1993/94: A year after the NHL first skated into the Sunshine state; a team is added to the Miami area known as the Florida Panthers. With NHL limiting teams to protecting one goalie the Panthers were guaranteed some good players, and they were able to land John Vanbiesbrouck a former Vezina Winner. On October 6th the Panthers play their first game skating to a 4-4 tie with the Blackhawks in Chicago. Three days later they would win their first game beating the cross state Lightning 2-0 before a record crowd of 27,227 in Tamp Bay. However the Panthers would lose their home coming at the Miami Arena 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 12th. The expansion Panthers would competitive hockey all season just missing the playoffs by one point with a solid 33-34-17 record, the most successful season by a first-year NHL team.
1994/95: The start of the Panther second season is delayed by a four month lockout that wipes out half the season. The Panthers would once again battle to the end of the season for the last playoff spot in the East. However, they would fall onepoint short again with a 20-22-6 record. Despite the quick success Coach Roger Neilson is fired, and replaced by Doug MacLean.
1995/96: After just missing the playoffs in their first two seasons the Panthers jump out of the gate quickly posting the best record in the East before the All-Star Break as first year Coach Dou MacLean is chosen to coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars. The Panthers would cool off a bit in the second half as they finished in third place with a solid 41-31-10 that earned them their first playoff berth. Along the way fans began throwing rubber rats on the ice after a story came out about a rat being smacked with a hockey stick in the team’s locker room at the Miami Arena. In the playoffs the Panther would get off to a fast start grabbing the first three games against the Boston Bruins before winning the series in five games on a dramatic 3rd period goal by Bill Lindsay. In the second round the Panthers would rally from a 2-1 deficit with two straight overtime wins on goals by Dave Lowry and Mike Hough to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. In the Eastern Conference Finals the Panthers would have to rally again winning Game 6 at home 4-3 to force a seventh game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In Game 7 at Pittsburgh John Vanbiesbrouk had another solid game limiting the highflying Penguins to one goal as the Panthers moved on to the Stanley Cup Finals with a 3-1 victory. Facing the Colorado Avalanche in the Finals the Panthers were put themselves in an early hole dropping the first two games on the road. They would not do much better at home losing Game 3, by a score of 3-2. Down 3-0 the Panthers would not go down without a fight as Vanbiesbrouk blanked the Avalanche in Game 4 stopping 29 shots. However the Panthers could not get anything past Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy as the game went deep into overtime. Vanbiesbrouk would stop 55 shots as the game went to a third overtime. However he would not be able to stop the 56th shot a screaming slap shot from Uwe Krupp that completed the sweep for the Avalanche.
1996/97: Coming off their trip to the Stanley Cup Finals the Panthers get off to flying start as they were unbeaten in the first 12 games at 8-0-4. The Panthers would be in first place at the All-Star Break again, but down the stretch they began to struggle posting a 35-28-19 record, finishing in third place. In the playoffs the Panthers would get off to a good start beating the New York Rangers in the opening game 3-0. However, the Rangers would rally to win the four games and end the Panthers hopes off a second straight trip to the finals.
1997/98: After four solid seasons and two straight playoff appearances the Panthers experience frustration for the first time as Coach Doug MacLean is fired on November 24th with Panthers posting a record of 7-12-4. Under MacLean’s replacement Bryan Murray the Panthers would not do much better finishing in sixth place with a disappointing record of 24-43-15.
1998/99: Under realignment the Panthers are moved to the newly formed Southeast Division, under new Coach Terry Murray. A new division and new coach was not the only thing that was different as the Panthers opened a brand new arena in the South Florida city of Sunrise. In their first game at the National Car Rental Center on October 9th the Panthers defeated the cross-state Tampa Bay Lighting 4-1 behind two goals and an assist from rookie Mark Parrish. Parrish would go on to have a stellar first month as he scored 6 goals capped by a four goal performance on October 30th against the Chicago Blackhawks on the road. However, come January 17th Parrish had hit the rookie wall and the Panthers were struggling. With the hopes of getting back into the playoffs the Panthers made a blockbuster trade with the Vancouver Canucks, sending Ed Jovanovski, Dave Gagner, Kevin Weekes and Mike Brown in exchange for high scoring Pavel Bure, and Bret Hedican. Bure would take off like a rocket with Panthers scoring two goals in his first game as a Panther on January 20th, and adding a hat trick six days later. In his first home game Bure would score a goal and assist the overtime winner against the Montreal Canadiens. However Bure would suffer a string of injuries as the Panthers fell short in their drive for the playoffs with a record of 30-34-18.
