32 in 32: Three issues to watch for the Panthers

1. What will be the impact of the arrival of Paul Maurice?

Even if he was a finalist for the Jack-Adams trophy, Andrew Brunette did not remain head coach of the Panthers, he who had inherited the position on an interim basis following the resignation of Joel Quenneville on October 28, 2021.

General manager Bill Zito decided to hire Paul Maurice instead, since he wanted a coach with more experience.

“We really need to take it to the next level,” Zito said at the press conference following Maurice’s hiring. “We have to keep moving forward. We have to look at what is coming on the horizon and we have to prepare for it. We must anticipate what is to come in the future. This was clear to us.

“That’s why I really believe in Paul. He has an enthusiasm that is special, as well as his experience in hockey, which will be useful to us this year with the challenges that we will face. I think it’s a great combination for our future. »

Maurice certainly isn’t lacking in experience, ranking fourth in NHL history for games steered (1,684) – behind Scotty Bowman (2,141), Barry Trotz (1,812) and Quenneville (1,768) – as well as seventh in the victories. He is 775-680-130 with 99 ties in 14 seasons at the helm of the Hartford Whalers and Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets.

2. Can the offense keep up?

After scoring 340 goals last season, it will be difficult for the Panthers offense to maintain such production in 2022-23.

The newcomer Matthew Tkachuk coming off a 43-goal campaign, but in return the Panthers had to give the Calgary Flames the striker Jonathan Huberdeau (and his 30 nets) and the offensive defender MacKenzie Weegar (eight goals).

In Florida, we wonder if the attackers Alexander Barkov (39 goals), Sam Bennett (28), Sam Reinhart (33) and Carter Verhaeghe (24) will be able to imitate their production, all of whom registered new personal brands last season. The Panthers will also have to replace Anthony Duclairauthor of 31 nets last year, since he suffered an injury to the Achilles tendon during the off-season which will force him to miss a good part of the campaign.

An offensive drop is therefore to be expected, but in the end, it will not be catastrophic as long as once in the playoffs, the Panthers manage to do much better than the three goals in four games they scored when they were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.

3. Will veterans who join the team be able to help out defensively?

The biggest question mark for the Panthers heading into training camp is how they will replace Weegar and Ben Chiarotwho signed with the Detroit Red Wings as an unrestricted free agent.

Florida has come to an agreement with the veterans Marc Staal, Anthony Bitetto and Michael Del Zotto to join a defensive brigade led by Aaron Ekblad and Gustav Forsling. The Panthers will likely need a bigger input from their defenders this season due to the likely drop in goals and possession time, but can we really expect a big input from players like Del Zotto and Bitetto, who spent a significant portion of their season in the American Hockey League last season?

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