They needed one point against a disappointing rival to clinch their first playoff appearance in 11 seasons... and laid an egg, getting in only because Buffalo lost to Philadelphia too

Had you told me back in October that the Florida Panthers would make the NHL playoffs, I’d have called you crazy and rattled off a lengthy critique about how poorly Dale Tallon managed his franchise in the offseason.

Tallon spent frivolously in the summer, enticing unrestricted free agents to sign in Florida with promises of four-year contracts, no matter how poor the situation or the player. Tomas Fleischmann, a solid second line forward, albeit with circulation problems? Four-year contract. Scottie Upshall, another second liner? Four-year contract. Sean Bergenheim, a possession two-way forward that Tallon felt was worth gambling $11M on because, as said in a radio interview on the Fan 590 in the summer, “he’s good in the playoffs”? Four-year contract. Ed Jovanovski, a defensive liability waiting to happen despite a strong offensive track record? Four-year contract, also a 35+ contract, which means even if Jovanovski retires, Florida are still on the hook.

He also signed Marcel Goc and traded for salary cap anchor Brian Campbell, before putting his hopes between the pipes onto Jose Theodore, a 35-year old journeyman with a career .908 save percentage, and that’s including his two best years, which came pre-lockout.

Good lord, why hadn’t I written anything about the way this team was put together? This isn’t a hockey team so much as it is a collection of spare parts. No method influenced a cohesive group here, Tallon had X amount of dollars to spend and spent X on the button, with no sense for creativity or process.

Then the team started winning hockey games. At first it was cute, and then tiresome, and then infuriating, to see Tallon achieve any kind of success with this rag-tag group. But then you begin to pick apart at the numbers, and think “well, gee, this team isn’t actually any good. Maybe they made the playoffs as the beneficiaries of some good circumstances and are about to be crushed.”

Last year, no team with a negative goal differential made the NHL playoffs. In 2010, the -13 Ottawa Senators and the -6 Montreal Canadiens did, and the Nashville Predators hit it with an even marker. Since the NHL lockout, just eight teams have reached the playoffs having given up more goals than they’ve allowed, with the 2010 Sens being the lowest.

Florida's best player plays in the Québec league

When Florida hit the ice for the first game of the playoffs against New Jersey, Boston, or the New York Rangers, depending on how everything shakes out, there is a 100% chance that they will do so as the worst post-lockout team to make the playoffs, and probably one of the worst since the league expanded to 30 teams.

Not only does their -27 goal differential (as it stands now) pale to make them look any better than last year’s squad (or the friggin’ Edmonton Oilers, who are a -24 on the year), but they’ve also won 37 games. You know who won 37 games last season? The Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that didn’t have the benefit of 18 overtime or shootout losses, providing a wealth of Bettman points, to help them make the playoffs.

This isn’t just a team that angers logic, it’s a team that sits next to logic in a movie theatre and making obnoxious fart noises during key plot points.

Goal differential is often good at predicting the records of sports teams, and it isn’t too far off with Florida here. After 81 games, scoring 199 goals and allowing 226 should net your team 35.4 victories. The Panthers have 37. They have accomplished this thanks to being 17-5-18 in games decided by a goal. 17-5-18. They manage to be on an 85-point pace in games decided by a goal and six games below .500 simultaneously. As far as “clear victories” go, games decided by two or more goals, empty-netters excluded, Florida are 13-18, 13th in the Eastern Conference and behind every team in the NHL save Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Columbus, the New York Islanders and Calgary.

Florida will make the NHL playoffs for the first time since 2000. Columbus and Minnesota hadn’t joined the NHL yet, and the New York Islanders would take a young goaltender named Rick DiPietro first in the Draft that spring. Sure, it’s an achievement because the team has been out of the hunt for forever, but this team still isn’t very good. If they were any good, they wouldn’t have had to rely on Bettman points and a disproportionate record in one-goal games allowing them to make the playoffs.

In my estimation, this is the worst team that will make the final sixteen since the lockout, surpassing the 2007 Tampa Bay Lightning.

Comments (18)

  1. And guess who doesn’t care. Every Panther fan that has stuck with this team for the last 12 years. And yeah, they lost a helluva lot of games in shootouts and obviously benefited from the system. Guess who doesn’t care. The “rag tag” bunch of “spare parts” that will have the same record as the other 15 playoff teams come Sunday morning. Keep the hate coming, it’s not like Panther fans haven’t heard it all before again and again and again.

    • I couldn’t possibly like this comment more. Don’t fault a team for succeeding in the system its given. Especially since a GMs job is to build a team to be successful, in whatever the current climate of the sport is.

      I guess its fortunate that good hockey teams aren’t measured by blogger admiration. They are measured by their success by the end of the season. By my standards this team has given its fans a reason to cheer again after they hung in there with them. The team and GM should be given admiration for their hard work.

      Yeah the Panthers are a little different than other stand out teams. Some players are new or old and a few are definitely rag-tag cast outs. If Im gonna build a Bad News Bears to play a little playoff hockey, its hard to argue with a GM who started with 5 supporting players with stanley cup rings on their fingers.

      Those things are so heavy I wouldn’t doubt that they had trouble picking up the mouse to click on this insightful article.

  2. Hahahaha, great line, “This isn’t just a team that angers logic, it’s a team that sits next to logic in a movie theatre and making obnoxious fart noises during key plot points.”

