NHL - ATLANTIC
Stadium: FLA Live Arena
Coach: Andrew Brunette (interim)
2022-2023 TEAM LEADERS
Florida Panthers Summary
The Florida Panthers are an NHL team currently playing in the Atlantic Division based in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers are one of two teams playing in the state of Florida, sharing both the state and the division with their rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning. Founded in 1993, the Cats have had some significant troubles finding any sort of success as a franchise, qualifying for the playoffs only seven times, and have not won a playoff round since 1996.
Despite their lack of success, the Panthers have actually made the Stanley Cup finals once in their franchise history in 1996. While they have not won a playoff series since, Florida has slowly been putting together an extremely successful team through the draft and trades, headed by team captain Sasha Barkov. At present time, both the Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning are both serious contenders for the cup with a high-scoring offense, deep defense, and solid goaltending, making the Battle of Florida one of the best showdowns in the modern NHL.
Florida Panthers History
The Florida Panthers joined the league prior to the 1993-1994 season alongside the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Due to the success of the New Jersey Devils and their trap-style defensive game, the Panthers were able to turn their young expansion team into a successful group by smothering the offense of more developed and experienced NHL clubs. Though the style of play was strongly disliked because of how much it slowed down the league, the immediate success resulted in the Panthers becoming quite popular in Miami.
The Panthers would go on to make the playoffs in 1996, going on a Cinderella run with upset wins against the Bruins, Flyers, and Penguins, reaching the finals with their first-ever playoff appearance. Unfortunately for Florida, the team ran into Joe Sakic and the Avalanche, proving to be a little more than they could handle. The Cats lost the series 4-0, and have not won a playoff round since.
The Panthers have struggled since their 1996 run, making the playoffs only six times and losing every round. The Panthers were stuck in the basement of the league for a good portion of both the 2000s and 2010s, and have struggled with attendance issues since being moved to Sunrise, Florida in 1998.
The Panthers have since found some newfound success after drafting Jonathan Huberdeau third overall in the 2011 draft and Aleksander Barkov second overall in the 2013 draft. Both players have slowly become some of the best players in the league, surrounded with offensive talent and poised to make a run in the playoffs in the next few years.
2022 Key Stats
The stories of a weak, unsuccessful Panthers team are now a thing of the past as Florida has become one of the top talents in the league. The Atlantic Division is extremely competitive this year with teams like Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Boston all vying for a top spot, but the Panthers are still ahead of them all with a record of 26-7-5. Florida boasts one of the highest calibered offenses in the NHL, currently leading the entire league in goals scored at 158. Jonathan Huberdeau leads the offense with a monster 53 points in 38 games and has emerged as one of the top playmaking wingers in the league. Meanwhile, Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Reinhart, Anthony Duclair, Sasha Barkov, and Sam Bennett have all scored 10 or more goals this season.
It’s not just the forwards, however. Aaron Ekblad is having another season worthy of being nominated for the Norris with 35 points in 37 games. Mackenzie Weegar has scored 25 points, and has continued to be one of the best two-way defenders in the game. Goaltending has finally found some stability with Sergei Bobrovsky in net, finally playing a game worthy of his contact with a 19-3-3 season and a .921 SV%.
Championships Won by the Team
As mentioned before, the Florida Panthers have never won a championship in their entire history as a franchise. Even their historic run in 1996 is no longer the top expansion story in the NHL, as the Vegas Golden Knights both won their division and made it to the cup in their inaugural season, taking away the Panthers’ “most successful expansion team ” title. Since this run, the Panthers have qualified for the playoffs only six times and have never made it out of the first round; however, this may change very soon.
The Panthers were one of the top teams during the 2021 playoffs, finishing second in the newly-created Central Division and earning a home-ice advantage playoff matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Though the team was extremely talented, the playoff experience of the Panthers’ more successful brothers from Tampa proved to be the deciding factor, defeating Florida in an exciting seven-game series.
Important Team Events
The Florida Panthers are associated with a very odd tradition that might not make sense to those who haven’t ever paid attention to the team- rubber rats. The tradition started in 1995 at the Florida season opener when a live rat came onto the ice. As it ran, forward Scott Mellanby took a slapshot and splattered the rat against the arena wall- that very same night, Mellanby scored two goals. Combined with the success of the team that year that brought them all the way to the finals, Florida fans embraced the event. Referred to as a “Rat Trick,” a new tradition of hailing thousands of rubber rats onto the ice was born.
The Rat Trick has continued to be a mainstay for the Florida Panthers since 1996, continuing to throw rubber rats in playoff games to this day. It has proven to be troublesome at times- for example, after Huberdeau scored a goal against the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 regular season, the team was penalized with a delay of game penalty due to the amounts of rats thrown onto the ice.
As a younger franchise in terms of the history of the league and lacking a lot of sustained success, many of the current franchise leaders for the Panthers are actually on the team right now. Jonathan Huberdeau has been with the Panthers since being drafted in 2011 and has become truly elite in the last several years. Huberdeau currently holds the franchise record for scoring (550) and assists (367), though the goal record belongs to his long-time teammate Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov. Barkov was drafted in 2013 and has emerged as one of the best two-way centers in the league with a franchise goal-scoring record currently at 196.
The Florida Panthers have one player number retired thanks to goaltender Roberto Luongo. Luongo played with the Panthers for five years of his career before being traded to Vancouver in 2006. He would return to Florida in 2013 and would be their go-to goaltender until he retired in 2019. Luongo currently holds the record for games played (572) and wins (230).
The Panthers have officially had 16 head coaches in franchise history, though their current coach, Andrew Burnette, is the 17th with an official “interim” title after Joel Quenneville was dismissed due to being involved with covering up a sexual misconduct scandal with the Blackhawks. Despite the abrupt change in coaching staff and the controversy surrounding the situation, Brunette has managed to keep the Panthers on top of the standings as one of the best teams of the 2021-2022 season.
Doug MacLean was the coach for the Panthers during their Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup in 1996, coaching the team from 1995-1997 with an overall win percentage of .532.
Jacques Martin and Peter DeBoer are both tied for longest-tenured coaches in Florida Panthers history with 246 games each. Though both coaches had similar win percentages with .520 and .492, neither coach was able to bring their teams to the postseason. Martin is currently the winningest coach in the Panthers’ history, winning a total of 110 games behind the bench.
Florida Panthers Frequently Asked Questions
The Florida Panthers joined the league in 1993 alongside the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Roberto Luongo is currently the only retired player number for the Panthers and leads the franchise in wins as a goaltender, but both Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are near the top for all-time scoring.
The Panthers have never won the Stanley Cup, making the finals once in franchise history during the 1996 season. Since being swept by the Avalanche, the Panthers have yet to win another playoff series.
The Florida Panthers have a tradition known as the “Rat Trick,” beginning in 1996 after a live rat appeared on the ice and was killed by a player. Since then, Panthers fans have continued a tradition of hailing thousands of plastic rats onto the ice during important games, continuing the tradition to this day.
The Panthers share the state of Florida with the Tampa Bay Lightning, resulting in the “Battle of Florida” each year. Though the two teams haven’t had much parity throughout the Panthers’ history, both teams are currently contenders for the cup with extremely explosive offenses. They met in the postseason for the first time in 2021, where the Lightning would end up winning in seven games.