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Florida Panthers Long, Bumpy Road Back to the Playoffs ... It's Been an Interesting Decade in South Florida

FLORIDA PANTHERS: A DECADE-PLUS OF DROUGHT

Bure1999-2000: Led by Pavel Bure's league-leading 58 goals, the Panthers get 98 points to earn the franchise's third postseason berth. Florida promptly gets swept by eventual champ New Jersey.

2000-01: Panthers trade for Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen yet start slow and clean house by firing GM Bryan Murray Terrymurayand coach Terry Murray. Team ends with 66 points and misses the playoffs.

2001-02: Wayne Huizenga sells team to group led by Alan Cohen and Bernie Kosar. The fiery Mike Keenan is brought in to coach after slow start; Bure is traded. Team gets franchise-low 60 points. Franchise's place in South Florida market quickly fades.

Keenan2002-03: Another slow start to the season dooms the Panthers as Jokinen comes into his own by leading team with 36 goals. Team finishes fourth in division, misses playoffs.

2003-04: GM Rick Dudley wins power struggle with Keenan (this time), coaches team himself for a bit after firing Iron Mike. Team goes into lockout year by finishing 1-6-2.

2004-05: Season wiped out by lockout but plenty of drama beforehand. Dudley and coach John Torchetti are canned in favor of, yes, new GM Mike Keenan and Luongo1coach Jacques Martin. 

2005-06: New era of NHL doesn't help Panthers fortunes as team finishes fourth in division despite bringing in vets such as Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts, Martin Gelinas and Jozef Stumpel. 85 points is an improvement.

2006-07: Keenan trades Luongo to Vancouver in June in a most lopsided deal then is fired on Labor Day. Martin takes over as coach and GM. Ed Belfour comes to town and brings his special brand of fun. Martin trades Todd Bertuzzi (main piece of Luongo trade) after back injury limits him to 7 games.

Jm2007-08: Panthers make a nice run for the playoffs and win seven straight from March 2-16. But three straight divisional losses doom team to golf course again. Martin fired as coach, stays as GM. Jokinen is traded to Phoenix by Martin at the draft.

2008-09: New coach Pete DeBoer's bunch ties Montreal for eighth place but loses tiebreaker as Canadiens have a more shootout wins. Rule is changed, but too late for Panthers. Martin quits to Petejmcoach Canadiens. Jay Bouwmeester traded before he can walk away as free agent.

2009-10: Season starts in Finland and team gets off to slow start. New GM Randy Sexton compares team to 'Titanic,' leading new owners to write letter to fans saying 'enough is enough.' Sexton cleans house at deadline, team finishes last in division for first time in history.

Tallon2010-11: Sexton is replaced by Dale Tallon in May and Nathan Horton is traded by June. Tallon decides team isn't making playoffs, goes on salary dump at deadline; team looks like it should be in the AHL. DeBoer is fired a day after team finishes last in Eastern Conference for first time in history. 

Celebration2011-12: Tallon uses money dumped in previous season to go on a spending spree in the summer, bringing in 13 new players to re-tool the roster. Fueled by new players, coach Kevin Dineen and retro red uniforms, Panthers start strong and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

 

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Can't wait for 12-13:):):):):) Truly a new era of the Panthers is here.

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