Welcome to the Panthers season preview. Today I will be laying out what I think will happen with this team in 2017-18.
Things to Expect
1. Better Defense
Bob Boughner was the architect of a great defense in San Jose. He helped Brent Burns become a powerhouse two-way defender and many other defenders there are very underrated. After the disastrous 2016-17 results, Boughner should be able to implement a solid puck moving defense system.
2. Rookies Rising
After dumping many players several rookies will get a shot. Don’t worry this isn’t a terrible prospect core like we had since everyone developed. This prospect core is a solid core all-around. Many rookies should see time in the NHL this year.
3. Attendance Issues
2016-17 turned off many fans and for the early part of 2017-18 there will be attendance issues. I don’t think it will be as bad as it was in 2014-15 but I won’t be surprised to see a couple 4 digit numbers in attendance.
4. Increased Playing Time for James Reimer
James Reimer will get more playing time this year. He will likely be the 1A goalie this year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get 50 starts.
5. Aaron Ekblad emergence
This is Ekblad’s year. After a few injuries, Ekblad says he was a little too cautious in his rookie years. Now with a big contract and him becoming a leader, expect Ekblad to emerge as the Franchise defenseman we need.
6. Barkov/Huberdeau lighting it up
Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau lost Jaromir Jagr this offseason. These two are now able to play without worrying about Jagr’s slowness and they can show off their speed and get more opportunites.
The Panthers will improve this year but the east is tough. Montreal, Tampa and Toronto will make it as long as those teams stay healthy. Pittsburgh is a lock and Washington/Columbus will make it as long as they stay healthy. With Ottawa, Boston, NY Rangers, NY Islanders and Carolina all making legitimate pushes as well as the Panthers, I just don’t think we will make it this year.
Record: 39-34-9; 87 Points