Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Florida Panthers.
After making the playoffs and winning the Southeast Division two years ago, things went back to “normal” last year for the Panthers. They were last in the division, Eastern Conference, and the league. Things went so poorly they didn’t even land the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Now that they’ve put that behind them, it appears they’ve got another potentially bumpy season ahead with a very young team. GM Dale Tallon will eventually look like a smart guy when their prospects finally make it to the show, but for now everyone’s going to have some growing pains.
It all started at the NHL Draft for the Panthers as they selected Aleksander Barkov with the second overall pick giving them a potential No. 1 center to play with Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau. When free agency started, it was more about who wasn’t coming back.
Gone are center Stephen Weiss, winger Peter Mueller and goalie Jose Theodore. They also bought out defenseman Filip Kuba.
Tallon replaced Weiss with Barkov, mainly, but also just brought in Scott Gomez on a one-year deal to try and solidify things up the middle. Forwards Joey Crabb and Bobby Butler and defenseman Matt Gilroy rounded out their haul and that’s not overly inspiring.
Instead, Florida will hope for better luck with injuries so they can get more from Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim, and Kris Versteeg. They’ll also be hoping goalie Jacob Markstrom can shake off a tough rookie year on a bad team and evolve into the No. 1 goalie they believe he can be.
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Sabres fans certainly know enough about bad luck and injuries, but how could things stack up this season if you evened out the bad breaks and eliminated ? Not very well says author and statistical analyst Rob Vollman.
He’s the author of “Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract” wherein he digs into numbers a little deeper than just goals, saves, and penalty minutes. In there he breaks down a luck-neutral way of analyzing teams where luck, injuries, roster changes, and overtime/shootouts are all factored in or out to account for how a team should do.
For the 2013-14 season he projects the Sabres to be a 72 point team, good for last place in the Eastern Conference and only one point better than Calgary overall.
That’s as bleak as an outlook can get but if there’s a way to take solace in that, they’ll have company at the bottom. Vollman projects divisional rivals Toronto to be just a point better than the Sabres. Hey, maybe Thomas Vanek scores 60 this season, Cody Hodgson turns into Sidney Crosby and Ryan Miller pretends it’s 2010 all over again and things go differently. That’s why they play the games at least.
If you want to dig further into what he’s got to say about the season, you can pick up Vollman’s book on Amazon or download the PDF.
When the Buffalo Sabres traded captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota last season, many looked at it as the start of an overdue rebuild . While GM Darcy Regier didn’t agree with that insinuation, the prospects that deal brought back (Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett) helped enrich an already exciting group of NHL hopefuls.
Don’t believe it? Take a look at Hockey’s Future who, before this year’s draft, ranked the Sabres as having the eighth best group of prospects in the league. When you look at some of the best prospects, Buffalo is poised to make some noise down the road.
Their forwards include guys like Larsson, 2012 first-round picks Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons, and 2011 first-rounder Joel Armia. Even Marcus Foligno is just 21 years-old and found his way into the Sabres lineup full-time last season.
On defense and in goal, Buffalo is teeming over with potential.
The blue line sees the likes of Brayden McNabb, Mark Pysyk, Jake McCabe, as well as a pair of 2013 draft picks in Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov getting Sabres executives excited. Goalies like Hackett and Andrey Makarov will keep things busy in the AHL.
Things might be tough on the ice for the Sabres this season, but if Buffalo fans are patient they may be rewarded for it. At the very least, road trips to Rochester might be in order to get a look at what the future holds.
Linus Omark has spent a year away from the NHL but now he wants to return.
A report out of Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet says (h/t David Staples) he’s left his Swiss team, EV Zug, and is ready to return to the NHL.
There’s one problem though: His rights are still owned by the Edmonton Oilers and it doesn’t sound like they want him back and they’re not close to trading him.
In Switzerland, Omark played on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner and they lit up the Swiss league. When those two headed back to the NHL after the lockout ended, Omark kept producing and led that league in assists and points.
If Omark were to return to the Oilers he’d find a player there that’s sort of in his mold already in David Perron. Omark’s agent says they’re close to a deal but unless Edmonton parts ways with his rights, he might be stuck looking for a new European team.
The Kings are making sure to keep their forward group as loaded up as their defensive corps.
John Hoven of Mayor’s Manor reports the Kings have reached an agreement with left wing Kyle Clifford on a two-year contract. Clifford was a restricted free agent this summer.
After breaking out last season as more of an offensive threat, Clifford’s game rounded out. Adding seven goals and seven assists to his 51 penalty minutes made him one of the more difficult players to go up against. Offense with tough, physical play is hard to find.
Clifford will compete for a spot potentially in the Kings’ top-six forward group of the left wing now that Dustin Penner signed in Anaheim. He’ll go up against the likes of Daniel Carcillo and possibly Tyler Toffoli to do that.
This signing gives Los Angeles 25 NHL contracts on their roster. Any given night means having as many as 23 players up with the big club. GM Dean Lombardi will have some decisions to make on who gets to stay.