Tomas Fleischmann

Looking back at Panthers’ NHL-record playoff drought


Sure, the Florida Panthers backed into the playoffs last night thanks to a Buffalo Sabres defeat. And yes, this team isn’t going to scare the sixth seed after leaning upon a league-high 18 charity points. Even with all that in mind, you’d have to have a cold soul* if you weren’t happy for Panthers fans who haven’t watched their team play a postseason game since April 9, 2000.

The Panthers broke the longest playoff drought in NHL history on Thursday, so it seems like a logical time to look back at 10 seasons of futility (the lockout erased one season, after all). The team’s such a mess that I’ll just do the best I can to break things up into digestible eras.

Terry Murray gives way to Duane Sutter: After leading the Panthers to a franchise-record 98 points in what was once their last playoff season (1999-2000), Terry Murray was fired 36 games in 2000-01. Duane Sutter finished out the last 46 games and managed one more season before being canned as well (01-02).

Panthers in 2000-01: 22-38-13-9 (66 points)
2001-02: 22-44-10-6 (60 pts.)

Duane Sutter’s overall record: 22-35-15 (Note: for the sake of sanity, I’m combining ties and OTL’s going forward in this spot. You’ll live.)

The Mike Keenan Era: Keenan spent two seasons as the Panthers’ head coach before shifting to GM from May 2004-September 2006. Things get a little screwy because the lines between coach and GM can get blurred – there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen – so let’s just try to keep it simple. (Rick Dudley spent time as general manager and coach, too … so seriously, it’s confusing.)

2002-03: 24-36-13-9 (70 pts.)
2003-04: 28-35-15-4 (75 pts.)
2005-06: 37-34-11 (85 pts.)

Keenan’s coaching record: 45-73-35
Rick Dudley’s coaching record: 13-15-12
John Torchetti’s coaching record: 10-12-5

The Jacques Martin Era: The Panthers eventually promoted Jacques Martin from coach (2005-06) to coach/general manager, allowing him to shop for and cook his own groceries – to paraphrase Bill Parcells. Martin’s recipe wasn’t so robust in Florida, though. Martin spent the 2008-09 season as GM while Peter DeBoer took over as coach.

2006-07: 35-31-16 (86 pts.)
2007-08: 38-35-9 (85 pts.)
2008-09: 41-30-11 (93 pts.)

Jacques Martin’s coaching record: 110-100-36

The Let’s Just Call it the Grab Bag Era: DeBoer saw three different general managers in his three seasons in Florida: Martin, Randy Sexton and Dale Tallon. If that doesn’t show you how much of a mess this franchise has been, I don’t know what will.

2009-10: 32-37-13 (77 pts.)
2010-11: 30-40-12 (72 pts.)

Peter DeBoer’s coaching record: 73-67-24

To Review

So, since the last time the 1999-2000 season ended, the Panthers have had: seven coaches, seven general managers (counting interim ones such as Chuck Fletcher) and three finishes in second place in their division. (Every other finish was in third place or worse.)  They’ve lost 40+ games twice and suffered through five more seasons with 35+ defeats. As much as the 10 failed seasons have been about losing and disappointment, they’ve also been clear evidence of the toxic effects of stability.

Then again, you could also argue that the Panthers gave the keys to two guys (Keenan and Martin) who didn’t really benefit from receiving a decent run of stability.


Like I mentioned, the Panthers didn’t exactly kick down the door to the playoffs, but it should be obvious that even this moderate achievement is huge for the clueless Cats. They haven’t won a playoff series since they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1996 Stanley Cup finals, however, so the big question is: how far are they from being a legitimate threat? Is this already the year?

* – Sabres fans get a partial pass for obvious short-term reasons.

Letang had a ‘good day’ at practice, Penguins hoping he can return soon

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 09: Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Joonas Donskoi #27 of the San Jose Sharks battle for the puck during the third period in Game Five of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on June 9, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Yesterday, they got Sidney Crosby back.

Soon, the Pittsburgh Penguins should have another key player back in the lineup. Kris Letang, their top defenseman, participated in full-contact practice today, taking the same step Crosby took two days ago.

“He had a good day on the ice today, we’ll see where it goes from there,” head coach Mike Sullivan said of Letang, who’s missed three games with an upper-body injury. “We’re encouraged with his progress. We’re hoping to get him back soon.”

The Penguins host the Islanders tomorrow night. Don’t be surprised if Letang plays. He skated with Ian Cole at this morning’s practice.

If Letang isn’t ready to go against the Isles, his next opportunity to return will be Saturday in Philadelphia.

Goalie nods: After Subban’s rough outing, B’s turn to McIntyre

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: Zane McIntyre #50 of the Boston Bruins makes a save against the Washington Capitals during the second period at TD Garden on September 22, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Crazy start to the year in Boston.

On Wednesday night, the B’s will start their fourth different goalie of the season — a season that’s just six games old, remember — as Zane McIntyre gets the nod at MSG against the Rangers.

