When you invest as much into the future of your franchise as the Florida Panthers did this past summer, you expect results.
The problem was that, while they identified their two most glaring weak points — coaching and goaltending — and threw a little extra depth into the deal as well, it always seemed like there wasn’t a ton of wiggle room for them. The reason why was simple: Tampa, Toronto, and Boston all finished last season a mile ahead of them and more or less kept the bands together.
The natural logjam atop the Atlantic Division posed a problem. What could the Panthers’ ceiling reasonably be if three teams that were all but guaranteed yet another 100-plus points come April were blocking the door? The only answer was probably to sneak in through the side window of a wild-card spot and hope for the best.
But then something weird happened. Even as the Panthers started the year disappointingly at 2-2-3 with Sergei Bobrovsky delivering putrid goaltending and the offence underperforming, only Boston looked like anyone expected. Tampa and Toronto have been, shall we say, disappointing to date.