- Craig Custance
As teams are eliminated from the 2014 postseason, the focus shifts to next season, and we’ll be examining some of the teams expected to have the most interesting summers. Here’s an early look at the Florida Panthers' offseason priorities, projected lineups for next season, targets in free agency, cap space and more.
What happened in 2013-14
Points (as of March 27): 62 (No. 28 in the NHL)
Goals per game: 2.33 (No. 29)
Goals against per game: 3.16 (No. 27)
Power play: 10.3 percent (No. 30)
Penalty kill: 74.6 (No. 30)
Corsi for/60 percentage: 52.6 percent (No. 23)
Expectations this season: In our ESPN.com NHL season preview on the Panthers, I picked Florida to finish seventh in the Atlantic, their current position. Katie Strang was the optimist, picking them sixth.
Did they meet them? Yes. The expectation was that the Panthers were going to be in a transition year to youth, and with that comes struggles in the standings. With the addition of Tim Thomas, there was some hope that the Panthers might be a surprise team. They got a bump following the hiring of head coach Peter Horachek, but it wasn’t sustained. But even with the expected struggles, you would have like to seen more growth from some of the Panthers' core young players.
Front office offseason priorities
1. Find the right head coach. The offseason changes already started happening this week when the team announced that it wouldn’t be renewing the contract of assistant GM Mike Santos. Front office changes are to be expected under new ownership as it starts bringing in its own people. Santos, respected for his work in Nashville, likely won’t stay unemployed for long. But you can’t help but wonder what his exit will mean for Horachek’s future and whether or not he’ll ultimately get the interim label removed since Santos was influential in hiring the former Predators assistant coach.
When I spoke with Santos on Wednesday, he continued to back Horachek. “If they’re smart, they’ll stick with Peter Horachek,” Santos said.