What do you do after a break up? Well, that depends on who you ask but it usually resembles doing things to move on like finding someone new, better, more successful and finding success with them. After that, you might get curious on how they’re doing and check their social media and ask around about them.
The Florida Panthers had a few break ups this past offseason with some people they had maybe been holding onto for entirely too long. They looked themselves in the mirror, got back out there, and are now finding success with fresh, better, and sexier faces. At 12-3-2, it seems the Panthers are better off without their exes, but how are the exes fairing?
Just take a moment in time to remember the Florida Panthers traded the fanbase scapegoat for two-time Stanley Cup Champion Patric Hornqvist. Panthers fans see the instant impact Hornqvist has on the Cats, leading the team in goals so far, but what’s ‘ole Matheson up to in Pittsburgh? Through 9 games, Matheson has 1 goal and 2 assists for 3 points, along with 12 penalty minutes thus far. He averages over 20 minutes time on ice per game, being leaned on thanks to injuries and poor defensive play on the Penguins blue line. It’s safe to say for now, the Panthers will take the win on this trade unless Matheson turns the tide quickly. In their game Tuesday night versus the Capitals, color commentator Eddie Olczyk highlighted Matheson not moving his feet multiple times in his own zone, leading to a few scoring chances against.
Following 3 straight 25+ goal years in South Florida, the Panthers knew Dadonov’s shoes would be difficult to fill. Evgenii chose to sign with Ottawa in free agency after the Cats were uninterested in paying his $5 million price tag to stick around. Considering a flat cap for the next few years, the Panthers chose cheaper options in Anthony Duclair and Carter Verhaeghe. Dadonov had a slow start to his 2021 season, and looking at who he’s playing with shouldn’t shock you why his numbers have been low. Evgenii now has 6 goals and 2 assists in 21 appearances so far. He notably scored the game-tying and game-winning goal as the Senators came back from a 5-1 deficit against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Speaking of guys the Panthers didn’t want to pay a small price for, Hoffman oddly signed a professional try-out with the St. Louis Blues. I was puzzled as to why it took Mike Hoffman so long to land anywhere but again, flat cap meant no teams wanted to dedicate long-term money to any new players. The Blues signed Hoffman on a cheap 1-year deal to quickly improve their offense. If you watched the Cats last year, you know Hoffman is one of the best shooters in the league. He has 6 goals and 8 assists this year, proving himself as by far the best performer on this list. As Hoffman brings a valuable shot and power play style to any team, the Panthers are still top-10 in the NHL in that category, so maybe both sides are doing okay here.
I’d be remiss to forget what made all of the Panthers improvements possible which is of course, the “mutual agreement” to let former General Manager Dale Tallon go. Soon after his departure, news came from the NHL that the league was investigating Tallon for reports of Tallon’s use of racial slurs prior to and in the NHL’s playoff bubble this past summer. It made too much sense for Panthers ownership to let this guy go including this awful behavior and his horrendous track record with the Panthers. Whether it was drafting mediocre-at-best prospects, trading two top goal scorers to Vegas to protect worthless assets, or moving draft picks for people like Jiri Hudler or Teddy Purcell, Tallon had this coming. His replacement, Bill Zito has so far energized the current roster and fans seem to trust his process already.
All in all, I think it’s healthy to check-in on people who used to be in your life just to see how they’re doing. Maybe you can rub a little success in their face while you’re at it as well. So far, the Panthers are better off without their departures from last year. They look faster, tougher, and being top of the Central Division sounds pretty neat, too.
Continue to follow along on the Panther Parkway Podcast with Tom McLean every Sunday, and the Locked On Panthers Podcast with myself Monday-Friday for more news, insights, and analysis on your Florida Panthers. You can also follow our writers: @FrankRekas, @Josh_LOPanthers, @JacobWinans8, @prudentia0, @Spencer_hoag, and @mandoman12. All images unless otherwise noted are courtesy of @KimSmithImages