The Panthers won’t win in the Huberdeau and Barkov era

Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov have all the talent in the world. Irregardless, it’s become obvious that the Panthers will not win in the time they have these two talents. Barkov has 2 years left on his contract and Huberdeau 3 years. Huberdeau wants to win and will likely move on at the end of his contract. Barkov is an enigma. The terrible Panthers defense will take around 2-3 years to fix. By the time it is fixed, Huberdeau and Barkov will be long gone. While the blame cannot be squarely put on the shoulders of the two, they both have to take some blame, especially Barkov. Barkov, the team captain, has not been assertive enough in getting the team to play. The team doesn’t have heart. They just want to come in and collect their paychecks. Sergei Bobrovsky is trapped in his own mind, and the Panthers have trapped themselves into his awful contract. If the team is going to make the playoffs, they need to be a leader. Barkov has the skill of players like Crosby, but what seperates Barkov from Crosby is leadership. Crosby has led the Penguins to 3 cups. He has a lot of talent and plays hard every night. Same thing with Alex Ovechkin. The Toronto Maple Leafs have responded well after being beat by David Ayres. The Panthers don’t respond. That is the difference between these two teams. The Maple Leafs will be playing with a chip on their shoulder and I expect a deep playoff run from John Tavares and crew. The Panthers do not respond well to pressure. Barkov does not perform well under pressure. Take the Game 5 OT Penalty shot as an example. One may argue that Barkov, now older has learned from those mistakes, when he was young. He hasn’t. He doesn’t score the big goals. Noel Acciari and Mike Hoffman have been the guys scoring the big goals all year long. The Panthers need to play with a chip on their shoulder. Joel Quenneville has not done anything to change the culture in South Florida and that is thoroughly disappointing. Ownership is apoleptic and is demanding another rebuild, starting by cutting $10 million in salary. Attendance will dwindle, meaning the Panthers will continue to bleed money. By 2022, they will reach the $100 million loss buyout number and relocate. The team will play in a new city, probably Quebec, without Huberdeau and Barkov. That is how things are right now. However there is still faint hope. The Panthers must respond to Thursday’s heartbreaking loss with a surge. The rest of the road won’t be easy. They have to play Boston twice, St Louis twice, Toronto again, the Washington Capitals, the Dallas Stars, Calgary and the surging New York Rangers. Those games won’t be easy. However the games against teams not doing well must all be wins. No room for losses in any of those games. No losing to Ottawa in OT like in 2017-18. This is highly unlikely that the Panthers do this. My patience is drained, like every other fan. Huberdeau has been superb for most of the season, while Barkov has been mediocre by his standards. Barkov, the captain needs to be elite. Bobrovsky needs to return to form. We saw flashes of the old Sergei in February in Arizona and Columbus. Bobrovsky needs to play that way every night. The defense needs to buckle down. Mike Matheson and Keith Yandle need to contribute more offensively and keep the puck in the O-zone when they are on the ice, because it’s not pretty when it goes the other way. Riley Stillman is prone to rookie mistakes, but Anton Stralman needs to do a better job at helping him limit those mistakes. Aaron Ekblad needs to increase his speed. On the other side, Dadonov needs to wake up. He has had a horrible February and needs to return to form down the stretch. Brett Connolly needs to be more consistent. Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark need to make more of an impact instantaneously. Erik Haula is known to be a bit of a diva, and that makes him play with a chip on his shoulder. Perhaps third line icetime is better for him. Colton Sceviour needs to bury his chances. The only players on the team who are playing well right now are Mike Hoffman, Frank Vatrano, Aleksi Saarela, Noel Acciari and Mark Pysyk. The Panthers need to be disciplined. Not just because they have a bad PK but because they have allowed so many goals, seconds after returning to even strength. However, this is all Huberdeau and Barkov’s jobs to get these guys to doing this. Based on trends, I don’t think they can. Hopefully they prove me wrong.