All of a sudden, with the help of several veteran free agent signings, developing prospects and a solid move by GM Dale Tallon acquiring Dylan Olsen (8 points in 12 games) and Jimmy Hayes (4 goals in 16 games), the Florida Panthers have won five straight and seven of their last 10 heading into tonight's tilt with the Winnipeg Jets. With so many new faces in the lineup this year, it was to be expected that the Panthers players might take some time learning each others' habits. Perhaps the biggest move, though, came in the form of new ownership. New ownership led to a new coach as Peter Horachek has an 11-8-1 record since becoming the bench boss on November 8th. New ownership has also led to fresh minds and new ideas within the organization's front office. A lot of what occurs in a situation like this is a change of culture. The Panthers are going through a transition and they're taking it all in stride.
The team has two solid veteran goaltenders in Tim Thomas and Scott Clemmensen to teach the evolving Jacob Markstrom the ropes. The defense has journeymen like Jovanovski, Tom Gilbert, Brian Campbell and Mike Weaver leading a young core of Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov and Olsen. Finally, up front Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Brad Boyes and others are playing alongside top flight talents such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad. Throw in the fact that, per CapGeek.com, the Panthers have the most cap room in the league and only have Barkov and Campbell signed beyond the 2015-16 season and this team is poised to make a big acquisition or free agent signing whenever the opportunity arises.
Whether you're a Panthers fan, or just a hockey fan, this franchise is going to be one to keep an eye on in the coming years. They are poised for a breakout just like two seasons ago. The difference this year is that it may just be the beginning of a longer stay amongst the league's top teams.