September 1, 2017, 2:16 PM ET [3 Comments]
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GM Dale Tallon made it a point last year to mention at the end of the day 5 on 5 performance is the key to success in this league. While special teams is important, 5 on 5 prowess will propel teams into the playoffs and beyond when officials tend to swallow their whistles more.
In relation to the Florida Panthers, Tallon's sentiments are mostly true.
The 2015-16 season was the most successful in franchise history. With 103 points and a 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, they still finished 23rd in power play percentage.
The last five seasons the Panthers have finished 24th, 23rd, 23rd, 30th, and 6th in power play percentage. That 6th place finish was during the disastrous, lockout-shortened 2012-13 season which resulted in the Panthers having the worst record in the NHL.
Obviously Tallon's sentiment holds water.
A good power play doesn't guarantee success, and bad power play doesn't preclude total failure.
However, there is no question a better power play helps teams that struggle to score goals 5 on 5. Recent history has shown that for all the young talent the Panthers have on the roster, scoring goals has still been lacking.
The injury-plagued team of last season was 23rd in goals for, and they were 8th during their most successful season two years ago. Obviously goals no matter how they show up, and for this Panther team power play success might be the difference between being serious contenders and just above average.
There is nowhere to go but up from a health perspective on this team. Whatever could go wrong last year did. When/if Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov go down long term, this team is going to struggle regardless. That is also 2/5 of the first power play unit, so the dropoff in production is palpable. Except for a few flashes, it was dropoff after dropoff last year. There simply was no way to overcome the injuries and coaching carousel.
Now the page is turned.
Time will tell what new/rookie head coach Bob Boughner and Co. will bring to the table, but from a personnel standpoint, the power play unit is solid.
Projected first unit- Huberdeau, Barkov, Dadonov, Yandle, Ekblad
Projected second unit- Trocheck, Bjugstad, Vrbata, Matheson, Demers
There is no reason for these units to struggle, and hopefully the new coaching staff will breathe new life into this part of the Panthers' game.
Health and top 10 power play should result in a nice bounce-back year for Florida that needs it in the worst way. Two seasons ago it looked as if the Cats were on their way to becoming one of the best teams in the league. They were arguably the most disappointing team in the NHL last season.
Tallon now has full control over the club again, and he certainly will not stand for being a soft, undersized team. That kind of spine will be important in reshaping this team into the contender he created two seasons ago after several years of hard work.
Luckily he's much, much closer to creating that team than he was when he took over the GM job in Florida back in May of 2010. His 5-year blueprint delivered right on time two years ago. After some self-inflicted organizational wounds he's back it and hungry to re-establish the Panthers as a league force.
Clicking power play units will go a long way towards squeaking out those handful of wins that might make all the difference in the regular season and playoffs.