Florida Panthers Relieve Interim Head Coach Peter Horachek of His Duties

Florida Panthers Vice President and General Manager, Dale Tallon announced Tuesday morning that Interim Head Coach Peter Horachek will be relieved of his duties effective immediately.

In a release via FloridaPanthers.com, Tallon addressed the change. “We will immediately begin an extensive search for a new and experienced coach for our franchise, who will guide the Panthers to future success.  We once again thank Peter for all of his hard work and service and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Horachek took over coaching duties for the Panthers after the firing of former Head Coach, Kevin Dineen on Nov. 8. Horachek completed the 2013-14 season with a 26-36-4 record and finished 15th in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers’ special teams struggled throughout the season and both ranked 30th in the NHL. Prior to coaching the Panthers, Horachek was Head Coach of Florida’s minor league affiliate the San Antonio Rampage (AHL).


20th Anniversary: Florida Panthers All-Time Best, Right Wing Edition

We have finally reached the final piece of the Florida Panthers All-Time Best series. Today we take a look back at the top three right wingers to play for the Panthers. While Roberto Luongo may be Florida’s resident “rockstar” type player on the team currently (and during his first stint as well), we begin this edition with one of the biggest stars of his era.

When looking back at some of the game’s greatest players that were Panthers at a point in their careers, few of them stopped off in Florida during their prime. Looking to leave the lifestyle of being under the hockey microscope in Vancouver and  the volatile relationship with then Vancouver Canucks GM, Brian Burke, “The Russian Rocket” Pavel Bure expressed interest in playing for a new team. After holding out from Vancouver for the first part of the 1998-99 season, Bure was accommodated and found himself moving to Florida in a trade featuring many pieces, but most notably saw Florida fan favorite Ed Jovanovski swap places with the speedy Russian winger in Florida’s first ever “blockbuster” trade.

The acquisition of Bure in the 1998-99 season gave Florida absolute star power for the first time in their short existence. Bure was a premiere player in the NHL and was one of the most feared goal scorers in the entire league. His explosive speed, quick hands and deadly accurate shot made him one of the most exciting players to watch, and it was just in time for Florida’s transition from Miami into their current residence in Sunrise. Bure made his debut on January 20, 1999 and scored two goals in the Panthers 5-1 victory against the New York Islanders. Bure’s first season with Florida was cut short due to a knee injury and limited him to 11 games in which he amassed 16 points (13-3-16). Despite the injury, the Panthers and Bure agreed on a five-year $47.5 million contract.

The following two seasons showed that Bure was worth every penny. Bure brought attention to Florida by earning two consecutive Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies, as the league’s leading goal scorer, two consecutive All-Star Game appearances and an All-Star Game MVP (1999-00). Bure scored 58 and 59 goals respectively during those two seasons and had instant chemistry with his linemate and fellow countryman, Viktor Kozlov. Bure was a big part of the Panthers 1999-00 playoff berth, before ultimately being swept by the New Jersey Devils. Bure enjoyed his time as a Panther, and was the focal point of the team during his tenure in South Florida. The Panthers even traded original Panther, Rob Niedermayer to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Pavel’s younger brother Valeri Bure so they could finally play on the same NHL team. Bure hit the 700-point mark on December 16, 2001 after tallying three points (1-2-3) in a win over the team that he debuted as a Panther against, the Islanders.

Of the four seasons that Bure was a Panther, he only played one full season. Plagued by injuries throughout his career, his time in Florida was no different. Knee injuries and concussions kept the Russian Rocket out of play and his large contract was beginning to strangle the Panthers financially. The Panthers traded Bure to the New York Rangers in exchange for Igor UlanovFilip Novak and a first round pick in the 2002 draft (Petr Taticek) and a second round pick in the 2002 draft (Rob Globke). An unpopular trade at the time, moving Bure was essential for the team in order to gain assets (albeit none of them coming to fruition) and begin the team’s first rebuild of many. Bure’s time in New York was short-lived due to injuries as well and ultimately led to his retirement the following season.

Despite only being in the sunshine state for 4 seasons, Bure is one of the team’s most celebrated players and holds countless records as a Panther. Bure ranks third all-time in Panthers goals with 152, but holds the first and second spots for most goals in a season (59,58) as well as the most points in a season as a Panther (94,92) and ranks number one in power play goals in a season (19) and game-winning goals (14). Bure known for his offensive skill, surprisingly holds the number two spot for best plus-minus in a season finishing the 1999-00 season as a plus-25. Bure’s goal scoring prowess was unparalleled during his time and it’s hard to imagine any Panthers player coming close to the superstar’s ability with the puck. Bure recorded ten hat tricks as a Panther, with two of those tricks being four goal games. Bure was absolute magic on the ice and was a once in a million type player. Although Bure never won a championship in his career, his skill and legacy translated into a Hall of Fame induction in 2012.

The man was a human highlight reel. Check it out.

Arguably the best Captain in the history of the Panthers, Scott Mellanby was the heart and soul of the Panthers from day one. Left unprotected by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1993 Expansion Draft, Mellaby was selected by Florida to be a part of the inaugural Panthers team. Mellanby scored the franchise’s first ever goal on October 9, 1993 in the team’s debut. The former University of Wisconsin Badger was a fan favorite and played the best years of his career as a Panther. The best year of his career just so happens to be the most famous year in Panthers history, and much of that year is due to Mellanby.

It was known as the “Year of the Rat”. The 1995-96 season saw an underdog Panthers team shock the hockey world and make a run at the Stanley Cup. Mellanby kickstarted the rat craze, originally known as “the rat trick”. Before the team’s home opener of that season, Mellanby killed a rat in the team locker room with his stick by shooting it across the room. Mellanby went on to score two goals with the very same stick that night. Once word got out, a tradition began in South Florida. Panthers fans would litter the ice with plastic rats after a goal, an act that was a thorn in the sides of not only NHL officials but opposing teams as well. Mellanby was named to play in the All-Star Game that season and scored a career high 32 goals and 72 points (32-38-70). The year of the rat became a legend in the history of the team, in many ways thanks to Mellanby.

