The long wait is over, folks...hockey is back and the Cats open the 2019-20 season tonight against the in-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning!
This may be the most important season in Panthers history. It's the first time the organization has taken the restrictions off and gone all in - first with the hiring of future Hall of Fame coach Joel Quenneville and then having an active offseason...
- Sergei Bobrovsky (G): Signed 7-year contract
- Anton Stralman (D): Signed 3-year contract
- Brett Connolly (F): Signed 4-year contract
- Noel Acciari (F): Signed 3-year contract
- Sam Montembeault (G): Signed 1-year extension
- Jayce Hawryluk (F): Signed 1-year extension
- Roberto Luongo (G): Retired
- Derek MacKenzie (F): Retired
- James Reimer (G): Traded to CAR
- Riley Sheahan (F): Signed 1-year contract w/EDM
- J.S. Dea (F): Signed 2-year contract w/BUF
- Troy Brouwer (F): Free Agent
This is a team that's frustratingly close to being "something," yet, has fallen short and floundered the past number of seasons. These moves will hopefully get them to the next level.
They've certainly done their job in catching the eyes of fans, experts and the hockey community as a whole. Many folks feel the Cats could be the next big thing. NHL even ranked them #12 in their Super Sixteen power rankings that they released yesterday.
And then there's me...a cautiously optimistic Panthers fan.
Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely excited. As a huge Q fan, I have all the confidence in him, his system and what he can instill and bring out of this team. There's also a tremendous amount of talent and cool players to like on this squad.
But the reality is that it all has to come together and while I have no worries on the offensive side of things, it's the defense that's still a bit too shaky for me. In fact, head over to the Litter Box Cats site and read a super-detailed breakdown of the 2018-19 Florida defense. Fantastic work!
The Big Key
Outside of what we've all discussed forever regarding the defense, I think the major key to the Panthers success this season will be to come out of the gates hot.
The past couple seasons saw Florida with slow, sluggish starts that they never seemed to really recover from. They seemed often out-of-sync and frustratingly "blah." It felt like they were never prepared and just floating around, which led to many losses that should have been wins.
This season should be different. Q has given them a direction/game plan and his emphasis on pace (if properly executed) should see the Cats have a much better start than previous years.
Let's go! Strong start, boys!
Random Cats News
Ed Jovanovski and Jeff Chychrun named analysts for Panthers Broadcast.
From the Sun Sentinel:
"With a combined 26 years of NHL experience, Jovanovski and Chychrun will appear on broadcasts throughout the season as the team’s analysts before and after games, as well as during intermissions."
Final Roster Set
Below is your 2019-20 Florida Panthers. I really like what I see and am excited about the talent in the pipeline that will certainly make it's way up to the NHL this season.
- Mike Matheson
- Aaron Ekblad
- Keith Yandle
- Anton Stralman
- MacKenzie Wtenderseegar
- Mark Pysyk
- Josh Brown
- Aleksander Barkov
- Jonathan Huberdeau
- Evgenii Dadonov
- Vincent Trocheck
- Brett Connolly
- Frank Vatrano
- Denis Malgin
- Mike Hoffman
- Henrik Borgstrom
- Noel Acciari
- Colton Scevior
- Jayce Hawryluk
- Dryden Hunt
It should be a good game tonight. Tampa took the "W" in all four of their meetings last season and outscored the Cats 19-10. The Lightning were a legit juggernaut last season, but that first round exit to the Blue Jackets was something...I have no doubt in my mind that they're looking to make a statement tonight and continue their regular season superiority.
But you know what..?
The Cats are looking to make a statement, too!
Puck drop at 7 ET, 6 CT.
While you wait for tonight, enjoy this Panthers mural from Jon Curran.