break against the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins – teams Florida so far has a combined record of 1-5 against this season.

There is almost no chance Florida can get a second straight Presidents’ Trophy to make its way to South Florida. At this rate, they are going to have to do all they can just to make sure a second straight playoff appearance takes place.



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