The Florida Panthers development system is a mess. Ever since the failed Tom Rowe coup, the Panthers have failed to develop any prospect. The 2015 NHL Draft hosted by the Panthers is going to be the greatest in NHL History and the Panthers did terrible. Only three players have made the NHL for the Panthers, and two are no longer with the organization from that draft. The Springfield Thunderbirds are no longer the Panthers AHL affiliate. A new AHL affiliate, most likely Charlotte should mean change. Geordie Kinnear has failed to bring Springfield to the playoffs for 4 years. Let’s take a look at the failures of development the Panthers have done.
Chasing Prospects to Europe
In the 2014 NHL Draft, the Panthers picked Juho Lammikko in the 3rd round. Lammikko made the NHL roster in 2018-19, with an injury to Vincent Trocheck, before being replaced by Henrik Borgstrom (more on him later). Lammikko played in 40 games and put up 6 assists. Despite his lackluster offensive ability, Lammikko was a solid defensive center. Dale Tallon told him to find a place to stay. Then, he was exiled to Springfield. Lammikko instantly fled for Finland. For Lammikko, this is a communication failure (a very common occasion among our prospects). Either Tallon should never have told Lammikko to find a place to stay, if Lammikko was to be replaced by Borgstrom, or Lammikko should’ve been kept on the NHL roster as an extra, if Tallon was intent on keeping him. Lammikko had potential, but he never fit into the long term plans of the organization. However, Tallon doesn’t get a pass on this. You do not lie to a prospect or any player.
Another player that fled to Europe was Maxim Mamin. An NHL-AHL tweener, Mamin struggled in the NHL, but was good in the AHL. A 6th rounder from the KHL, Mamin seems like the type of player meant to stay in the KHL. This failure is also on Bob Boughner for screwing up Mamin’s ice time. Mamin is a solid fourth line option, and could easily be a cheaper option to take over for Colton Sceviour, with more offensive upside.
The Tragedy of Henrik Borgstrom
An off the board pick in the 1st round of 2016, Borgstrom looked to be a steal, as he ripped up the NCAA at Denver under Coach Jim Montgomery. The hype was real, so Tallon signed Borgstrom in the midst of a playoff hunt. Bob Boughner opted to only play the youngster after the team was eliminated. Borgstrom should not have been signed in March 2017. Hindsight is 20/20, and Borgstrom should’ve either spent the 2018-19 season full-time in the AHL or NCAA. Instead, Borgstrom was put into a role he wasn’t comfortable with under Boughner, and played 50 games. After a dissapointing start to 2019-20, he was exiled to Springfield, and continued to struggle. Borgstrom seems to be discontent and rumors are flying that he wants to return to Finland. Despite Tallon’s assurances that Borgstrom’s agent is playing games, Tallon’s word here doesn’t hold much weight. Remember, Tallon pissed off Adam Mascherin enough to reenter the draft. Tallon also doesn’t look like he will sign Ben Finkelstein or Linus Nassen. Tallon’s handling of the 2016 draft class has been horrific at best. The only player that seems to have survived is Riley Stillman, who I’m pretty sure Tallon used his influence to pick. I’m not suggesting that Tallon is trying to undermine Rowe, but it seems that there was a massive miscommunication between Rowe and Tallon on how to handle these prospects.
The Failure of the AHL
The most glaring issue is the cesspool of the AHL front office and coaching staff the Panthers have. Despite Leo Luongo doing a very solid job as the goaltending coach, helping pump up Harri Sateri and Chris Dreidger into solid backup options, Springfield’s track record is about as bad as one can get. Geordie Kinnear’s constant line juggling has left the team with no chemistry, and his preference for veteran AHLers over Panther prospects have left the NHL club neutered in depth, as prospects aren’t getting the playing time. The only prospect who hasn’t failed is Owen Tippett, and he might’ve been kept there for too long, that he might have spoiled from the stench of incompetence there. Why play top prospects like Aleksi Heponiemi and allow them to get better, when career AHLer Matt Mangene is there? Heponiemi has lost a year of development and this could prove catastrophic to his once promising NHL career. It is imperative that when the Panthers move their AHL offices, Eric Joyce and Geordie Kinnear are given the boot. The Panthers need a new AHL coach, one good with prospects, such as maybe recruiting a college coach or juniors coach. Tallon’s job is shaky and is likely gone, and the power vacumn will likely be filled by Chris Pronger and Bryan McCabe. I believe McCabe should be put in charge of the AHL. It’s pretty clear Tallon has not held Joyce or Kinnear accountable. Why has Geordie Kinnear outlasted 3 NHL coaches? The Panthers need to run the AHL team competently. If this monster isn’t stopped, then the new age of Grigori Denisenko, John Ludvig, Cole Schwidnt and Spencer Knight will be ruined too. A rumor has the AHL team moving to Charlotte, a lot closer to Sunrise than Springfield, which would make it easier to keep an eye on the AHL team. When your fans are more conscious of the AHL team than your GM, it’s probably time to make a change.
However, there is still some hope. Aleksi Heponiemi can still course correct, but if not soon, he could end up like Jayce Hawryluk. Owen Tippett seems to have survived the meelee and looks to be promising. While guys like Borgstrom are likely done, the new generation of prospects can be saved, if the Panthers adjust their development model.
I am now the Florida Panthers correspondent for the Fifth Quarter. The Fifth Quarter is a website dedicated to covering athletics. Follow the Panthers Fifth Quarter Account on Twitter at @FLPanthers_FQ and follow my personal account at @Kylepuck16. My old twitter account @sun_puck is no longer active. The Fifth Quarter is currently expanding its coverage, and it has left it up to us to build our audience. If you enjoyed this story, please follow the @FLPanthers_FQ account.