The team usually holds its season ending locker clean out at their arena in Sunrise, but with a new training facility, the team held its final day of meetings in Coral Springs on Monday.
Even though the venue had changed, the disappointing feeling was very familiar.
“Where do you start? This is not the day we want to be dealing with. It's like a bad dream that keeps reoccurring,'' said defenseman Bryan Allen. “It's definitely too familiar.''
Coach Pete DeBoer and general manager Randy Sexton each held individual meetings with players throughout the day.
DeBoer said he was surprised by the honesty and accountability from players when he asked “what was your role in why we're sitting here today out of the playoffs?''
Sexton said “most players were sincere, but a couple guys were telling me what I wanted to hear and not what reality was.''
Regardless, both DeBoer and Sexton agree that changes need to be made. The Panthers have now missed the playoffs for an NHL record tying nine straight seasons and record-setting 10 straight years. The team finished ranked 28th in the 30 team league, ended last in its division for the first time in franchise history and its 77 points were fewest since the lockout.
“We all had bigger dreams, that's for sure,'' said captain Bryan McCabe. “That's the way it goes. We have to work hard this summer, come back with a new attitude and get off to a better start. Our consistency wasn't there at all. We didn't play great for a month. We don't deserve to be in the playoffs and have no one to blame but ourselves. We have to try and turn this ship around.''
In February, team management announced that major changes were coming to the roster. Sexton, working on a one year deal, may or may not be back as the team's ownership say there will be future discussions on Sexton's future. On Monday, Sexton said he was moving forward and expects to help mold the Panthers future.
He says he and DeBoer will meet soon to talk about Florida's coaching staff – DeBoer is under contract for next season but his assistants have expiring contracts – as well as to talk about players they want back.
“There has been no change in my status,'' said Sexton. “I expect to be back, there have been no signals otherwise. I fully expect to be back.''
Goaltender Tomas Vokoun is one player who is expected to be shopped during the offseason. Vokoun has one year left on his contract with a cap hit of $5.7 million and could bring back some serious assets. Vokoun has a no movement clause, but reiterated Monday that he would be willing to talk about waiving it. Vokoun made similar comments at the trade deadline.
Other core players -- like Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton and McCabe -- could also be shopped during the offseason as the Panthers try to get "bigger, faster and stronger" as Sexton said.
“It's a hard situation and it's all hypothetical now. We'll see,'' said Vokoun, who missed Florida's final three games with a back strain. “It's a little in their hands, a little in mind. We'll see where we go, what the changes will be. Right now, no one knows much. They have a vision, but you can only do so much. Just because you want to trade someone or bring someone in, it doesn't mean that's easy to do.''
Goalies Scott Clemmensen (United States) and Tomas Vokoun (Czech Republic) will be playing in the IIHF World Championships next month in Germany. For Vokoun, international play is old hat; he led Czech to a Bronze medal in the 2006 Olympics and was their starter at the Vancouver games.
Clemmensen says he's looking forward to what will be a new experience.
Said Vokoun: “It's painful for me not to play in the playoffs these three years. I have the opportunity to play and I'm going to take advantage.''
Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov will play for Russia in the tournament and coach Pete DeBoer will be an assistant for Canada. Stephen Weiss says he hasn't been contacted by Canada yet, and Michael Frolik won't play for Czech because he needs nasal surgery.
-- A large number of players boarded a mini bus Monday afternoon headed for the airport. Destination: The postseason.
Rochester opens its best-of-seven series Thursday against the Abbottsford "Miami" Heat. The Heaters are the AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames.
-- Sexton will represent the Panthers at Tuesday's draft lottery in Toronto. The Panthers are ranked third with a chance to jump up to the top pick – Florida has won the lottery twice in its history. The lottery will be shown live on Versus at 8 p.m.