Florida Panthers The Importance of Aleksander Barkov

Last year, the Florida Panthers missed the playoffs, finishing with eighty-six points, twelve points behind the second wild-card spot in the year of their franchise history. They had a minute thirteen goal difference in the final tally. That, coupled with their 3-7 record in shootouts cost them in the eighty-two game marathon. The team captain is Aleksander Barkov Jr., who was picked second overall in the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft in 2013. He won individual accolades in the 2018-19 by taking him the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. Barkov enters the 2019-20 campaign with 345 points in 413 career games. This season, he hopes to lead his team past mid-April for the first time since winning the Atlantic Division in 2016, twenty years since the organization was playing in their first and only Stanley Cup Final to date. 

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Aleksander will have some help this coming term. He has the luxury of having an experienced coach in Joel Quenneville, one who knows what it takes to be the last team standing, having won multiple Stanley Cup titles with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was hired back on April 8th as the sixteenth head coach of the Panthers. Indeed, he will make a difference in the dressing room.

Another nice addition for Florida was picking up thirty-year-old goalie Sergei Bobrovsky on the first day of July. The former Vezina Trophy winner was with the Columbus Blue Jackets for seven years and helped lead them to an unexpected sweep in the first round against the heavily favored Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 playoffs. Barkov’s assistant captains are Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau, both former winners of the Calder Memorial Trophy. Also helping him are Vincent Trocheck, the sixty-fourth pick in the 2011 draft, and Keith Yandle, a veteran who spent a lot of time with the Arizona Coyotes.

Looking through their roster, the Florida Panthers are a very young team. All but five players are still in their twenties as of a month ago. Therefore, there will be plenty of growing pains on the road to success. Still, it should not shock anyone to see them playing in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs come spring if fully assembled. Aleksander was on the team that won forty-seven games to get a taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the New York Islanders four seasons ago.

Florida also had three fewer wins in 2018. Yet the Panthers finished fourth in the Atlantic on ninety-six points, missing out on the postseason. Thus there are signs that the team is close. In last season’s standings in the East, getting to ninety-eight points was ensuring a team’s playoff status. However, over in the West, only three teams got to one hundred points. I think the Panthers win less than forty games three and a half months into the 2020 calendar year. Nonetheless, they will be one of the sixteen participants to qualify, ironically enough. 

Works cited: NHL app (free agency tracker page), https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksander_Barkov_Jr., https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015–16_NHL_season, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Panthers, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Quenneville, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Bobrovsky, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Florida_Panthers_head_coaches, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Florida_Panthers_players, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_Trocheck

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