1999/00: In his first full season as a Panther Pavel Bure comes back from injury and has an MVP-type season scoring a league high 58 goals as the Panthers make it make back to the playoffs by finishing in second place with a solid record of 43-36-6-6. Along the way Bure wins the All-Star Game MVP and record four hat tricks, and is a finalist for the Hart Trophy. However, in the playoffs Bure would be shut down by the New Jersey Devils as the Panthers are swept in four straight games.
2000/01: The Panthers get off to a slow start with a rash of early season injuries as Coach Terry Murray is replace by Duane Sutter after a 6-18-7-5. Under Sutter the Panthers would continue to struggle posting a record of 22-38-13-9 that had them in third place. Despite the disappointing season Pavel Bure has another stellar 59-goal season. Following the season the Panthers get a change in ownership as group of eight primary investors, led by Alan P. Cohen, CEO of generic drug maker Andrx Corp., purchases the Panthers from Boca Resorts, Inc.
2001/02: The Panthers began the season with a load optimism as Pavel Bure is joined by his brother Valeri. However, when the Panthers struggled at the start of the season, the new ownership decides to completely rebuild. In December the team would get a new General Manager in Chuck Fletcher and a new coach in Mike Keenan. Under Keenan the team continued to struggle, as the rebuilding began with Pavel Bure being traded to the New York Rangers for Filip Novak, Igor Ulanov and draft picks on March 18th. The Panthers would go on to finish the season with a record of 22-44-10-6 finishing in fourth place. Following the season interim General Manager Chuck Fletcher would be replaced by Rick Dudley.
2002/03: In a season in which the Panthers celebrated their tenth anniversary the newly renamed Office Dept Center host one of the most exciting All-Star Game in NHL history as for the first time ever a shootout is used to determine the winner. However, Panthers fans would not have much to cheer about as the Panthers played miserable hockey at home posting an embarrassing 8-21-7-5 in Sunrise. On the road the Panthers would play above .500 as goalie Roberto Luongo established himself as one of the top young net minders in the NHL. The Panthers would continue to rework the team, as Sandis Ozolinsh and Valeri Bure are dealt away during the season in which the Panthers finished in fourth place with a 24-36-13-9 record.
2003/04: It was a year of great instability for the Florida Panthers who finished in fourth place with a 25-35-15-4 record, along the way a power struggle between General Manager Rick Dudley and Coach Mike Keenan threatened to rip apart the franchise. After 15 games Keenan was fired and replaced by Dudley who took over on an interim basis. Dudley would eventually leave the bench in February as John Torchetti was named coach for the rest of the season. Down the stretch the Panthers would play competitive hockey thanks to the stellar efforts of Goalie Roberto Luongo who was a finalist for the Vezina with seven shutouts and a .931 save percentage. However the low scoring Panthers kept him from winning allot of games. When the season was over the power struggle between Keenan and Dudley reemerged as General Manager Rick Dudley who despite being given a contract extension in January is fired and replaced by Mike Keenan who brought in Jacques Martin to take over behind the bench.
2004/05: Season Cancelled Due to Lock Out
2005/06: Coming out of the lock out the Panthers were no better off then they were before, as it was Goalie Roberto Luongo without much help, as their offense continue to be among the worst in the NHL. After wining six of their first ten games the Panthers hit a wall at the end of October as they won just one game in November digging themselves a deep hole in the East they would never be able to climb out of. Although they would manage to post a 37-34-11 record they would fall 7 points short of the playoffs in fourth place in the Southeast Division. Following the season the Panthers decided to rework their team trading Goalie Roberto Luongo who had another solid but unrewarding season to the Vancouver Canucks along with Lukas Krajicek and a sixth round draft pick for Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Auld, and Bryan Allen, while signing free agent Ruslan Salei. As the new season approached another change was made as General Manager Mike Keenan resigned with Coach Jacques Martin taking over.
