To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.
Today’s team: Florida Panthers
2014-15 record: 38-29-15, 6th in the Atlantic
How they finished: Did not make the playoffs
Coach: Gerard Gallant (2nd season)
Notable additions: RW Reilly Smith
Notable subtractions: RW Jimmy Hayes, LW Scottie Upshall, RW Brad Boyes
Schedule against the Capitals: Sat. Oct. 31 at Florida, Thu. Dec. 10 at Florida, Tue. Feb. 2 at Washington
Outlook: The Panthers have been slowly rebuilding and stockpiling young assets for years and last season it almost resulted in a postseason birth. Florida finished with 91 points, only seven short of a playoff spot and 25 points more than they had the season before.
There's no doubt that Florida is on the right track, but despite having so much young talent, they still rely on aging veterans in key spots.
The Panthers went 26-22-13 before they acquired Jaromir Jagr and then finished the season 12-7-2. It's great that he was able to give the Panthers a boost, but the team cannot be so dependent on a 43-year-old veteran.
The same goes for Roberto Luongo who is now 36. Not everyone can last into their 40s like Jagr. Both Luongo and Jagr were critical to the team last season and, at their age, it is only a matter of time before they become unreliable.
The Panthers are bursting with young talent as Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Pirri, Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gubranson and Aaron Ekblad are all under the age of 25. Two great prospects in Vincent Trocheck and Rocco Grimaldi will also challenge for roster spots this season. With all the offensive talent, the team should be able to survive if Jagr takes a step back, but what's the plan if Luongo struggles?
Expectations: The future for this team is really bright, but, even with all their young players, this season may still depend on their veterans, especially Luongo. Given this team's trajectory over the past two seasons, it looks like the Panthers are only going to get better...if Luongo remains strong in net.
They're not Tampa Bay, but you can see there is incredible talent there, more than enough to get them into the postseason if Luongo can give them one more consistent year.
See more team previews:
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24
New Jersey Devils 8/25
New York Islanders 8/26
New York Rangers 8/27
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29
Washington Capitals 8/30