Author: Jason Brough

Boston Bruins v Florida Panthers

Panthers’ biggest question: Can the old guys hang on while the young guys get better?


The Florida Panthers are a bit of an odd team, in terms of their mix.

They have Jaromir Jagr, who at 43 is the oldest player in the NHL by a considerable margin. They also have a couple of 38-year-olds in Willie Mitchell and Shawn Thornton, plus a couple of 36-year-olds in Roberto Luongo and Brian Campbell.

Yet you can’t call the Panthers an old team. These aren’t the New Jersey Devils we’re talking about here.

Not with 19-year-old Aaron Ekblad, the league’s reigning rookie of the year, and 22-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau, who received the same honor in 2013.

Also, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Pirri, Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Petrovic, and Dylan Olsen. All of them under 25 years of age.

Oh, and don’t forget Lawson Crouse, the 18-year-old winger that could make the team. And Rocco Grimaldi, the 22-year-old forward who had 42 points 64 AHL games last season.

You get the point.

“We’ve got young players that are very capable of playing for us next year,” said GM Dale Tallon. “We don’t want to shut the door on that. We want those guys to get every opportunity to be on our team. I want to be the youngest team in the league and the best team in the league at the same time.”

The key next season will be for the old guys to hang on while the young guys get better. If that happens, the Panthers have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, and even making some noise once they get there.

On the other hand, if key veterans like Jagr, Campbell and Luongo start showing their age and/or the youngsters experience too many growing pains, they could stumble.

Related: Roberto Luongo is under pressure

Report: Isles have interest in Zidlicky

Tampa Bay Lightning v Detroit Red Wings - Game Three

From Newsday’s Arthur Staple:

Zidlicky, a right-shot defenseman who can still contribute offensively, would be more affordable than Cody Franson, the 27-year-old who also remains an unrestricted free agent.

The question with Zidlicky is how much he’s got left in the tank. Only five defenseman who played last season were older than he was.

Related: Ehrhoff will take another one-year contract: agent

Jacobs, Crocker receive 2015 Lester Patrick Trophy

NHL Announces the Start of the 2013 Season

From the NHL:

Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and longtime scout Bob Crocker have been named recipients of the 2015 Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.

The award, one of the most prestigious in hockey, was presented to the National Hockey League by the New York Rangers in 1966. It honors the memory of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach and general manager and was a pioneer in the sport’s development.

“By honoring Jeremy Jacobs and Bob Crocker, the Lester Patrick Award selection committee has recognized the dedication and drive of two important contributors to hockey in the United States,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Jeremy Jacobs — as owner for 41 years of the NHL’s first U.S.-based team and long-serving Chairman of our Board of Governors — has provided unparalleled vision, innovation and inspiration to the advancement of hockey and the NHL. As a coach, a scout and a hockey executive, Bob Crocker has devoted decades to the development of young American players. Congratulations to both on this long overdue recognition.”

Past recipients of the Lester Patrick Trophy include Mike Richter, Mark Messier, Phil Housley, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Herb Brooks. Click here for the full list.

Related: Daly, Holmgren honored with Lester Patrick Trophy

Poll: What’s the biggest reason for the Panthers’ attendance woes?

Arizona Coyotes v Florida Panthers

Wherever you’re from, whichever team you cheer for, and whatever you think of the NHL having teams in markets where people wear shorts and t-shirts year-round, you can’t deny that Florida Panthers fans have had very little to get excited about.

Since entering the NHL in 1993, the Panthers have completed 21 regular seasons and made the playoffs just four times. While they made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, they haven’t come close since. In fact, since moving from Miami to their current arena in suburban Sunrise, which they did in 1998, the Panthers have made the playoffs just twice, losing both times in the first round.

But that hasn’t stopped the argument that the NHL should give up on the Panthers and relocate them somewhere like Quebec City. Florida’s attendance was the lowest in the league last season, averaging just 11,265. Meanwhile, the club has been requesting, without success so far, financial relief from Broward County, which owns BB&T Center. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has remained insistent that the Panthers aren’t going anywhere.

“As you’ve heard me say repeatedly, ownership is the key difference,” he said in June. “Vinnie Viola has got the resources and the commitment to make it work. He’s had to retool and revamp the operation down there, and I believe the club is headed in the right direction.”

And with that, it’s time to vote:

Related: Luongo says ‘we need to start winning some games’ for Panthers’ attendance to improve

Under Pressure: Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo

Did you know that 36-year-old Roberto Luongo is now the second-oldest goalie in the NHL?

It’s true. The only one who’s older and still under contract is Minnesota’s 37-year-old Niklas Backstrom.

Luongo, of course, is very much under contract. He’s signed through 2021-22, to one of those front-loaded, back-diving deals they don’t allow anymore.

But you can forget the cap-recapture consequences for now, because Luongo is also coming off an excellent season, one in which he started 61 games for the Panthers and registered a .921 save percentage. Which is to say, he didn’t look like a guy on the verge of retirement.

Coach Gerard Gallant called Luongo “our MVP, our best player most nights.”

If Florida is to take a run at a playoff spot in 2015-16, Luongo will, in all likelihood, need to be just as good. The Panthers’ backup is Al Montoya, the 30-year-old who struggled last season (.892 SV%) and has just 88 NHL starts with four different teams to his name.

And make no mistake, the Panthers have their eyes on a playoff spot. They made a late surge last season after acquiring Jaromir Jagr, only to fall a few points short.

“We went toe-to-toe with everybody this year,” Luongo said at season’s end, per FOX Sports Florida. “The good teams, we played them well and we won some games. It’s just a matter of growing as a team, getting a bit more experience and taking the next step.

“We took a huge step this year, but we fell a little bit short. It’s really a matter of putting it all together next year.”