In Elliotte Friedman’s latest wonderful 30 Thoughts column, the Sportsnet reporter goes in detail on Florida’s recent philosophical change that resulted in the firing of head coach Gerard Gallant last week. Comparing the Panthers to baseballs Pittsburgh Pirates of 2013 – a team that completely bought into an analytical approach and made the playoffs for the first time in twenty years. The Panthers are trying similarly to buy-in to a game-changing approach, even after the most successful season in franchise history.
Part of the turnaround will hopefully be Tom Rowe stepping from the front office to behind the bench, but Friedman has another note. The Panthers moved Dave Bolland out this summer to clear cap room for a major acquisition in-season. Whoever that ends up being, combined with the return of Jonathan Huberdeau could be a huge swing for the Panthers down the stretch. It cost Lawson Crouse to rid themselves of Bolland, meaning they better take advantage of the cap space it bought them.
- In looking at the upcoming free agent class, Friedman zones in on two names in particular. Kevin Shattenkirk, who has been widely talked about since the last draft as being a possible trade candidate, and Karl Alzner, the steady Washington defenseman who is said to be looking for somewhere between $5.5-6MM dollars this summer. Alzner has been a rock for the Capitals, but with shrinking cap space the team likely won’t be able to afford him past this season. If he does make it to the open market, Friedman points to Western Canada for hints on who will be after the former Team Canada captain (World Junior’s, 2008).
- The Buffalo Sabres are still a rebuilding team, but have suffered through a ton of injuries this season and may not be as bad as their record looks. Interestingly, Friedman reports that the team has been scouting a ton of the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate Utica. While he opines that the team is watching Jake Virtanen who has been up and down all year between the two clubs, perhaps something other than Evander Kane was brought up when Buffalo and Vancouver were talking earlier this year.