Tomas Fleischmann

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.

Allen’s mental reset continues, as Blues will start Hutton in Pittsburgh

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen is slow to get up after giving up a goal to Washington Capitals' T.J. Oshie during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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St. Louis is giving Jake Allen more time to sort out his struggles.

Today, the club announced backup Carter Hutton will start tomorrow in Pittsburgh, while Pheonix Copley — the AHL call-up that allowed five goals in Saturdays’ loss in Winnipeg — will serve as the No. 2.

Allen, who didn’t even travel to Winnipeg so he could ‘reset’ mentally, will start on Thursday in Minnesota, which will be St. Louis’ last game prior to the All-Star break. Copley will again serve as the backup.

The decision to go back to Allen comes after a horrific stretch in which he was yanked from three straight games, and four of his past six.

It is noteworthy, though, that Allen isn’t getting the Pittsburgh game. Part of that could be the opponent — the Pens are a force offensively, and lead the NHL in goals per game — but it could also be that Allen needs additional time to sort out his issues.

Whatever the case, the plan may have changed. In explaining why he left Allen behind while the team went to Winnipeg, Blues GM Doug Armstrong suggested Allen could get right back in.

“I think taking a day way, getting a total reset — he could reset traveling with the team, but I wanted a complete reset — and then we come back on Sunday, he’s back in the net and he’s ready to go,” Armstrong said, per the Post-Dispatch. “To me, it’s not a huge story; he’s going to take a day to get a reset with his family — he just had a young baby — but the play needs to improve and I want to give him a fresh start.”

Allen’s struggles this year are well-documented (see here, here, here and here). Per the Post-Dispatch, his .897 save percentage ranks 43rd among 47 goalies who have appeared in 14 or more games this season.

Oshie’s contract status underscores urgency in Washington

Washington Capitals' Matt Niskanen (2) and T.J. Oshie (77) celebrate with Alex Ovechkin (8) after Ovechkin scored against the Dallas Stars during the third period an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Dallas. Stars' Jamie Benn (14) skates back to the bench. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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The way he keeps scoring, T.J. Oshie‘s next contract isn’t getting any smaller.

The 30-year-old winger was today named the NHL’s third star of the week, after racking up six points (3G, 3A) in three games for the red-hot Washington Capitals.

Oshie now has 31 points (17G, 14A) in 38 games. A pending unrestricted free agent, he’ll no doubt be looking for a raise beyond his current cap hit of $4.175 million.

One comparable contract is Andrew Ladd‘s seven-year, $38.5 million deal with the Islanders.

Loui Eriksson‘s six-year, $36 million deal with the Canucks is another.

And one more for good measure: David Backes‘ five-year, $30 million deal with the Bruins.

All three of those contracts have a cap hit of around, or exactly, $6 million. Ladd and Eriksson are a year older than Oshie, while Backes is two years older. They’re all reliable veteran wingers, just like Oshie.

Now, the Caps could always try and convince Oshie to take a home-town discount. They may even be able to keep him without a discount.

That being said, their No. 1 priority has to be getting Evgeny Kuznetsov, a pending restricted free agent, locked up. And they also need to keep in mind John Carlson, their No. 1 defenseman who can become unrestricted in the summer of 2018.

“We’re going to have some decisions to make as far as veteran players, and our young guys are going to be due for some pay raises,” Caps GM Brian MacLellan said last season.

When he said it, MacLellan saw his team in a “two-year window.”

Alas, only one year of that window remains. Hence, the urgency to finally win the Stanley Cup this spring.

Like Oshie, Justin Williams and Karl Alzner are pending UFAs.

And like Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Brett ConnollyDmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt, and Philipp Grubauer are pending RFAs.

The Caps host Carolina tonight.

Related: Kuznetsov sets table for Jakub Vrana’s first NHL goal

Galchenyuk re-injures knee, but not believed to be serious

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08:  Alex Galchenyuk #27 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 8, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Given that Montreal center Alex Galchenyuk‘s already missed 18 games this season to a knee injury, there was some consternation on Monday as head coach Michel Therrien said Galchenyuk had aggravated the ailment, and would miss Tuesday’s game against Calgary.

Thankfully for the Habs, it doesn’t sound like a serious issue.

Therrien said Galchenyuk “slightly injured” his knee, and is listed as day-to-day. This falls in line with what occurred during Saturday’s OT loss to Buffalo — even though Galchenyuk suffered the ailment during the game, he was able to play through it and finish with 16:36 TOI.

It’s unfortunate this knee issue has lingered, as the fifth-year pro is having a great season. Galchenyuk has 11 goals and 27 points through 30 games and, had he been healthy, probably would’ve eclipsed last year’s production, when he scored 30 goals and 56 points.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see when the Habs opt to get Galchenyuk back in the lineup. After tomorrow’s game against Calgary, they have just one game left until the All-Star break, on Thursday in Brooklyn.

After that, they don’t play again until Jan. 31.

Rangers’ Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

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Kevin Hayes, who sits third on the Rangers with 35 points, will miss the next couple of weeks with a lower-body ailment, the club announced on Monday.

The news comes one day after Hayes exited New York’s 1-0 OT win over Detroit after playing just 8:41. Per Newsday, it’s a left leg ailment.

It’s a tough blow for a guy that had been playing well lately. Hayes had been a point-per-game producer in January, with two goals and five assists through seven games, developing chemistry on a line with Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s the schedule. Hayes’ absence will coincide with the All-Star break, so he won’t miss as many games as he would’ve under usual circumstances.

Still, if he’s shelved for the full three weeks, that puts his return around Feb. 13 — meaning he could miss up to eight contests.

In related news, the Blueshirts activated Matt Puempel off IR today. He’d been out since December with a concussion.