Fresh off a team record 103-point season and just the franchise’s fifth playoff appearance, the Florida Panthers were not content to rest on their laurels. After a surprising front office shakeup highlighted by the promotions of Dale Tallon and Tom Rowe, to president of hockey operations and general manager respectively, the Panthers hit the ground running in the offseason. Looking to add puck-moving and skill to the team’s blue line, Florida dealt veteran stay-at-home defenseman Erik Gudbranson to Vancouver while acquiring Keith Yandle and Mark Pysyk in separate trades. They topped off the summer shopping spree by signing Jason Demers as a free agent.
With Jaromir Jagr, Reilly Smith, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad all returning plus the club’s new additions, expectations have never been higher in the South Florida hockey market, as George Richards of the Miami Herald writes. The Panthers organization, from ownership on down is embracing those expectations.
“We all expect to win, have a winning mentality that has been introduced the past couple of years. Us younger guys have learned it’s not acceptable to miss the playoffs. That has been instilled by our veteran guys, our coaches, our organization. We’re all buying in. Everyone wants to win here, not just the players.”
“We had our best season ever, so the guys are confident and aware. They feel good about themselves and know they can get to the next level.”
- Prior to the 2015-16 campaign, New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was known to be a reliable and steady defense-first blue liner on a team noted for being among the stingiest defensive clubs. The Blueshirts finished in the top five in goals allowed in each season from 2010-11 through 2014-15. Last season the club ranked 15th overall and the decline in play from Girardi and fellow defenseman Marc Staal attracted much of the blame for the drop-off. The question the Rangers had to ask themselves was whether Girardi’s regression was injury-related – he played much of the season with a cracked knee cap – or the result of years of wear-and-tear finally catching up. The team is banking on the former and Girardi himself is confident he will play at a much higher level in 2016-17, according to Steve Zipay of Newsday. The Rangers will need the 10-year vet to be much better this season if they plan to contend for a Stanley Cup.
- Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar (via the team’s Twitter account) broke the news that Jiri Tlusty, recently inked to a PTO to attend camp with the club, had failed his physical. It’s unclear at this point what caused the veteran forward to flunk the physical but it could be related to the wrist surgery he underwent in January. Obviously this is a setback for Tlusty, who coming off a disappointing season in New Jersey was likely facing an uphill battle to make Colorado’s roster. It’s feasible the two parties could look to renew the relationship once Tlusty is healthy or he could look to latch on somewhere else if the opportunity with the Avalanche closes.