Despite what you may have thought about the 2021-22 Florida Panthers, the truth is they blew past any and all expectations.
The cats led the NHL with 122 points, going 58-18-6 in the process. They certainly earned that mark as their +94 goal differential also paced the league, as did their 34-7-0 record on home ice while their 4.11 goals for per game led the league by a wide margin. For context, the Toronto Maple Leafs checked in at second with a healthy 3.80 goals per contest.
That said, this isn’t exactly the same Florida Panthers team heading toward the 2022-23 campaign. Perhaps the most significant offseason transaction in the hockey world involved the Panthers dealing left winger Jonathan Huberdeau to the Calgary Flames in a deal that brought the highly-toured Matthew Tkachuk to Sunrise. The exchange brings a new element to both clubs.
Does Tkachuk Aid the Panthers’ Top Line?
At this point, there’s little doubt Tkachuk is a bonafide first-line player. After all, he’s coming off a 40-goal season in which he displayed his elite offensive talent while simultaneously getting underneath the skin of his opponents. The guy can play.
The question is whether Tkachuk can mesh with an elite, two-way forward in Aleksander Barkov. Barkov can certainly carry a line on his own. However, Huberdeau is one of the game’s top play-making wingers. Tkachuk can finish, but he’s not exactly the play-making type. Huberdeau and Barkov owned a thing called chemistry, and it’s fair to wonder whether Tkachuk and the big Finn can replicate what made the Panthers such a lethal offensive squad a season ago.
Grit and soft hands mean plenty in this league, but chemistry accounts for plenty upon a scenery change.
Betting on Some Very Short Odds
Many of the Panthers’ personnel return next season. Even with Huberdeau out of the picture and Tkachuk a new arrival, it’s a good bet that Florida scores goals with the best of ’em’ this season. The bigger question is how well they can prevent them.
Remember, Mackenzie Weegar also went to Calgary in the deal, removing a very good young blueliner from the club’s blueline. They inked young netminder Spencer Knight for the mid-term this week, but he also turned in a mediocre 2.79 GAA and .908 Sv% across 32 contests a season ago. The handsomely-compensated Sergei Bobrovsky has notably declined in his Panthers tenure, most recently posting a decent 2.67 GAA and .913 Sv% last season.
As we stand today, the Panthers boast +1200 odds to win the Stanley Cup, as per BetOnline. Only the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs boast shorter odds, while the Flames and Edmonton Oilers share those +1200 odds with the Panthers.
Perhaps a Panthers Stanley Cup futures play can wait until we see come chemistry from their big-ticket arrival.