McIntyre made his NHL debut in last night’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Minnesota, coming on in relief of Malcolm Subban, who was making his second-ever start. Subban allowed three goals on 16 shots before getting hooked midway through the second period, and McIntyre made 15 saves on 17 shots to close things out.

Needless to say, these are tough times in Boston’s crease.

The club’s No. 1 netminder, Tuukka Rask, is still sidelined with injury (though head coach Claude Julien said Rask may be available for Saturday’s game against Detroit). Anton Khudobin, the club’s No. 2, is out three weeks with an upper-body ailment.

Unsurprisingly, the Bruins have struggled with all the flip-flopping in goal. They’ve allowed nine goals over their last two games — both losses — and that came after Rask stopped 62 of 64 shots in back-to-back wins over the Jets and Devils.

For the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist gets the start in goal.


— Battle of the Backups in Brooklyn, as Al Montoya and the Canadiens take on Thomas Greiss and the Isles.

Cam Talbot, fresh off a shutout win over Winnipeg in the Heritage Classic, goes for the Oilers. Braden Holtby is expected to play for Washington.

— Some uncertainty in Anaheim: John Gibson, who came on in relief for the injured Jonathan Bernier in last night’s OT loss to San Jose, would (presumably) be the guy tonight against Nashville. That said, Gibson has played quite a bit lately — three games in the last six nights — and the club did recall Dustin Tokarski from AHL San Diego today. Tokarski has a fair bit of NHL experience, with 33 regular season and five playoff games on his resume.

No word yet on a Preds starter.

Alain Vigneault got an interesting call from Patrick Roy this past summer

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29:  Nick Holden #22 of the New York Rangers in action against the New Jersey Devils  during their pre season game at Madison Square Garden on September 29, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Patrick Roy quit the Colorado Avalanche due to “philosophical differences” with GM Joe Sakic. That much we know for sure.

And while those differences were never explained in full detail, it sure sounds like one of them — and let’s face it, there were probably a bunch of them — was the assessment of defenseman Nick Holden.

To refresh your memory, Sakic traded Holden to the Rangers in June, and all the Avs got in return was a fourth-round draft pick in 2017.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault remembers the trade well.

“It was funny, we were coming back from (the draft in) Buffalo, I got a call as I got off the plane in Ottawa from Patrick Roy saying to me, ‘You just got one of my better defensemen,'” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“And I don’t know why Pat called me out of the blue.”

Yeah, funny.

For the record, we’re not suggesting that the Holden trade tore the Colorado Avalanche apart. At the end of the day, it was a minor trade. But it may have been illustrative of the philosophical differences between Roy and Sakic. The former was clearly a Holden fan. The latter thought he was worth a fourth-round pick.

According to Vigneault, Holden has been a good early fit with the Rangers (4-2-0). The 29-year-old, whose cap hit is just $1.65 million, has logged over 20 minutes a game while skating mostly on the top pairing with Ryan McDonagh, who’s been excellent to start the season.

It remains to be seen if Holden and McDonagh, both left shots, will remain together all year. McDonagh spent most of last year with right-shooting Dan Girardi or Kevin Klein, but those two are currently paired with Brady Skjei and Marc Staal, respectively. The healthy scratches last game were both rights shots, Adam Clendening and Dylan McIlrath, the latter of whom is reportedly on the trading block.

So a lot could still change with this Rangers defense, which came into the season under a powerful microscope. The early returns have been encouraging, though. (Or, at the very least, not as poor as many had expected.)

Meanwhile, the Avs’ back end remains a work in progress. Sakic said the Holden trade would open up opportunities for youngsters Nikita ZadorovChris Bigras, and Duncan Siemens; however, the latter two didn’t make the team out of camp and Zadorov has averaged just 16:25 of ice time so far.

In Colorado’s first five games, new coach Jared Bednar has leaned heavily on Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Francois Beauchemin, with support from Zadorov, Eric Gelinas and free-agent additions Fedor Tyutin and Patrick Wiercioch.

Bernier out, Ducks recall Tokarski as rash of goalie injuries continues

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Goaltender Jonathan Bernier #1 of the Anaheim Ducks during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Ducks 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

One of the prominent storylines early in this NHL campaign — the health, or lack thereof, of various netminders — has played out again, this time in Anaheim.

Last night, backup Jonathan Bernier exited just his second start of the year with an upper-body injury, forcing John Gibson to come on in relief for an eventual 2-1 OT loss to the Sharks.

Today, the Ducks announced Bernier is day-to-day with his ailment, and recalled Dustin Tokarski from AHL San Diego.

Bernier had been solid for the Ducks in limited action this year, stopping 52 of 56 shots over his two appearances for a .929 save percentage. Tokarski has been less successful with the Gulls, allowing seven goals over two appearances (both wins, mind you) for a .885 save percentage.

The bigger story, obviously, is Bernier joining a laundry list of injured netminders.

A quick rundown:

— Arizona is without Mike Smith
— L.A. is without Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff
— Boston is without Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin
— Buffalo is without Robin Lehner (illness)

The Ducks are back in action tonight, hosting Nashville, and it’s likely they’ll go with Gibson again, rather than throw Tokarski right into action fresh off a recall.