2006/07: The trade of Roberto Luongo would end up being a disaster for the Panthers, as Luongo won 47 games and was finalist for the Vezina, and Hart Trophies, while leading the Vancouver Canucks to a division title. Meanwhile in Florida the players the Panthers received in return all struggled as Todd Bertuzzi played just seven games with the Panthers, before an injury knocked him out for four months, by the time he was ready to return the Panthers decided to trade him to the Detroit Red Wings, at the deadline for more prospects. Goalie Alex Auld also struggled winning just seven games as he lost his starting job to veteran Eddie Belfour. While Ruslan Salei and Bryan Allen played well at times the Panthers were never a serious factor in the playoff chase finishing in fourth Place in the Southeast Division with a record of 35-31-16.
2007/08: With the acquisition of Goalie Tomas Vokun from the Nashville Predators, the Panthers hoped they could get the consistent goaltending they had when they had Roberto Luongo. However, Vokun struggled early in the season, as the Panthers got off to a slow start as they posted a 7-11-1 record through mid November. As November came to a close the Panthers started to turn things around, as a four game winning streak helped dig themselves out of their early hole as they entered the New Year at 18-18-3. However, a rough January was a major setback in any playoff hopes. After continuing to play mediocre hockey in February, the Panthers caught fire in March, as they entered the month roaring like a lion by winning seven straight. However, it was not enough to get the Panthers back into the playoff picture, as they missed the playoffs again with a record of 38-35-9.
2008/09: After trading Captain Olli Jokinen to the Phoenix Coyotes for a second round draft pick and defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton. The Panthers would also acquire Defenseman Bryan McCabe from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade just before the start of the season for Mike Van Ryn. The Panthers struggled in the early part of the season, posting a 8-11-3 record in their first 22 games. However, the new defensive minded Panthers began to show improvement for new Coach Peter Deboer in December as they won six of their next seven games. As the New Year began the Panthers continue to show improvement as they did not suffer a regulation loss in the first seven games in 2009, while they won seven of nine games entering February. However, just as it seemed the playoffs were within reach of their first time since 2000, the Panthers went into a tailspin, as they won just one game during a key eight game stretch in March. Despite, ending March with a three game winning streak, the Panthers would fall just short of reaching the playoffs as they posted a 41-30-11 record, which was their second best mark in franchise history, as they lost a tiebreaker with the Montreal Canadiens for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
2009/10: It was a year of transition for the Florida Panthers, as General Manager Jacques Martin resigned to become Coach of the Montreal Canadiens. To replace Martin, Assistant GM Randy Sexton took over for the season. The Panthers would make several roster changes as they tried to end a decade long slump of missing the playoffs. When the season started the Panthers got off to a sluggish start, winning just two of their first ten games. The slow start would set the tone for the season for the Panthers as they never found any consistency on the ice, as they never won more than three in a row at any time during the season. Unfortunately the Panthers would have several long losing streaks. The Panthers would not only miss the playoffs again, but for the first time they finished in last place with a record of 32-37-13. Following the season the Panthers would hire Dave Tallon who helped rebuild the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup Championship to become the new General Manager.
2010/11: After finishing in last place and completing ten years without a trip to the playoffs, the Panthers hoped a new decade could be a fresh start. The Panthers would begin the year with a Western Canada road trip, losing their first two games before beating the Calgary Flames 3-0. In their home opener, Goalie Tomas Vokoun would earn his second straight shutout as the Panthers clobbered the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-0. However, through the first half of the season the Panthers would play mediocre hockey as they went into the New Year with a record of 16-17-2. The Panthers would continue to hover just below .500, with the playoffs out of reach as they entered February. Winning just four games the Panthers would play themselves out of contention as management decided to retool at the trade deadline, making eight deals as they started to focus on the future. The Panthers would again finish at the bottom of Eastern Conference with a record of 30-40-12. Following the season Coach Peter DeBoer would be fired and replaced by Kevin Dineen.