Playing in eight seasons as a Panther, and serving as Captain during four of those seasons, Mellanby ranks fifth all-time in games played in a Panthers uniform (552). Mellanby’s long tenure as a Panther perches him up at the top of the best ever to play for Florida. Mellanby is second only behind Olli Jokinen for most goals as a Panther (157), third all-time in points (354), fourth all-time in assists (197) and is number one all-time in power play goals as a Panther (66). A 20-year veteran in the NHL, Mellanby played his 1,000th game in the league during his time as a Panther. Mellanby was a tough act to follow as captain, and to this day there has not been a Captain who could lead the way like Mellanby could for Florida. The rat tradition lives on in Florida, and we have Mellanby to thank for that. Mellanby is currently the Director of Player Personnel for his hometown Montreal Canadiens.
Here’s a look at Mellanby’s hockey career.


While Nathan Horton may be best known as the guy who asked to leave Florida when Dale Tallon took over, there is no denying how good Horton was when he was on his game. The Panthers possessed the first overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, a draft seen as the deepest draft of the last decade. Marc-Andre FleuryEric StaalThomas VanekRyan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards and Brent Seabrook are just some of the future NHL stars that would materialize from the first round. Florida traded down to the third pick. Swapping places with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the third spot and gaining Mikael Samuelsson and a second round pick (Stefan Meyer). The Penguins ultimately selected Fleury, followed by the Carolina Hurricanes selecting the face of their franchise in Staal. Florida at three selected Horton, who was seen as the complimentary power forward to play alongside Stephen Weiss and along with Jay Bouwmeester could allow Florida to have a solid three young players to build around.

During Horton’s rookie season in 2003-04 he made history. On January 9, 2004, Horton became the youngest player in NHL history to score on a penalty shot (this would be broken by Jordan Staal three seasons later). Shortly after, Horton suffered a shoulder injury and ended his first season at 55 games. His first campaign in the NHL showed glimpses that the young forward could be  true goal scorer in the show, finishing with 14. This was his last season as a Panther where he would score less than 20 goals. During the six seasons Horton was in Florida, he had four 20 goal seasons and one 30 goal season. Owning a quick release and unrelenting power in his shot, Horton was seen as the team’s goal scorer for years to come. Playing in 422 games as a Panther, Horton ranks fourth all-time in points (295) and fifth all-time in goals (142).

Becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the direction of the team and the years without playoff appearances left Horton disgruntled and was eventually dealt to the Boston Bruins, where he won a Stanley Cup and was an important part of Boston’s playoff run. After three seasons as a Bruin, Horton tested free agency during the 2013-14 offseason and signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

FUN FACT: Horton’s trade to Boston also sent Gregory Campbell along with him to Beantown. In return the Bruins gave the Panthers Dennis Wideman, a first round pick in the 2010 draft and a third round pick in the 2011 draft. The Panthers used that first round pick to select current Panther center, Nick Bjugstad and the third round pick to select Bjugstad’s University of Minnesota teammate and friend, Kyle Rau. Wideman did not last  a full season in Florida and was traded to the Washington Capitals. In return the Panthers received another third round pick in the 2011 draft, which they used to select Jonathan Racine.


The man called D-Vo will always be a favorite amongst Panthers fans. The quick skating Czech winger ranks second all-time in games played as a Panther, skating in 613 games during two separate stints with the Panthers. Selected 10th overall in the 1995 draft, Dvorak played his rookie season during the year of the rat, and posted 27 points (13-14-27) in 77 games. Dvorak played five seasons for Florida, never really showing the form of the goal scorer they hoped he would be. After an injury to goaltender Trevor Kidd in the 1999-00 season and the Panthers not having a goalie to fill the spot, Dvorak was used as a trade chip to bring aging All-Star goaltender, Mike Vernon to Florida from the San Jose Sharks. This move was made drastically as the Panthers looked to secure a playoff berth. Dvorak was flipped to the Rangers right after, never playing a game for San Jose.

Dvorak returned to Florida as a veteran in the 2007-08 season and played three more seasons as a Panther, which included his 1,000th game in the NHL. Dvorak posted 268 points (113-155-268) during his time as a Panther. Although never becoming a great goal scorer, Dvorak became a solid two-way player and an excellent penalty killer. Reliable on both ends of the ice, Dvorak was used in all situations by coaches during his time in Florida. Currently the 37-year old Dvorak is playing for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Check out this D-Vo Hatty against Pittsburgh

And of course this classic from the 90′s


Well, that ends it ladies and gentlemen. As we approach the end of the season and look towards the 21st year of the Panthers in the 2014-15 season, it’s always good to remember the roots and humble beginnings. Not every team achieves greatness easily, and as Panthers fans have come to learn it can be a painful process. The Panthers prospects are some of the league’s best and as we transition into the next stage of the Tallon blueprint we can only hope that these “Young Guns” could one day be the all-time best to play for the Panthers.

