Panthers hoping to get back into the NHL playoff mix
LAST SEASON: 35-36-11, 81 points. Finished 13th in Eastern Conference.
COACH: Bob Boughner (first season, first NHL season).
ADDED: RW Evgeny Davydov, RW; RW Radim Vrbata, LW Henrik Haapala.
LOST: RW Jaromir Jagr, RW Reilly Smith, RW Jonathan Marchessault, LW Shawn Thornton, LW Jussi Jokinen, LW Thomas Vanek, G Reto Barra.
PLAYER TO WATCH: D Aaron Ekblad. Going into his fourth season, it’s now the 21-year-old’s locker room. He was a combined plus-30 in his first two seasons, then a minus-23 last season — one of the many stats Florida is trying to forget from a year ago.
OUTLOOK: It seems like an annual rite: the Panthers get a new coach, say they’re starting over and that the playoffs are in sight. But having GM Dale Tallon as the primary voice for the organization again is a step in the right direction. Florida was rising as a franchise before last season’s rapid freefall, and there’s reason to think Tallon will get things right sooner than later.
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