2011/12: After missing the playoffs again the Panthers had very busy off-season trying to build a team capable of ending their 12 year playoff drought. Among the players acquired included Brian Campbell, who was picked up a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks for Rostislav Olesz, while Kris Versteeg was picked up for two draft picks in a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Panthers were also active shoppers on the Free Agency market, signing Goalie Jose Theodore to a 2 year deal worth $3 million, Marcel Goc to a three year deal worth $5.1 million, Tomas Fleischmann to a four year $18 million deal, and Scottie Upshall to a deal worth four years at $14 million. However, the deal that fans like the best was the four year deal worth $16.5 million that Ed Jovanovski signed. Jovanovski was a big part of the Panther surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996 and was a fan favorite in South Florida, before being traded for Pavel Bure in 1999. The Panthers also returned to wearing red as their primary color. After splitting their first two games on the road, under new Coach Kevin Dineen, the Panthers had a thrilling 3-2 shootout win against the Tampa Bay Lightning to begin their home season. The Panthers played strong in their first two months, winning 13 games as they were in playoff position early in the season. While the Washington Capitals struggled the Panther grabbed first place in the Southeast Division, despite winning just five games. The Panthers would also struggle in January winning just two games. However, not all losses were equal, as the Panthers managed to get to overtime and secure a regulation point 11 times before the All-Star Break, and this helped keep them afloat and in playoff position. Throughout the season the Panthers were not finished tinkering with their roster as General Manager Dave Tallon, who built a Stanley Cup team with the Chicago Blackhawks looked to get the Panthers back into the postseason. The Panthers made eight deals after the start of the season, including a pair of deals near the trade deadline. The Panthers would play strong hockey in February and March as they closed in on the division championship. The Panthers ability to survive most games and get the game to overtime would be key in the end as they won the Southeast with a record of 38-26-18. Off-season acquisition Tomas Fleischmann led the team in scoring with 61 points, while Kirs Versteeg led the team in goals with 23. However, it was the 49 assists from Brian Campbell that probably was the most valuable contribution. Campbell, who quickly became a team leader, would become the first Defenseman since Red Kelly in 1954 to win the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play as he had just six penalty minutes during the season.
2012 Playoffs: When the Panthers last made the playoffs in the year 2000, they were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the first round. Once again the Panthers would draw the Devils in the first round. Things did not start well, as the Panthers lost the opener 3-2, extending their post season losing streak to nine games. However, in Game 2 the Panthers finally broke through, winning their first playoff since 1997 as they doubled up the Devils 4-2 to even the series. As the series shifted to New Jersey, the Panthers found themselves in an early hole as the Devils quickly jumped out to a 3-0, forcing Coach Kevin Dineen to change goalies as Jose Theodore was mocked loudly at the Prudential Center. However, Scott Clemmensen settled things down, and did not allow a goal the over the game’s final 50 minutes as the Panther surged and won the game 4-3 before a stunned crowd in Newark. Clemmensen would get the start in Game 4, but the Panthers could not carry the momentum, as the Devils won 4-0 to even the series. However, as the series returned to Sunrise, the Panthers got a big performance from Theodore, who blanked the Devils, making 30 saves in a 3-0 win to retake the series lead. The Panthers would have two chances to win the series and advance to the second round for the first time since 1996. With Scott Clemensen starting Game 6, the Panthers played one of their survival games, falling behind and than tying the game to force overtime. However, there was no point for a regulation tie, as the Devils won the game 3-2 on a goal by Travis Zajac. Game 7 at the BankAtlantic Center would follow the same pattern, as the Panthers got third period goals from Stephen Weiss and Marcel Goc, both on a power play to send the game to overtime again. The ultimate drama was on the ice in South Florida as the next goal would decide the series in sudden death. However, the Panthers could not get another goal past Martin Brodeur who stopped 43 shots. The game would go to a second overtime, before Adam Henrique scored at 3:47 to win the game for the Devils 3-2. The Devils would go on to the Stanley Cup Finals, while hope returned to South Florida as the Panthers look to have a team that could contend for years to come.
