Almost no one expected this. After a franchise record 103 point season, the Florida Panthers have been eliminated from playoff contention for the 2016-17 season. They have only produced 77 points and if they somehow win the remaining 5 games, they still will fall short of the mark they posted in 2014-15. Now it’s been a bad year. Injuries and struggles as well as inconsistent defensive play and yes I have to admit no physical presence hurt this team. However, as the wall of the Panthers locker room says “NO EXCUSES”! Many in the organization seem to have forgotten that this year. Now I am going to review what went wrong this year in some other post which will come after the season officially ends but I want to address a couple topics including the undeserved criticism on twitter aimed at the 4th line.
A lot of people have blamed the 4th line for this year. The 4th line has been a mix of players including: Derek Mackenzie, Colton Sceviour, Shawn Thornton, Paul Thompson, Shane Harper and others. They have been criticized heavily this year with many assigning blame to them. This isn’t right. Sceviour had a decent season. Your fourth liners generally aren’t supposed to put up 30 points a year. Their main job is to play physically, defensively and provide energy. Most 4th liners get somewhere around 10-20 points a year. Now on twitter I saw a tweet saying we had the 2nd worst production from our bottom 6. Many assigned the blame to Sceviour-Mackenzie-Thompson. I doubted this was true as our leading goal scorer this year was 3rd liner Jonathan Marchessault. However I began to think more. Nick Bjugstad only has 6 goals this year. This is less than Colton Sceviour and Jason Demers and barely beats out Derek Mackenzie. Your 3rd line center, especially one making $4.1M a year no matter if he has had injury trouble can’t put up those bad stats. It’s not like he has a defensive game either. Vanek hasn’t scored a lot and Malgin/Sgarbossa were one and done. The 4th line has been tremendous this year. If you look at our top 6 they also have underperformed. Jagr has had a steep point decline. Jokinen has struggled all year and has gone from 60 to 28 points. Smith has struggled all year and has 35 points. Trocheck started well but cooled down than became red hot for a couple months before he crashed down. In the 2nd half of the year, the Panthers haven’t had their defenseman score much but the defensive play from defenders hasn’t improved. I once said that Pokechecking was more effective than bodychecking. That was a stupid statement looking back. Players are fast enough to avoid the pokecheck but a body check will stop their movement right away. My point being is that a lot of people love Bjugstad too much to notice he isn’t that good and they blame the 4th line. Shawn Thornton has played well offensively this year.
Now instead of playing the blame game let’s play the how to improve the team game!