Florida Panthers

Sat, 14 Mar 2009 14:26

History of Florida Panthers

Information about the NHL team Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers were formed a year after the NHL came to the Sunshine state on December 10, 1992 when it was awarded to H. Wayne Huizenga. The team was brought into the NHL along with the Anaheim ducks, which was a part of the 1993 expansion draft hosted by Quebec.

First Games

The team’s first game was at the Miami arena, where they faced the Chicago Blackhawks. The team’s first win was against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a match held in the Thunderdome before a crowd of over 27, 000 spectators.  The Panthers won 2-0, a win which was closely attributed to the strategy of first-year coach Roger Neilson.  However, this victory was followed by a home coming loss when the Patnehrs lost 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Miami Arena October 12. The Panthers spent the remainder of the season chasing after their spot at the play-offs, missing a spot by just one point. However, the Panthers managed to score a record of 33-34-1, pretty decent for a first-year NHL team. After the lock-out the Panthers resumed their pursuit the play-offs, again missing the spot by 1 point. Coach Neilson was finally sacked and was replaced by Doug McLean. The Panthers also acquired Ray Sheppard from the San Jose Sharks in 1996.

Play-off Victories

The Panthers began the 1995-1996 season on a positive note, improving their play and posting the best record among all the teams in the East before the All-Star Break.  The team decided to slow down in the second half, but they still managed to finish 3rd. The Panthers were seeded at 4th in the 1996 play-offs and they ended  by beating the  Boston Bruins in 5 games, followed by an  victory over the Philadelphia Flyers  in  six games which  brought the team to the  Eastern conference finals where they faced the Pittsburg Penguins. The match against the Penguins reached game 7 and ended with a victory for the Panthers with a score of 3-1. The Panthers moved to the finals where they faced the Colorado Avalanche, where they got off to a shaky start, losing the first two games and eventually ended up being sweeped by the Avalanche in a match capped by a screaming scrap shot by Uwe Krupp.

The Panthers won their first 12 games in 1996-1997 and were on the top spot just before the All –Star Break. This was a followed a losing streak where the team struggled to end up at third place, but fortunately recovered to beat the New York Rangers in the first three games of the play-offs before the Rangers managed to rally, beating the Panthers for the next four games and ending the team’s hopes of making it to the finals for the second time around.

Doug McLean was terminated on November 1997 after a series of poor performances. However, team play showed no improvements with replacement coach Byran Murray and the Panthers ended the season at 6th place.

The team moved to the Southeast Division in 1998 under Coach Terry Murray. This was also the time when the Panthers moved to the National Car Rental Center, their new home arena. A year later the Panthers acquired Pavel Bure from the Vancouver Canucks, and finally reached the play-offs again in 2000, where they lost to the New Jersey Devils. However, Bure proved to be good choice for a trade, scoring two goals on his first game with the team and wining the All Star Game MVP.  However,   Bure suffered a series of injuries which did not help the Panthers secure a spot at the play-off with a record of 30-34-18.

More problems came in 2000-2001, which was followed by the team’s worst season ever in 2001-2002.  Terry Murray was replaced by Duane Sutter in the early part of the 2000-2001 season and Bure’s stay with the Panthers   was cut short when he was traded to the   Rangers in 2002. The Panthers would go on to finish at 4th place, and right after the season interim GM Chuck Fletcher was replaced by Rick Dudley. It was also during the 2000-2001 season when the team’s eight primary investors, led by Alan Cohen acquired the Panthers from Boca Resorts, Inc.

Valeri, Pavel Bure’s brother, joined the team in 2001-2002, about the same time when the new owners decided to overhaul the team. Chuck Fletcher was put in as the new GM, with Mike Keenan as the new coach. Under Keenan, Bure was traded off to the New York Rangers for Filip Novak. The Panthers ended the season in 4th place, and Fletcher was later replaced by Rick Dudley as GM.

The NHL All-Star Weekend

The Panthers hosted the NHL All-Star weekend, which saw the Western conference bagging a 6-5 victory despite the four-goal outburst by Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers, who was awarded MVP in his first All-Star game. The Panthers played poorly at home however, and ended the season at 4th place with a 24-36-13-9 record.

By the 2003-2004 season the tension between Rick Dudley and Coach Mike Keenan was threatening to pull the franchise apart.  Keenan was soon terminated and Dudley took over on an interim basis. He was later replaced by John Torchetti who would serve at the team coach for the rest of the season. The conflict between Dudley and Keenan reemerged at the end of the season when Dudley was fired and replaced by Keenan, who bought in his own coach, Jacques Martin.

The Panthers struggled through 2005-2006 with rotten offense and a defense that seemed to be put squarely on the shoulders of goalie Robert Luongo. Despite 6 out of ten victories and a record of 37-34-11, the Panthers made a bold but bad decision to trade Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks, where he proved to be a great success, becoming a finalist for the Vezina and Hart trophies after his trade-off to the Vancouver Canucks.  The Panthers replaced Luongo with Alex Auld, which they eventually traded off to the Boston Bruins after one season. Just before the start of the new season, Keenan resigned as GM and Martin took over.  The team fell short of the playoffs by 7 points and landed at 4th place in the Southeast division.

The Panthers lost all hope for the play-offs in 2006-2007, when they finished at 4th place with a record of 35-31-16. Todd Bertuzzi managed to play for just seven games before in injury took him out of the game for four months. By the time Bertuzzi was slated to resume playing for the Panthers, the team traded him to the Detroit Red Wings on the trade deadline.

The Panthers are currently being coached by longtime Kitchener Rangers coach Peter DeBoer, who took over on June of 2008, making him the tenth head coach in the club’s history. DeBoer, a native of Ontario, Canada, has been the coach for the Kitchener Rangers for seven seasons and holds a law degree from the University of Windsor. This is about the same time when the team traded off team captain Olli Joniken to the Phoenix Coyotes for Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton. The 2008 season marks the seventh straight season that the team has missed the playoffs.