20th Anniversary: Florida Panthers All-Time Best, Center Edition

Moving left to right for the forwards in the All-Time Best series, today we take a look at the top three Centers in the history of the Florida Panthers. For many years, Florida never really had a clear-cut number one center. This was an issue that was addressed very quickly by current Panthers GM Dale Tallon. Through the draft, Tallon has brought in a plethora of talented young centers to the fold in Florida. Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Vincent Trocheck are looked at as the future one-two-three combo for the Panthers, but wait. There’s more. Drew Shore drafted by former GM Randy Sexton and Brandon Pirri acquired before the deadline by Tallon from Chicago, make things quite interesting down the middle. This logjam of young talent at the center position is an excellent problem to have. Having this many options for the future is extremely promising for the Panthers and will provide stiff competition down the road. These young centers have high ceilings to what they can do and one day may even be considered some of the team’s all-time greats, but to get there they will have to get past these guys…

One of the most popular figures in Panthers history is former captain, Olli Jokinen. Jokinen came over to Florida with Roberto Luongo in another of former New York Islanders GM Mike Milbury‘s infamous code red, disaster-level trades. Florida gave up Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish and in return gained Jokinen and Luongo. Both of these players are ranked number one all-time at their positions in these lists so far, while Parrish was a journeyman in the pros and Kvasha didn’t last long in the NHL. Jokinen was drafted in the first round of the 1997 draft by the Los Angeles Kings and was traded to the Islanders two seasons after. Jokinen’s production was limited at both the NHL and AHL level and many began questioning if he could ever live up to expectations.

Jokinen’s start to his Panthers career was lackluster to say the least. His first two seasons (2000-01, 2001-02) were beginning to label the former third overall draft choice as a bust as tensions flared between himself and head coach Terry Murray. Playing in 158 games during his first two seasons, Jokinen finished with 45 points (15-30-45), 204 PIMs and a horrendous minus-38 rating. Once seen as a promising piece to the Florida puzzle, Jokinen was not impressing fans or management alike, this included new coach, Mike Keenan. While Keenan is infamous for his time in Florida and a bit vilified by many fans, Keenan lit a fire under the under-performing young Finn. Pavel Bure was no longer a Panther by the start of the 2002-03 season, and while irreplaceable as the future hall-of-famer was, someone needed to step up and seize the opportunity to carry the offensive load.

Enter Jokinen. Jokinen made his presence known that season playing 81 games and posting 65 points (36-29-65), emerging as the team’s top player. Jokinen led the team in points that season, an achievement he held on to for the rest of his days as a Panther. Named to the All-Star Team, Jokinen credited his success to Keenan, who continued to use Jokinen as their number one center. Jokinen became the team’s go-go guy over the course of his career in Florida. Ranking fourth all-time in games played as a Panther (567). No player in Florida history has taken more shots (1837), scored more goals (188), game-winning goals (36) or points (419) in a Panthers uniform than Jokinen. The Kuopio, Finland native’s best seasons of his career were during his time in Florida. Jokinen played four straight 82-game seasons for the Panthers and holds the record for most consecutive games played by a Panther (373). A prolific point producer for Florida, Jokinen hit career bests in goals (39) and points (91) during the 2006-07 season and recorded over 60 points in a season on four separate occasions. While never making the playoffs during his tenure in Florida, Jokinen led a young Panthers team to best of his ability. Not afraid to drop the gloves, or drill his opponents with a hit, Jokinen brought it all when he was on the ice.

Jokinen was a threat on the ice for the Panthers every night and holds a record untouched by a Panthers player by recording more points in a game than any Florida skater. On Mar. 17, 2007 Jokinen recorded six points (2-4-6) against the team that traded him to Florida, the Islanders. After missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons (boy did they have no idea how much longer it would be) the Panthers decided to shake up the team by moving Jokinen. Jokinen was traded along with a 2nd round pick  to the Phoenix Coyotes for defenseman Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton. Phoenix used that pick to draft Jared Staal. Jokinen bounced around to a few other teams and spent the majority of his time with the Calgary Flames. Jokinen never regained his form after being traded, and is currently a member of the Winnipeg Jets. Panthers fans can catch Jokinen at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs during the offseason, as he still spends his summers in Florida. The man who wore number 12, ranks as number one on the All-Time Best list.

Fun Fact: Ballard, who the Panthers received in return for Jokinen from Phoenix was traded to the Vancouver Canucks at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft for a first round pick, Michael Grabner and Steve Bernier. While Grabner and Bernier didn’t last long in Florida, the Panthers used that first round pick to select Quinton Howden, 25th overall.

Here’s a great highlight video with clips of his reaction being traded to Phoenix, as well as international play with Team Finland, his early years as an Islander and of course is time as a Panther.

654 games as a Panther. No player in Panthers history was more of a mainstay or thought of as the heart and soul of the team more than Stephen Weiss. Selected by Florida at the 2001 NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise, Weiss was taken fourth overall in the first round and was compared to his hero Steve Yzerman. While higher ranked prospects are often compared to elite players, many do not live up to those comparisons. The Yzerman comparison was more in style than substance for Weiss, and he never quite lived up to that hype. Weiss’ increase in attention at the draft was due to his 87 points (40-47-87) in 62 games with his junior team, the Plymouth Whalers. Weiss although never a top-caliber player, he was indeed a very good center through his time in Florida.

On April, 3, 2002 Weiss made his NHL debut on his 19th birthday, facing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Weiss scored his first career goal in that game and finished the rest of Florida’s season with the team playing in seven total games, recording two points (1-1-2). Weiss did not flourish under the Keenan regime and struggled to live up to his draft stock. The highest point total Weiss recorded under Keenan was 29 points (12-17-29) in 50 games. Weiss took a few seasons to become a dependable player for Florida and battled injuries as well. He began turning the corner after Keenan’s departure posting his first 20 goal season (2006-07) under head coach Jacques Martin. Weiss steadily kept pace around the 40 point mark the following season, but didn’t really break out until a familiar face from his past, took the reigns behind the bench.

