The Panthers had their final meetings at their training facility throughout Monday with almost every player speaking about their excitement for the future.
With the team's past, who wouldn't be looking ahead?
The Panthers 2010-11 season came to a close on Saturday as Florida upended visiting Washington 1-0 at BankAtlantic Center. Yet that victory brought only the slightest of good feelings. The Panthers finished last in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history, missing the playoffs for what is now an NHL record 10 consecutive seasons.
As in all seasons, the Panthers went through highs and lows. Unfortunately for them, however, the bad points outweighed the good by a substantial margin. With a new coach and a retooled roster, general manager Dale Tallon says there's reason to be optimistic about the future. Tallon does, however, realize that's been said around these parts before.
“We have tough decisions to make and that's why I am here,'' general manager Dale Tallon said Monday. “I'm excited every day. Who wouldn't want to be in this position? We're going to turn this around, have a great future. We have a good core of young players, financial flexibility in the free agent market and a big draft with 10 picks. .-.-. This needs to be a destination. We want to make this a destination. We wan to win a Stanley Cup.''
WHAT WENT RIGHT
-- Florida's penalty kill was one of the best units in the league, finishing sixth. It didn't hurt that Florida was the lowest penalized teams in the league, meaning the Panthers didn't have to kill off as many penalties as other teams. That doesn't underscore the fact that Florida did a great job defensively when down a man or two, as Florida's 41 goals allowed when at a disadvantage was fewest in franchise history – 18 fewer than last season. New assistant coach Gord Murphy – who was retained by the team as it goes about its coaching search – gets much of the credit.
-- Goaltending is obviously a big reason Florida was able to do so well on penalty kills, although both Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen were also around last season. Vokoun continued to show he is still an elite goalie in the league as he finished 11th in save percentage and tied for sixth with six shutouts. If Vokoun leaves as a free agent, Clemmensen will likely have a much larger role in 2011-12.
-- Mike Santorelli was a nice find by assistant general manager Mike Santos as the 25-year-old center broke out in his first full NHL season by finishing third on the team with 20 goals. The return of David Booth – who missed all but 25 games last season with two major concussions – was also a bright spot as Booth led the team in goals (23) for the second time in three seasons.
WHAT WENT WRONG
-- Florida's power play ended the season ranked last in the league and set a franchise record (not counting the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season) for fewest overall goals. Tallon said the problem was more a lack of talent than philosophy although assistant Jim Hulton paid the price for it. The Panthers just had too many long stretches of games without a power play goal for anyone to fear it.
-- The Panthers were definitely competitive, but any thought that Tallon was going to be a buyer at the deadline died when the Panthers lost consecutive 5-1 games to the Islanders and Senators – two teams ranked below Florida at the time. Tallon swept in and decimated the roster, trading veterans like Bryan McCabe, Radek Dvorak, Bryan Allen, Dennis Wideman and Cory Stillman for mostly draft picks and prospects. Florida ended up winning just four of 20 after the deadline as the team dropped to the bottom of the standings.
-- How competitive were the Panthers? They played in a league-high 59 one-goal games. Problem was, Florida didn't win too many of those close games, going just 19-18-12. The Panthers scoring woes were well documented as the team scored two goals or fewer in 48 games. Of those 48 games, Florida won just five.
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Florida Panthers Put a Wrap on 2010-11: Looking Ahead While Looking Back