With Washington’s loss on Tuesday, the Florida Panthers have a chance to secure the Southeast Division with a victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. The Panthers haven’t even made the playoffs since the 1999-2000 campaign and they have never won their division in the history of their franchise.
If the Panthers are able to secure their division, then Panthers GM Dale Tallon deserves a lot of the credit. One of the chief architects of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup winning team, Tallon has managed to transform the Panthers in less than two years. Three of Panthers’ top four scorers were not in Florida when Tallon took the job. Nor was goaltender Jose Theodore, who has done a superb job replacing Tomas Vokoun this season.
Rookie coach Kevin Dineen also deserves recognition for helping the Panthers absorb quite a few new players from other franchises and integrate them all into their core this season. Players like Brian Campbell who, following two rough seasons with Chicago, has excelled in Florida after being given a key role in power-play situations.
The Winnipeg Jets will not make the playoffs, so at this point they’re primarily playing for personal pride. After this matchup, they will face the New York Islanders on Thursday before finishing their season in Winnipeg for Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.