Pete DeBoer was Weiss’ old coach from his days in Plymouth. It was under DeBoer that Weiss elevated his play to his 87-point campaign. DeBoer became the head coach of the Florida Panthers in the 2008-09 season and Weiss excelled. Weiss went on to have the best season of his career that year. Weiss was the team’s number one center now that Jokinen was no longer a Panther and DeBoer instilled his trust in his former pupil. Weiss posted a career-best 61 points that season (14-47-61) and finished with a career-high plus-19 rating. His confidence on the ice as well as his chemistry with David Booth and Nathan Horton gave the Panthers a real chance at a playoff berth. Ultimately the Panthers lost out on the playoffs by a hair, but Weiss who now wore the “A” in Florida looked to take the team even further the following season.

The 2009-10 season was a disappointment. Weiss hit a career-high in goals with 28 that year, but the exit of Jay Bouwmeester, the concussion of Booth and countless other injuries to the team took it’s toll as the Panthers finished towards the bottom of the standings yet again. When Tallon took over as GM, he looked to weed out any player not interested in helping with his rebuild of the team. Weiss stood pat, and wanted to remain a Panther. While recording 21 goals the following season, Weiss led a who’s who of aging veterans, AHL call-ups and young players into another disappointing year. DeBoer was dismissed and Kevin Dineen came on board.This was Weiss’ seventh coach to play under during his ten seasons in Florida.

Weiss didn’t miss a beat under Dineen and formed a deadly alliance with Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg that led to the Panthers first playoff berth since the 1999-00 season. Although winning the Southeast Division, the 2011-12 Panthers were an underdog and were looked at as easy prey in the first round to the New Jersey Devils, who were led by former coach, DeBoer. Weiss finally played in his first ever NHL postseason and gave the team everything he could. Weiss posted five points (3-2-5) in seven playoff games, including back-to-back power play goals in game two, pushing Florida to their first playoff win in 15 years. Despite losing in a heartbreaking game seven double overtime finish, Weiss looked to help the Panthers return to the playoffs the following season and defend their division title. The lockout and a season ending wrist injury limited Weiss to 17 games where he posted a meager 4 points (1-2-3) and floated through the year with uncertainty as he was a pending free agent.

Weiss ultimately left Florida last summer to join the Detroit Red Wings. Again limited this season due to injuries, Weiss signed a five-year $25. 4 million contract and has yet to show his worth with the Wings. Weiss may have left Florida, but was met with a warm reception by the Florida faithful at his first game back in Sunrise. The longest tenured Panther in team history, Weiss also holds the record for most assists by a Panther (249),  ranks second all-time in points (394), second all-time in game-winning goals (23) and is third all-time in power play goals (48). While he was never awarded the Captain’s “C” many fans considered him to be the true captain during his time with the Panthers, especially in their run to the playoffs.

Six-foot-four, 232lbs, great offensive instincts and a nose for the net, Viktor Kozlov had all the tools to be a NHLer. The Togliatti, Russia native complimented fellow Russian, Pavel Bure excellently during their time playing together in Florida. Kozlov possessed a booming shot, slick passing ability and could move very well for a player of his size. Kozlov hit a career high in assists with 53 during the 1999-00 season and helped not only the Panthers secure a playoff berth, but helped Bure earn his first Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top scorer. Kozlov’s 53 assist year is still the Panthers record for most assists in a season. Kozlov was a Panther for seven seasons, playing in 414 games and is fifth all-time among Panthers players in points (291), assists (190) and fourth all-time in shots on goal (1177). Kozlov goes unmentioned a lot when Panthers history comes up. Often overshadowed by players around him like Bure, Ray WhitneyScott Mellanby and even goaltender Roberto Luongo or fan favorites, Paul Laus and Peter Worrell, Kozlov was a quiet producer for the Panthers through his time with the team. Kozlov was a prototypical power forward , and while his hockey playing days in the NHL may be over, the 39-year old center spent last season splitting time in the KHL with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv and CSKA Moscow.

Here’s a video of Kozlov in the KHL showing off his hands and passing ability. The guy’s still got it.

He was the first ever player to be drafted by the Panthers. Rob Niedermayer, the younger brother of hall of fame defenseman, Scott Niedermayer was selected fifth overall by Florida in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. After showing he could score goals at the junior level by posting a 43 goals in his draft year, Florida saw Niedermayer as a dynamic two-way forward who could be their first ever lifer as a Panther. An enormous part of the “Year of the Rat” Niedermayer notched a career high 26 goals and 61 points in 82 games, before posting eight points (5-3-8) in 22 playoff games. Niedermayer battled concussions and injuries in the following years and never regained the form he showed that season. He converted into a more defensive forward through the years and was eventually traded to Calgary in a deal that brought Valeri Bure to Florida to unite with his brother Pavel. As the years went on Niedermayer was able to unite with his brother as well, and win a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks. Niedermayer played in 518 games as a Panther recording 266 points (101-165-266). The first ever true Florida Panther, Niedermayer was loved by the fans and remains a celebrated player in the team’s history.

Stay tuned as we begin to close in on the final chapter of the All-Time Best series on Panther Parkway!

Garrett Wilson Set to Make NHL Debut Tonight

What’s the best present you can give a young hockey player on his birthday? A shot at the NHL. That’s exactly what Florida Panthers prospect Garrett Wilson received on his 23rd birthday. Officially called up the day after his birthday on Mar. 17, Wilson will make his NHL debut tonight as the Panthers face the San Jose Sharks in the “Shark Tank”. Many prospects within the Panthers system have their names thrown around as future stars in the big league like Rocco Grimaldi, Kyle Rau, and Michael Matheson, but few times has Wilson’s name come up. While Wilson isn’t a flashy or dazzling player, he is certainly a heart and soul character player that is a valuable piece to the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL.

Wilson holds the distinction of being one of few players in Panthers history to be drafted by short-lived GM Randy Sexton. Selected in the fourth round (107th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Wilson was looked at as a solid power forward that possessed a bit of a mean streak as well as the means to put up points as well. Posting 86 points (40-46-86) in 66 games in his final junior season with the Owen Sound Attack, Wilson served as team captain during the Attack’s 2011 OHL Championship berth.

