Captainless Cats

With Captain Sasha Barkov on the shelf for a few weeks, the Panthers are facing a steep-test. Barkov is the heart and soul of the Panthers, and is a crucial contributor all over the ice, in every situation. There is almost no other player in the NHL that has that ability to contribute 5 on 5, in Overtime, on the Power Play and on the Penalty Kill and being the team’s best in each category. Ever since he was drafted 2nd overall in 2013, the Panthers have played 89 regular season games without him. Here is how they did each year without Barkov.

In 2013-14, Barkov missed 28 games of his rookie season, a majority coming after suffering a knee injury at the olympics. Barkov missed 4 games before the Olympics, and the team went 1-2-1. After the Olympics, Barkov stayed on the shelf for the rest of the season and the Panthers imploded going 7-16-1 to finish the season, bringing them to an overall record of 8-18-2 without Barkov in his rookie season, for a point percentage of .321. The Panthers finished that year 29-45-8, which meant that the team was 21-27-6 with him in the lineup, which is still awful, but is in sharp contrast to their record without him.

Barkov played in 71 games in 2014-15. He missed three games in November and the team would go 1-1-1. The team missed him for a six game stretch in December going 3-1-2 and won two games without him in January. The team overall went 6-2-3 without Barky in 2014-15 for a .682 point percentage. With Barkov, the team went 32-27-12 that year. This isn’t to diminish his contributions, but it shows that the 2014-15 team really stepped their game out without their star sophomore center. Combining this with 2013-14, the team went 14-20-5 without him during those two seasons.

2015-16 was Barkov’s breakout season, as he put up 59 points in 66 games. However, he missed significant time with a hand injury and later a concussion. The team went 4-4-2 when he missed ten games with a hand injury and 3-2-1 when he had a concussion, which put them at 7-6-3 (.531) when he was out compared to a 40-20-6 with him in the lineup. At the end of his ELC, the team had gone 21-26-8 without their future captain.

In 2016-17, he missed 15 games with a back injury and the team went 7-5-3 without him. He’d be shut down for the final six games and the team would go 2-4-0, giving them a total that season of 9-9-3 without him (.500) and bringing the record to a total of 30-35-11 without Barkov since being drafted.

Barkov missed three games in 2017-18 and 2019-20 respectively and the team went 3-2-1 in those six total games. The Panthers went 4-2-0 without Barkov last season and have won their sole game without him this year. Overall, the Panthers are 38-39-12 without him since being drafted, which is a .494 point percentage.

Anton Lundell is looking more and more like a second Barkov however. Lundell is a rookie, but he is gonna be the key for the Panthers surviving the stretch. But he can’t do it alone. Sam Bennett has been in a bit of a funk since coming back from injury and Sam Reinhart hasn’t been gamebreaking. Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen have exceeded expectations, but they need help from Bennett and Reinhart.

Additionally, the captaincy is now basically shared between Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad until Barkov returns. Both men have demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and they will be key for getting the best out of the rest of the team. Look for Joe Thornton to possibly earn a temporary A, if the Panthers decide to do so. Thornton and Hornqvist’s veteran presence will be vital for this team as well.