2008/09: 41-30-11 – 93 pts (3rd in Southeast, 9th in East)
Arrived: Jordan Leopold (CGY), Ville Koistinen (NSH), Scott Clemmensen (NJ), Steve Reinprecht (PHX)
Departed: Jay Bouwmeester (CGY), Karlis Skrastins (DAL), Craig Anderson (COL), Nick Boynton (ANH), Richard Zednik (KHL), Ville Peltonen (KHL), Jassen Cullimore (UFA)
The Panthers started the 2008-09 campaign with moderate expectations, and were in the middle of the pack in the East for most of the season. At the trade deadline they made the inexplicable decision hold on to their top defenceman, impending UFA Jay Bouwmeester, for a playoff push. They missed the playoffs on a tie-breaker, and Bouwmeester of course had no intention of resigning in Florida, so his rights were traded to Calgary for the rights to Jordan Leopold. The Panthers are therefore starting the upcoming season without their best player from the previous campaign. With little acquired in the way of replacements, the load will fall on David Booth, Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss, and of course Tomas Vokoun. I do not think they will be able to handle it, and the Panthers will fall back into the cellar in the East.
FANTASY WORTHY FORWARDS
David Booth (LW) – Booth had a big year last season, scoring 31 goals thanks to an increase in his shooting percentage from .096 to .126. This statistic is duplicable, and as long as he gets his 225+ shots, he should be a lock for 30 goals. This is not always easy to find on left wing, so Booth should be a valuable addition to your forward corps.
Nathan Horton (C) – Horton had a terrible season last year, recording only 45 points in 67 games and posting a -5 rating. These stats are not indicative of his talent level, and he will be given every opportunity to lead the Panthers offence. He should be capable of scoring 60 points and a +10 rating, making him a respectable third center.
Stephen Weiss (C) – Weiss had the 14th most assists among centers last year, but was held back by a lack of goals and penalty minutes. He will be a strong contributor in assists and +/-, but do not count on him for much else.
Keep an eye on: Cory Stillman, Steve Reinprecht
DRAFT WORTHY DEFENCEMEN
Bryan McCabe – McCabe was a reliable defenceman last year, scoring 39 points, including 19 on the powerplay. The value with him is that he scores a lot more goals than most defenceman; his 15 tied him for 9th in the NHL with Bouwmeester. However, he will suffer from the loss of Bouwmeester, so expect both his points totals and +/- to drop.
Keith Ballard – Ballard will be the guy who benefits the most from Bouwmeester’s ice time, and should take the departed defenceman’s spot on the top pairing. He has a shot at 40 points, but his +/- will suffer as he spends more time lined up against the opponents top forwards.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Tomas Vokoun – Despite the loss of Bouwmeester, I think Vokoun will be just as good as last year, if not better. He no longer has to worry about losing playing time to Anderson, and always puts up good peripheral numbers despite the quality of the team playing in front of him. He should be good for 30 wins, a 2.50 GAA and a SV% north of .920.
Bonus: Last season, a valid Florida driver’s license got you two free tickets to a game. It was of course only good for one use for each license, but still. Hooray for southern expansion!