As The Panthers Face a Crossroads, A Difficult Decision Must Be Made

While many teams around the NHL have had their fair share of hardships, it’s difficult to say that any team is more universally associated with losing than the Florida Panthers. In the midst of their 20th anniversary season, the hapless Panthers have only managed to reach the playoffs four times since their conception. However, even though they lack a winning tradition, the Panthers still have the potential to change their image – possibly sooner than expected.

Even though they are currently blessed with one of the most talented group of prospects in the entire NHL, it’s no longer acceptable for the team to sell the idea that these young players will lead the Panthers to the promise land in the near future. While prospects like Rocco Grimaldi, Vincent Trocheck, and Mike Matheson are all individually gifted, the Panthers have proven to be anything but effective at cultivating young talent throughout their history.

Of the 23 first-round picks in the team’s history, none have come close to reaching the levels of stardom that were expected of them. While part of this developmental hindrance can be attributed to draft day blunders, it’s hard to believe that a team simply could have swung and missed on that many first round picks.

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He Coulda’ Been A Florida Panther. A Look Back At Round One Of The 1997 NHL Draft

In 1997 the Florida Panthers were saddled with the 20th overall pick for the second year in a row.  It was a draft class that saw more than a handful of youngsters go on to have very successful careers in the NHL.  As well as a few for whom things didn’t turn out quite as they hoped.

The Florida Panthers who were coming into their fourth season of existence were apparently looking to beef up their forward line when they made their first round selection.  It’s actually too bad that the Panthers didn’t have an opportunity to pick earlier with such players as Joe Thornton ( I’m not a fan), Patrick Marleau, Olli Jokinen, Roberto Luongo (see Thornton), and Marian Hossa available.  The Panthers burdened with a lower first round pick selected big left wing Mike Brown, who was a product of the Red Deer Rebels in the Western Hockey League.  Brown’s numbers were very impressive, however as I look back I think that there may have been some confusion on the placement of those numbers.  From the looks of things, the scouting staff may have mistaken penalty minutes for points, as Brown was well over 100 penalty minutes in his seasons prior to being drafted, while only scoring a high of 32 points prior in his best junior year.  Everyone can make a mistake right?

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