  3. Guess who’ll care when they are ushered out in four straight by the Devils or the Bruins or the Rangers. The same fans who’ll have to listen to how the Panthers haven’t won a playoff game in 13 years and then start a new streak out of the playoffs next year. Tallon’s done his damage, now you’ll have to live with it.

    • Maybe they’ll be swept. Maybe not. Ask how far people thought 8th seed Montreal (with a negative goal differential) would get in 2010, or 8th seed Edmonton in 2006. Just get in and anything can happen. But even if they get just 4 playoff games, they’ll mean more to this franchise and this fanbase that anyone not a part of it could understand. And with the amount of good, quality youth players coming through the system in the next 2-3 years, I think they’ll be just fine.

  4. Who cares? The only thing that matters here are the standings, and the Panthers are in while so many of these ‘better’ teams are out.

    Not to mention if Florida wins their division, what do you say about Washington?

  5. “Then the team started winning hockey games. At first it was cute, and then tiresome, and then infuriating, to see Tallon achieve any kind of success with this rag-tag group.”

    I’m no Panthers fan, but it sounds like one of the “experts” that predicted the Panthers would finish in the bottom of the conference is bitter. The above quote proves you’re less than objective. Dineen should be a runaway Jack Adams winner for the job he’s done. The Washington Capitals are a bad hockey team too, and yet they squeeked into the playoffs as well. Say what you will about the loser point, but it proves the Panthers competed harder for 60 minutes every night than the Caps did.

  6. I love how you bash teams with low +/- but you fail to mention in the same breath that the Canadiens made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. So if +/- means the world in the league, I guess you’re currently blogging from your yacht in the south of France. Because, we all know you won tons of money betting on the only statistic that means anything… +/-. If you’re too busy spewing some unrealistic hatred for a team to see my sarcasm, I’ll make it clear. This article was atrocious. Your prognostications are without basis. Well done.

  7. It made complete sense for Tallon to overspend on free agents, they had the cap space. Obviously he has some idea of what he is doing, look at what these ‘mistakes’ have accomplished this year

  8. Rant was a good tag for this article. Nothing of actual value written just some, what did you call it Cam “obnoxious fart noises”? Yeah, that’s about right.

  9. This article is a complete piece of shxt.
    Your key points:
    - You under-valued players that an actual GM didn’t. Way to go bud. I predicted that they would be a decent squad, what does that mean?
    - You don’t see the plan here, so there must not be one. I saw it. Very clearly. Mix in veteran leadership, get proven winners, put prospects back in the minors, get a good goalie. Hmm, too bad Burke is listening to braniacs like you. Campbell has been terrible – oh wait, can’t say that, so we’ll call him a cap anchor.
    - Goal differential. Who fxcking cares. They have beaten lots of the best teams. They had some brutal games. Like Ottawa. Is there something in the rulebook that forbids this?
    -They overpaid. Oh, I guess you were hanging out with the player agents and found out these guys would have taken less money to come to a perennial underdog.
    - You wish the Leafs had made it. You get Bettman points when you are in tight games. Remember all the times the Leafs just barely lost? Oh wait, they got their ass handed to them all season.

    Nice article. You demonstrate your poor forecasting skills. Then you make an obscure claim that, in actual fact, your forecast was correct, but we are seeing some kind of statistical illusion or scheduling anomaly. Then you hint that this is about the Leafs. Ever wonder why people hate the center of the universe?
    Leave the GMing to guys in the league, and let Tallon leave the griping to you. Also, write your negative predictions at the beginning of the season, not after the team has done well.

  10. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that you predicted Caps as the odds on favorite to win. Hey, I knew they’d suck. Maybe you should a) watch some teams outside your region b) think for yourself c) LEARN from what has happened, instead of arguing that it hasn’t happened.

  11. What they said… ^^^^^

  12. Given how every single team in the south-east has had pretty significant troubles this year, I’m not really sure why the Cats don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. Every other team in their division has a neg goal differential and only the Caps got above 40 wins. It was always going to be the case that a ‘bad’ team would make it in.

    That said, it is pretty obvious that Florida’s success in making the playoffs is them being ahead of schedule. Probably only the most die-hard Cat fan expected it (and high-five to you guys for sticking with the team :D). The Bolts were successful last year before their weaknesses became apparent this year. Chances are the Cats will regress next year as well.

    But I still think Tallon’s done a great job. Sure, some of the contracts are headscratchers (Upshall, Bergenheim). But given how shallow free agency was last year and how he was asking people to come to a team that hadn’t seen the playoffs in over a decade, he wasn’t exactly dealing from a position of strength. He had to overpay. Yes, there’s Jovanovski, but he’s there as a fan favorite and mentor for Gudbranson. Theodore is adequate enough until Markstrom is ready. And despite Campbell’s massive cap hit, it’s obvious Chicago is missing him while he’s having an excellent year and he’s hopefully a look-in for the Norris.

    So to me, it’s obvious there’s a good plan in place and the players and now even the local fans have bought into it. I guess it’ll just take longer for the rest of the league to buy in as well.

    (Honestly, the best change though is their new unis. So much better than the blue.)

  13. if you win your division you should only be guaranteed a playoff spot, the southeast is significantly the worst division in the eastern conference but sub-par results give you 1st round home ice, blasphemy

    • I wonder what would happen if they just re-seeded the top 8 in the east like that? I think that would be great. Florida make it in, but gets re-seeded in the pile by its points. I could get behind that rule change, sounds fair.

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