Following that season, Wilson went pro. Signing a three-year entry level contract with the Panthers and finding himself splitting time between the  Rampage and Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. Wilson spent the bulk of his first pro season in Cincinnati posting 35 points (17-18-35) in 63 games with the Cyclones and proved to be one of the team’s top players. Wilson posted one goal in 11 games with the Rampage that season.

[Read more...]

20th Anniversary: Florida Panthers All-Time Best, Left Wing Edition

Our newest edition of the Florida Panthers All-Time Best will take us through a walk on the left side. Throughout the history of the team there has been many solid left wings, but not necessarily in their prime or didn’t stay in South Florida for long.  The left-wing position through the years has been a bit of a weakness for the team when you look back at some of the best players to play for the Panthers.

Until the mid-2000′s the Panthers hadn’t had a clear-cut top-line left-winger.Players like Gary Roberts and Cory Stillman were serviceable and valuable veterans in the locker room, but were declining in production and didn’t make it through full seasons. The emergence of rookie of the year Jonathan Huberdeau as well as other young left wings in the system like Quinton Howden give the Panthers some hope on the left side and could one day leap the players that clock in at the top three of the list. Only time will tell. So without further ado, we begin analyzing the all-time best, Florida Panthers left wings.

[Read more...]

20th Anniversary: Florida Panthers All-Time Best, Defense Edition

Following part one of our Panthers All-Time Best series where we analyzed goalies, we move forward and analyze the top three defensemen to wear a Panthers sweater. Again this list will not include players who just spent a season with the team or were rental players for Florida. So all of you hoping to see Dino Ciccarelli or Filip Kuba show up on one of these lists you will be let down. So let’s get started!

Far from a household name, Svehla was one of the most reliable players the Panthers ever had on D. Although he was drafted by Calgary in the fourth round (178th overall) of the 1992 draft, Svehla began his career with the Panthers and spent eight of his nine NHL seasons with Florida, before ending his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2002-03. Acquired in a trade that saw picks and prospects swap places between Calgary and Florida, Svehla became the most valuable piece in the trade and went on to have a very productive career in Florida.

Svehla who brought with him a bronze medal from the 1992 Winter Olympics as a young member of team Czechoslovakia never looked back when he made the jump to the North American game in 1994-95. He saw his first full season of play in the Panthers legendary Stanley Cup run in 1995-96. During his rookie season, Svehla set a career high 57 points (8-49-57) in 81 games played and began looking like an absolute steal in the trade. The following year Svehla became an NHL All-Star and hit a career high 13 goals in a season.

Offense was not the only thing Svehla provided. He played with strong two-way instinct and was a career-high plus-23 in the Panthers 1999-00 season. Until Brian Campbell tied Svehla in 2011-12, Svehla held the record for most assists in a season as a Panther with 49, which he set as a rookie. No Panther defenseman has more career goals (61), power play goals (26), points (290) or games played (573) than Svehla and he also ranks third all-time among Panthers players with assists (229). Svehla was also the team’s first iron man.

The Martin, Slovakia native played in four full 82 game seasons with his other seasons being 81, 80 and 79 game seasons. In his final three seasons with Florida, he never missed a game. An unsung hero for the team, Svehla quietly made  a successful career for himself in Florida and was a heart and soul player for the Panthers for almost a decade. His dedication to the team and will to win night in and night out, secures his number one spot for Panthers defensemen.

Love him or hate him, Bouwmeester could have easily been the number one on this list. “J-Bo” is no doubt one of the very best defensemen to play for Florida. Armed with incredible skating ability, size and sound two-way play, Bouwmeester was a can’t miss prospect in the 2002 Entry Draft. Selected by Florida third overall, the Panthers saw Bouwmeester as a player they could build a team around and saw the young blueliner as the guy who could take them to the next level.

Bouwmeester spent six seasons in South Florida and gained a reputation as not only one of the league’s best puck moving defensemen but as an iron man. In those six seasons, Bouwmeester played a full 82 games five times, a record that could prove to be untouchable for years to come. Bouwmeester’s most productive seasons of his career were while he was with Florida. In the 2005-06 season, Bouwmeester hit his career high in points with 46 (5-41-46) and reached a career high in plus-minus the following season, finishing plus-23 on a Panthers squad that finished in 12th place in the East.

Bouwmeester’s final two seasons in Florida were consecutive 15-goal seasons for the Panthers’ top D-man. During the 2008-09 season Bouwmeester tied the most power play goals by a defenseman record set by Gord Murphy in the 1993-94 season with 9 power play goals. The Edmonton, Alberta native’s 15 goals had set a record for most goals by a defenseman in Panthers history. In the 2011-12 season  Jason Garrison broke both the power play and even strength goal records that J-Bo set (both by just one goal in each category). Broken or not, Bouwmeester has set the bar quite high for any defenseman who puts on the Florida uniform.

Bouwmeester’s falling out with Florida over his desire to leave the team and the constant rumors of his departure hanging overhead didn’t sit well with fans and the organization itself obviously. Bouwmeester did and still does possess the full package you look for in a defenseman which made it incredibly difficult to lose such a special player for virtually nothing. Bouwmeester’s departure like that of Roberto Luongo‘s mismanaged trade set the Panthers back creating huge holes in their lineup for years. He wasn’t always the most physical player but his game was much more than just that. He was a cerebral player, who could open a game up with his speed and skill. Bouwmeester gave the Florida organization credibility as he became a two-time All-Star while with the Panthers and was a product of their own system, something Florida had lacked for years. Bouwmeester is currently playing for the St. Louis Blues and recently won a Gold Medal in Sochi as a member of Team Canada. Bouwmeester has also played in 700 consecutive regular season games, a feat unmatched by any athlete in the four major sports today (MLB/NFL/NBA/NHL).

