After making the playoffs last season and a busy offseason with many important personnel moves, the Florida Panthers entered the 2016-17 campaign with much higher expectations.
But this season has been one giant and constant struggle for the Panthers.
Jonathan Huberdeau hasn’t even played a game because of an injury in pre-season. Aleksander Barkov has been out for a month and the timeline for both key players remains murky. Injuries have plagued this team for months.
They’ve gone through a coaching change and the subsequent controversy following the dismissal of Gerard Gallant.
So after all of that, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that putting results together on a consistent basis has been a difficult, if not impossible task. Despite the plethora of circumstances that have factored into Florida’s disappointing first half, the Panthers are still right there. Still right in the thick of a post-season race in the Eastern Conference.
“I think frustration is probably the main thing going through all of our heads in Florida right now and the more frustrated you get the more it kind of spirals downhill,” Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck told the Sun Sentinel following Sunday’s All-Star Game in L.A.
“It’s something we got to knock out of our heads. We’ll use this All-Star break, and we got a bye coming up, so use these two to kind of clear our heads.’’
The Panthers are just four points back of Philadelphia for the final wild card position, and four points back of Boston in the Atlantic Division. With 32 games left in their season, there is still time, plenty of it, in fact, to climb the standings. They entered the break on a winning note, but had previously dropped all four games on a Western road trip.
The All-Star weekend is over and the Panthers will resume their schedule at home against the Ottawa Senators, an Atlantic Division foe, on Tuesday.