The 2016-17 season was a train wreck. I have some theories on why it didn’t work not including injuries because for the millionth time when the wall in the locker room says NO EXCUSES! it means injuries don’t matter. We also had similar injury issues in 2015-16.
1. Lack of Physicality
One of the most hated trades of the offseason was Gudbranson for McCann. People complained the team was a bunch of weaklings to put it in an appropriate manner. Now, big body checks can force a player of the puck but at the same time, the player executing the check can’t take the puck right away which gives time for the player being checked’s teammate to come get the puck while a blocked shot is more likely to give possession to the team executing the blocked shot. Would you rather have a bone crushing hit in the corner but the opposing team takes the puck or a blocked shot a few feet in front of your goalie that forces the puck towards the boards out of harm’s way. While the physicality is entertaining, a blocked shot is a lot more effective in creating chances for your team.
Man I was naïve. Bone crushing hits create momentum while a blocked shot is actually more likely to go back to the other team. The Panthers played no physical game whatsoever last year and it was costly. It showed you need at least a little physicality to win games. There were several goals that could’ve been stopped if we had used the body.
2. Perfect Shots
The Panthers seemed to shoot from the farthest out last year. Now if they had bodies screening the goalies this would’ve worked. Has anyone noticed that our goalies give up at least one easy goal per game while all of our goals were perfect shots and we rarely got garbage goals. A goal is a goal no matter how ugly it is.
3. Key Players Lacking Production
Several key players such as Reilly Smith and Aaron Ekblad struggled last year and with the two carrying a combined $12.5M cap hit next year they need to play better.
These are some theories. Hopefully next year is better.