FUN FACT: When the Panthers traded Bouwmeester’s rights to the Calgary Flames due to his expiring contract, the Panthers couldn’t receive much in return, but did receive Jordan Leopold and a third round pick for the 2009 draft. The Panthers used that pick to draft Josh Birkholz, while Leopold later was traded to Pittsburgh for a second round pick in the 2010 draft. Florida used that pick to select Connor Brickley. Leopold and Bouwmeester are now teammates in St. Louis. 

The only Florida Panther player ever to be drafted first overall, “Jovo” became an instant fan favorite upon being drafted. He was looked at as the cornerstone of the team’s future immediately. He matched up against some of the league’s top players and shut down the likes of Eric Lindros, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr  as a 19-year old rookie during the Panthers’ “Year of the Rat” Stanley Cup Run. Like Svehla, Jovo was relied upon heavily as a rookie, and while he managed to put up 21 points (10-11-21) he also spent 137 minutes in the penalty box.

“JovoCop” as he was quickly nicknamed patrolled the blueline in the Miami Arena, getting under the skin and laying out anyone who stood in his way. Jovanovski spent four seasons with Florida before being packaged in a blockbuster deal to that sent him to the Vancouver Canucks and brought the “Russian Rocket” Pavel Bure to South Florida.  Jovanovski went on to have the best years of his career in Vancouver and later spent time with the Phoenix Coyotes.

While testing free agency in the summer of 2011, Jovo decided to return to the team that drafted him and scored the first home goal of the season on the power play for the Panthers against their rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now in a very different role than his first stint with Florida, Jovanovski was brought in to mentor young defensemen like Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov as well the others on the way. Jovo was named captain in his second season back and while a serious hip injury looked like it could be the end for the grizzled veteran, Jovanovski powered back into the lineup and continues to mentor the young players on the team.  With over 1,100 games under his belt, Jovo may not find his name leading any team records but is loved by the fan base. Jovo’s return to Florida was a nostalgia trip for many of the original Panthers fans and was the clear-cut choice to lead the young nucleus of talent the Panthers have accumulated, into the next chapter of this franchise’s story.

The rules were top three of all-time but how could Laus be left out? A guest on Panther Parkway Radio recently, there was no tougher defenseman in Florida’s history than Laus. A former captain of the Panthers, Laus spent his entire nine season career as a Panther. Despite being drafted in the 2nd round (37th overall) in 1989 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Laus is one of the few Panthers lifers in the history of the team. Claimed by Florida in the Expansion Draft he was brought in to bring sandpaper to the new team’s lineup, and boy did he bring that. His hands were used more for fighting than scoring as Laus amassed a Panthers all-time record 1,702 PIMs. Laus took on all challengers which many times included some of the league’s nastiest enforcers. During the 1996-97 season, Laus picked up a career-high 313 PIMs in 77 games.  Aside from Svehla, Laus has played more games than all Panthers defensemen ranking number two in games played  (530) and is a career plus-31, the highest among Panthers defensemen all-time and second among all Panthers players. Laus left it all on the ice each night and did everything he could to help his team.

Check out this Paul Laus C-C-C-Combo Breaker!

Stay tuned to Panther Parkway as we continue to look at the best All-Time Panthers at each position!

20th Anniversary: Panthers All-Time Best, Goalie Edition

With 17 games remaining until the book closes shut on the Florida Panthers‘ 20th Anniversary, we look back at a year, much like most of the previous years for the team, as one full of ups, downs, bumps, bruises and hardship all coated strangely with a small silver lining. The Panthers now have a much different look than they did at the start of the season, and while many players have come and gone for this team over the years, many are still remembered fondly by the fans. Today we begin to analyze this team at every position for the last 20 years and who the top three Panthers were/are at each position. This list will not include rental players or players who only spent a season in South Florida, so players like Ed Belfour, Dennis Seidenberg and the illustrious Tanner Glass who virtually were on the Panthers for a cup of coffee will not be on this list. Every great team should be built out of the net, so we begin between the pipes.


It’s only necessary for Luongo to be the first player mentioned on this list. After years of waiting, the Panthers were the talk of the town when “BobbyLu” got his wish granted by the almighty Vancouver Canucks GM, Mike Gillis to return to his home away from home in South Florida on Deadline Day. Luongo’s past with the Canucks has been well documented for the last few years and his desire to spend the rest of his days in a Panthers uniform was the goaltender’s worst kept secret. But make no mistake, Luongo is not ready to “ride out into the sunset”, as he said in his first press conference as his second stint in Florida began - he’s here to win.

Luongo is far and away the best goaltender to man the crease in South Florida. No goalie has played more games with a Panthers crest on his chest than Luongo. During his first stint in Sunrise, Luongo set the record for most games played by a goaltender with 317 games played, you can now add three more to that, clocking him in at 320. But it doesn’t stop there! Luongo is the holder of every Panthers goaltending record in the books. The man mysteriously known as “@Strombone1″ (or is he), holds Florida’s record for most shutouts in a season (7, 03-04), most career shutouts (27), most wins in a season (35, 05-06) and most career wins (109) for the Panthers.  Luongo also holds the record for most saves made in a game for the Panthers, stopping 57 shots against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 27, 2002. Luongo represented the Panthers at the 2004 All-Star game and has earned numerous accolades since leaving the organization, including two olympic gold medals (2010,2014). The 34-year old netminder is not only Florida’s best goaltender of all-time but an ambassador for the team. Luongo’s presence as an elite talent brings with it a ripple effect that can entice other top talent players to take a look at Sunrise as a destination. Luongo brings stability and credibility to the organization. All of this and more is why the man who wears number one, takes the number one spot.


