Looking back at Panthers’ NHL-record playoff drought

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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.)
LOCKOUT
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.

Video: Johansen, Fisher join in Predators’ conference title celebration

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After reaching their first ever Western Conference Final, the Nashville Predators topped that in a big way, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

There were a lot of firsts and rarities along the way.

In ousting the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 victory in Game 6, GM David Poile’s team advanced to the championship round for the first time in his lengthy time as an executive.

Peter Laviolette also became the fourth coach in NHL history to bring three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. The Predators are also the first 16th seed to make it this far.

Yep, that’s a long list of milestones (and not a comprehensive one). And, to think, the Predators haven’t even been on the brink of elimination during the postseason yet.

It’s special stuff, so don’t be surprised by the boisterous celebration you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

P.K. Subban: No city in the NHL ‘has anything on Nashville’

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If there’s one thing we can agree upon about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s that these months have really cemented just how hockey-mad Nashville has become for its Predators.

(Yes, you can call it “Smashville” if you’d like.)

The scene at Bridgestone Arena was as boisterous as ever in the Predators’ 6-3 Game 6 win against the Anaheim Ducks, with legions of fans packing and surrounding the building.

Sights like these have becoming resoundingly normal for a hockey market that was once questioned by media and other fan bases:

Yeah, wow.

As the Predators advanced to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, plenty of people were making jokes at the expense of the Montreal Canadiens for trading P.K. Subban. Of course, Subban wouldn’t take a shot at the Habs during such a great moment, but his praise for puck-nutty Predators fans says a lot in itself.

“I played in an A+ market my whole career,” Subban said, via Jeremy K. Gover of the Nashville Predators Radio Network. “There’s not a city in the league that has anything on Nashville.”

Whether their opponent is the Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators, we already know that Nashville will begin the Stanley Cup Final on the road. That’s OK … Predators fans might need some time to get their voices back and recover from celebrating, so waiting until Games 3 and 4 might be a blessing in disguise.

Ducks’ Cogliano just doesn’t think Predators were the better team

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The Anaheim Ducks battled their way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, but Colton Sissons and the Nashville Predators ended their season on Monday.

The Ducks are processing that disappointment – being just two wins away from a trip to the championship round – and some of their reactions might spark a little controversy.

Specifically, it sounds a bit like Bruce Boudreau believing that his Minnesota Wild were superior to the St. Louis Blues despite falling in that series.

Andrew Cogliano, it must be noted, was spurned by Pekka Rinne on some early chances in Game 6. He likely feels as frustrated as any Ducks player right now.

Sisson’s hat-trick goal, making it 4-3 before two empty-netters cemented the 6-3 finish, was the dagger that finally put the hard-working Ducks down.

One can understand some of those feelings from Anaheim, especially considering the frustration of a) getting over Jonathan Bernier‘s early struggles to make a very real game of this and b) occasionally carrying the play in a dramatic way, including in Game 6.

Still, the Predators got the right combination of great stretches of play from Rinne and strong work from the expected and the unexpected, such as Sissons.

For an aging star like Ryan Getzlaf – a player who produced some of his best work late in the season and during the playoffs – you have to wonder how many chances remain.

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.