Eastern preview: Tough year ahead for Panthers

Eastern preview: Tough year ahead for Panthers
September 1, 2013, 10:45 am
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(Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)

FLORIDA PANTHERS

2012-13: 15-27-6, 36 points

Where they finished: 5th  in the Southeast; 15th in the East; 30th in the NHL

Coach: Kevin Dineen (3rd season)

Key additions: RW Joey Crabb, C Scott Gomez, C Jesse Winchester,  RW Bobby Butler, C Jon Matsumoto, RW Steven Pinizzotto, D Matt Gilroy, D Mike Mottau.

Key subtractions: C Stephen Weiss, RW Jack Sille, D Tyson Strachan, D Nolan Yonkman

Projected Lineup

Forwards

Tomas Fleischmann – Jonathan Huberdeau – Kris Versteeg

Tomas Kopecky – Aleksander Barkov– Scottie Upshall

Sean Bergenheim – DrewShore – Bobby Butler

Quinton Howden -- Nick Bjugstad – Joey Crabb

Defense

Brian Campbell – Dmitry Kulikov

Ed Jovanovski – Erik Gudbranson

Alex Petrovic – Mike Weaver

Goaltenders

Jacob Markstrom– Scott Clemmensen

Our take: After winning the Southeast in 2011-12, the Panthers crashed hard in Kevin Dineen’s second season behind the bench last season, finishing with the worst record in the NHL following the lockout.  The Panthers also lost out in the NHL lottery, where they took Finnish center Aleksander Barkov with the second pick overall.

In Florida, Barkov will get thrown into the fire on an inexperienced roster that lost Stephen Weiss to free agency and is anchored by Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau, who last season tied with Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov for the league lead among rookies with 31 points.

The Panthers are hoping to be a lot healthier this season, but they head into training camp with injuries still nagging defenseman Ed Jovanovski and forwards Kris Versteeg and Sean Bergenheim.

Throw in the fact they’ll begin play in the realigned Atlantic Division and you have a very long and dreary season in the NHL’s southern-most city.

Offseason Grade:  C

Will they make the playoffs in 2013-14:  No.