You can’t talk about the Panthers without talking about the guy who put the team on the map. “Beezer” as he was affectionately called by fans was the early years of Panthers hockey’s icon and continues to be one of the most well-respected figures in the history of the club. Left unprotected by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1993 Expansion Draft, the Panthers used the first pick to secure Vanbiesbrouck as their team’s first ever player. The veteran goaltender was a former Vezina trophy winner (85-86) and brought instant credibility to a team in a “market that couldn’t possibly work”. Beezer led the Panthers to the Stanley Cup finals in the 1996 playoffs in a near impossible run. Beezer and the Panthers knocked off the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Eastern Conference. The cinderella run did not result in a happily ever after ending, but Beezer was everybody’s hero in the Miami Arena. Until the emergence of Luongo, Vanbiesbrouck held every goaltending record for the Panthers and is second all time in career wins by a Panthers goaltender, only behind Luongo by three, with 106 wins. Fun Fact: Vanbiesbrouck is not only the lone Florida Panther to be on the cover of an EA Sports NHL video game (at least in the North America) as he graced the cover of NHL 97, but was the only goalie cover boy until this year’s NHL 14 cover with Martin Brodeur. 

Vokoun was on some pretty dismal Florida Panthers teams, but was also on one of the better teams of the last decade as well. Vokoun was a polarizing figure for some fans but a solid goalie nonetheless. Acquired from the Nashville Predators on Draft Day 2008, the Panthers were desperately trying to fill the void they created by trading away Luongo to Vancouver. Vokoun was a goaltender in his prime when the Panthers brought him into the fold, and was looked at as the answer to their goaltending woes. While he did fill the role nicely, the pieces around him were not enough for most of his stay. Regardless, during his four seasons with Florida, Vokoun managed to tie Luongo’s record for most shutouts in a season (7,09-10),  finish second for career shutouts for a Panther (23) and finish second for most wins in a season as a Panther (30, 07-08). The 2008-09 season was the pinnacle of Vokoun’s success with Florida, as the team narrowly missed the playoffs and finished 9th in the East. The tandem of Vokoun and a young Craig Anderson helped push the team full of aging veterans and a few young players forward into contention but ultimately couldn’t make it into the post season. Vokoun is inactive due to a blood clot he suffered this season, but is currently a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins and played fantastically for them during the Pens playoff run last season, filling in for Marc-Andre Fleury and helping Pittsburgh make it to the Eastern Conference finals.

Stay tuned to Panther Parkway this week as we continue our reveal of the All-Time Top Players at each position!

Florida Panthers Getting Their Bang For Their Buck

The money situation seemingly has changed for the Florida Panthers as new Owner Vincent Viola has given General Manager Dale Tallon the go ahead to spend to the cap in the upcoming offseason. This is not the norm for the Panthers who have had a history of pinching pennies when it came to bringing players in. Just hit the rewind button for a second and go back to last summer when the Panthers entered free agency with a very tight budget. The Panthers were unable to compete with the wallet of the Detroit Red Wings and lost Stephen Weiss, a fan favorite and the Panthers’ longest tenured player to the motor city, and just like that the Panthers were without their first line center.

Strapped for cash, the Panthers did not jump into the deep end of the free agent pool to pad their roster, but rather dipped their toes in to test the water. Florida signed a mixed bag of veterans from all ends of the hockey world. The Panthers signed depth winger, Joey Crabb (two-year, one-way, $600,000),  fringe defenseman, Matt Gilroy (one-year, two-way, $700,000), journeyman defenseman, Mike Mottau (one-year, two-way, $700,000), former two-time All-Star, Scott Gomez (one-year, one-Way, $900,000) and former Ottawa Senators forward, Jesse Winchester (one-year, two-way, $600,000). The Panthers made more of a ripple in the free agent pool than a splash, really.

Tallon was adamant that he would wait for players to lower their price tags before making any further moves. As training camp inched closer, the question marks in the Florida’s lineup remained. The Panthers were still in need of defensemen, forwards and dependable goaltending. With an impending ownership change, Tallon invited New York Islanders castoff, Brad Boyes, former Minnesota Wild buyout, Tom Gilbert and ex-Tampa Bay Lightning blue liner, Brett Clark to the team’s training camp for pro tryouts. The final and most interesting of all the pro tryouts would be the goaltending tryouts. The Panthers extended an invitation to the former Philadelphia Flyers netminder and media darling, Ilya Bryzgalov, who did not report. The other invitation went to the 2010-11 Stanley Cup champion and MVP, Tim Thomas.

[Read more...]

Attack of the Killer B’s: Chemistry Paying off for Panthers’ First Line

For quite some time, the Florida Panthers struggled mightily trying to find chemistry while under coach Kevin Dineen. With constant line shuffling night after night, there was never that one line the Panthers’ could ever really count on. Watching errant pass after errant pass send the team into a frantic style of chasing the puck around the ice, the Panthers were looking as if the days of having four solid lines were far behind them. Under current Head Coach, Peter Horachek, the Panthers may not have four lines that are dangerous, but have begun to step into the right direction by building chemistry to start anew. Enter Florida’s first line combination of Sean BergenheimAleksander Barkov and Brad Boyes. A line that continues to plague their opponents with a barrage in the offensive zone, with shots, crisp passes and puck possession, while still working hard in their own zone as well.

When looking at this line it certainly has it’s own storylines that make this unit so interesting. Bergenheim returned to action this season after missing last year with an abdominal injury. His commitment to the team and his career were questioned by Dineen and it was unknown what type of condition the 29-year old Finn would be in.  A player that looked destined to be another guest in the Dineen doghouse was given a second chance by Horachek. As his ice time has steadily increased, Bergenheim has begun to look as if he has returned to his “Mr. Playoff” days.  His hard work on the ice to regain his confidence and rediscover his game have not been in vain. Coach Horachek has even gone on to call Bergenheim “One of his favorite players”. Not bad for a guy who had a question mark hanging over him with his previous coach. In his last five games, Bergenheim has notched five goals, two of which were on Florida’s 30th ranked power play. The Helsinki, Finland native has 12 points (9-3-12) in 27 games this season and is ranked second on the team in goals.