2012/13: After their first playoff appearance in 12 years, the Panthers saw any momentum blunted by a long lockout that wiped out nearly half the season. When the games finally began on January 19th the Panthers started with an impressive 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. However, the win would not be indicative of the Panthers play as they dropped their next five games and ended January with just two wins in seven games. February would be a month of missed opportunities as the Panthers lost five games in overtime and found themselves floundering at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Panthers playoff hopes would quickly fade in March as they lost ten games as injuries began to mount. The Panthers would go on to finish the season with the worst record in the NHL at 15-27-6. The Panthers ranked last in goals scored with 112 and allowed the most goals with 171. The lone bright spot in the otherwise miserable season was the play of Jonathan Huberdeau who made his NHL debut with a goal in the season opener, and was one of the top scorers on the Panthers all season with 14 goals and 17 assists as he won the Calder Trophy given to the NHL’s top rookie.
2013/14: After finishing with the worst record in the NHL in the lockout season, the Panthers continued to struggle, posting an awful 3-9-4 record in the first 16 games, despite acquiring former Conn Smythe Winner Tim Thomas to play in goal. The bad start would lead to a quick change, as Coach Kevin Dineen was fired on November 8th. The Panthers would name Peter Horachek as the coach for the remainder of the season. After losing the first two games with Horachek behind the bench, the Panthers would win their first game with the new coach on November 12th, beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. After ending November with a record of 7-15-5, the Panthers were finally able to piece some wins together in December, winning seven of eight, including five straight. However, the only thing that would keep the Panthers out of last place was that the Buffalo Sabres were significantly worse. While the Panthers no pushovers in the New Year, it was clear they would come nowhere close to the playoffs. After hitting the Olympic Break with a 22-29-7 record, the Panthers look toward the future, and began to stockpile draft picks, trading away players like Marcel Goc and Mike Weaver. They also looked to the past, reacquiring Goalie Roberto Luongo along Steve Anthony in a deadline trade that sent Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias to the Vancouver Canucks in return. In his return to Florida, Luongo would get a shutout as the Panthers blanked the Sabres 2-0. However, wins would still be hard to come by as the Panthers had the second worst record in the NHL at 29-45-8.
2014/15: As the season began, speculation about the future of the Florida Panthers arose as, they struggled to draw fans. The Panthers, with new coach Gerard Gallant would draw just 11,419 fans to the home opener, a 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Two days later, the Panthers had the smallest crowd in franchise history, as just 7,311 fans were on hand at the BB&T Center as the Panthers lost to the Ottawa Senators 1-0. South Florida fans have always had a reputation of being fickle, and the Panthers long struggles began to create a toll on the team’s fortunes. Through the first two months, the Panthers did little to gain more interest from fans, muddling along with a 9-6-6 record. The Panthers showed some flashes in December, as they won seven games, highlighted by a 2-1 shootout win over the Washington Capitals on December 16th needing 20 rounds to be decided before Nick Bjugstad scored the game winner, ending the longest shootout in NHL history. The Panthers started January strong, by winning four of their first five games in the New Year. However, they struggled the rest of the month and remained mired in mediocrity. Such inconsistency would be a hallmark for the Florida Panthers. Hoping to get a veteran boost the Panthers acquired the ageless Jaromir Jagr from the Devils looking to make a late run at the playoffs. Despite averaging nearly a point a game and topping 1,800 career assists in Florida, Jagr would have little impact on the Panthers playoff fortunes, as they missed the postseaon by nine points, posting a record of 38-29-15. Still for a team that had made the playoffs just once since 2000 there were plenty of positives. Jonathan Huberdeau bounced back from a disappointing sophmore season to lead Florida in scoring with 54 points, while Nick Bjugstad led the team with 24 goals. Aaron Ekblad the first overall pick in the draft joined Huberdeau as the second Panther in three years to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. Ekblad finished his rookie season with 12 goals and 27 assists, which ranked best among all rookie defenseman.
2015/16: Jaromir Jagr would remain with the Florida Panthers and he would be the veteran leader that the young team needed. Jagr who turned 44 in February would be the Panthers leading scorer, with 66 points, scoring 27 goals with 39 assists as he became the sixth player in NHL history with 1,100 assists. On February 20th, Jagr would net his 742nd career goal passing Brett Hull for third all-time in NHL history. On March 7th, Jaromir Jagr would pass Gordie Howe, for third all-time in scoring with 1,851 points. For his long career and dedication to hockey Jarormir Jagr would win the Bill Masterton Trophy. After hovering near .500 the first two months, the Panthers took off in December, winning 11 of 14 games to enter the New Year with a record of 21-12-4. This was highlighted by a 12 game winning streak that carried into January. The Panthers continued to play strong hockey in 2016 as they posted a record of 8-3-1 in January and began to climb to the top of the Atlantic Division as Jaromir Jagr was joined by Aaron Ekbld and Roberto Luongo on the Atlantic Division All-Star Roster. The Panthers threaded water in February, posting a record of 6-4-3. As the month came to an end the Panthers were very active at the trade deadline picking up a pair of veterans Teddy Purcell and Jiri Hudler. The Panthers would finish strong and would win the Atlantic Division with a record of 47-26-9. Besides Jagr, Jussi Jokinen had big season, leading the Panthers with 42 assists, while Aleksander Barkov had a team best 28 goals.
2016 Playoffs: The first round matchup of the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders featured the two teams that had gone that longest without winning a series. The Panthers had not won a series since making the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, while the Islanders had not won a series since before the Panthers even played a game in 1993. The opener at the BB&T Center would see Reilly Smith score twice but it was not enough as Roberto Luongo had a rough game losing 5-4. Luongo would bounce back in Game 2, stopping 41 of 42 shots as the Panthers won the game 3-1 to even the series. As the series shifted to Brooklyn, the Panther started strong as they held leads of 2-0 and 3-1, but the Islanders rallied to tie the game and force overtime. In overtime the Islanders would win the game 4-3 on a goal by Thomas Hickey. Roberto Luongo would answer the Islanders overtime heroics, by making 26 saves, as the Panthers won 2-1 to even the series at two games apiece, as Alex Petrovic’s goal midway through the third was the difference. Back in South Florida for Game 5, the Panthers and Islanders would battle into double overtime as Alkesander Barkov tied the game with a third period goal. Unfortunately, the Islanders would final break the tie late in double overtime on a goal by Alan Quine to win the game 2-1. Looking to force a seventh game at home, the Panthers got an early goal from Jonathan Huberdeau as Luongo was making big saves all night to hold a 1-0 lead late in the third period. However, with the goalie pulled John Tavares tied the game with 54 seconds left, the game would go into double overtime again as Roberto Luongo made 50 big saves, but the Panthers needed more as Tavares scored the series winner to give the Islanders a 2-1 win 10:41 into double overtime.
2016/17: After winning the Atlantic Division, the Florida Panthers looked to build off their success in the regular season and carry it to the playoffs. Starting the season with a 2-1 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils, the Panthers played well at home but struggled on the road, early in the season, this led to the stunning dismissal of Gerard Gallant on November 27th. Despite being a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year in 2016. The firing came after a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on the road, dropping the Panthers record to 11-10-1. Gallant was seen leaving the arena in a cab, as he did not take the team flight back to Florida. General Manager Tom Rowe coached the team the remainder of the season, in December, the Panthers got into a rut of losing games in overtime or shootouts, with six in a 15-game stretch. Holding a record of 16-14-8 as January began the Panthers continued to scuffle in the New Year as they slowly fell out of the race. The Panthers would go on to finish the season with a record of 35-38-11. Vincent Trocheck would finish the season as the Panthers’ leading scorer with 54 points, as Jonathan Marchessault led the team with 30 goals.
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