Boyes has made his name in Florida for being a shootout hero, boasting a league best 36 goals all-time in the shootout and scoring five out of eight attempts this season. Boyes’ season has been a back and forth of falling in and out of favor with the coaching staff. His intensity (which maybe he can spell better than Bobby Ryan) has been questioned and his defensive play has been called out as well. The truth is when he is on his game, Boyes is one of Florida’s most effective players. With a team leading 11 goals this season, Boyes is also ranked third in points with 19 (11-8-19) and first on the team in plus/minus with a plus-4 rating. With his performance thus far, Boyes is proving to be one of Tallon’s best signings. Signed out of training camp on a pro-tryout, Boyes rides a one-year contract worth $1 million. In his last three games, Boyes has five points (2-3-5) and is plus-3, showing his skill at both ends of the ice.

The final piece to the puzzle that is Florida’s first line, is arguably the team’s best player this season. The 18-year old, Barkov pulls it all together for the line and has been the rock in Florida’s offense this year. His consistency is incredible for his age. Barkov is far and away the team’s hottest player right now. The Finnish rookie has been on a tear lately, currently riding a five game point streak, worth six points (1-5-6) and ten points (3-7-10) in his last ten games.  Barkov’s game goes beyond point production. Barkov is second on the team in takeaways with 22 and is 49.8% in the faceoff circle.  Barkov’s team leading 21 points (7-14-21) has fans excited about his future and his potential to be a top player in the league, despite going unnoticed by most media outlets. Barkov is a special player because of his ability to make the players around him better. Bergenheim and Boyes are both playing at the top of their games right now with Barkov centering them. During Scottie Upshall‘s surge in point production during November and early December, it could be assumed that Barkov was the catalyst for that change in Upshall’s game. Since him splitting him up from Barkov, Upshall’s production has waned. With only one assist in his last ten games, Upshall is still playing well defensively but is certainly not the same offensively without Barkov.

[Read more...]

The Stakes Are High in Panthers Final Home Stand of 2013

Going into the final month of 2013, the Florida Panthers looked as though they would be watching the playoffs from their couches at home. Head Coach Peter Horachek and his staff on the other hand, had different plans. After showing signs of improved play through the last three weeks of November, the team seemed to be buying into the new system. Horachek entered December with more or less a clean slate to work with. The new bench boss had to make the jump into his position after the Panthers dropped four straight games in November. The rest of that month became a learning experience for the team, having to get used to a new coach, a new system to play under, new linemates and even new players, with Kris Versteeg being sent back to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for youngsters, Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen. December was a way to put the last month behind them and move forward.

So far in December, the Panthers boast a 7-3-0 record. The team has gone through a transformation on the ice. Playing with confidence, the Panthers rode a five-game winning streak before it being snapped Friday night in a 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. It was a loss that was unfortunate, but you can’t win them all. The loss should not weigh heavily over the Panthers, they should be proud of what they’ve accomplished only halfway through December, harness that and use it moving forward. That five-game winning streak was not only a confidence builder, but it also brought them back into the playoff picture.

The Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks were the three hottest teams in the league last week. All with five or more straight wins. For the Panthers to be in that type of company is amazing, simply because they lack what both of those teams have. Both teams have some of the league’s best players, while Florida has accomplished these feats with 18 year old, Aleksander Barkov and 21-year old, Nick  Bjugstad as their top two centers. As well as being without starting goaltender Tim Thomas during four of those five games. Scott Clemmensen, who looked as if he would never return to form after last years performance,was brilliant. Clemmensen allowed six goals in four games, and played with poise again and looked like the Clemmensen from two seasons ago.

While their work is still cut out for them because of an atrocious start to the year (3-7-4) under Coach Kevin Dineen). They are not far away from the playoffs, if they can continue their pace. With the introduction of the wild card this year to make the playoffs, the stakes have changed. The top three teams in their division make the playoffs, while the remaining two teams in the conference with the best records win the wild card and squeeze in. The Panthers sit in the middle of the wild card race right now, but will have to finish out the month strong to still be relevant in 2014. The Panthers have a five-game homestand to end December and start the new year in a game against the Nashville Predators.

In the team’s homestand, they face four Eastern Conference teams. Out of those four teams, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers, three are in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay sits in second place of the division, Montreal sits in third, and Detroit leads the wild card race. Asking for another long winning streak is a tall task, but not impossible for the team who just won their last 7 of 9. The Rangers are struggling mightily this season and currently sit only one point above Florida for the wild card. Every division game this season has to be a must-win game for Florida to climb back into contention, but with that being said, because of this new format, every game contested in the Eastern conference will be do or die for those trying to snatch up those last two spots in the wild card. 

Florida starts the homestand against a red-hot Tampa Bay, who are riding a four-game winning streak and have beaten the Panthers in both their meetings this year. Looking to get some revenge against their in-state rivals, the Panthers need to win this game to get back on track before meeting Detroit for the third time this month. They’ve defeated the Red Wings in their first two meetings. Florida beat Montreal during their road trip, while the Rangers have downed the Panthers twice this season. Nashville, sits at the bottom of the Western Conference and have struggled, but you have to believe the Cats are going to come out swinging for Horachek against the team that fired him after he spent almost a decade in the Music City. The Panthers have done tremendous work to get back into the position they’re in. Unfortunately for the Panthers, their losing record during the months of October and November dug them into quite the deep hole. It’s safe to say that this next home stand will basically make or break  the Panthers season.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,223 other followers

%d bloggers like this: