Florida Panthers 2013 Preview: Panthers Look to Defend Southeast Crown

e Panthers will be in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference if the Panthers offense repeat the hot early start they got off to last season

By Patrick Hickey Jr.
|  Saturday, Jan 12, 2013  |  Updated 11:52 PM EDT
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Florida Panthers 2013 Preview: Panthers Look to Defend Southeast Crown

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Kris Versteeg and of the Florida Panthers offense will be a focal point this season.

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No one expected the Florida Panthers to win the Southeast division in 2012. This season, most don’t expect them to make the playoffs. They’re still armed with their three leading scorers, Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg and have players in Alexei Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn, Marek Svatos, Peter Mueller and Filip Kuba that have something to prove in camp. Add in two quality netminders in Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen and it’s easy to see that Panthers can very well shock the NHL once again and make the playoffs. 

Last Year: Saying last season went smoothly for the Florida Panthers would be the understatement of the 2012 NHL season. Behind hot starts from a host of youngsters and recently departed blueliner Jason Garrison, the Panthers stayed in the playoff hunt for the entire season. Florida fans loved their team’s competitiveness and it’s something they’ll want to see return.
 
Question Marks: The entire team is a question mark. That’s what happens when you shock the entire NHL. It’s easy for the critics to say the team can only go down from here because no one expected the team to be remotely successful. But after they dealt fan favorite David Booth to the Canucks just a few weeks into the season, the offense turned it up, the defense buckled down and the goaltending was consistent.
 
The Panthers are also young and hungry. They can skate and aren’t scared to take the body. Their three leading scorers from last season are youth personified. Fleischmann, Weiss and Versteeg aren’t even 30 yet. While they have an older defense with Brian Campbell and Filip Kuba leading the way, both can still produce steadily. The biggest question mark is Theodore. When hot, he’s one of the most dynamic goaltenders in the league. When he’s cold, he’s downright awful. For the Panthers to reclaim their Southeast Division crown, Theordore and Clemmensen will have to be just as solid as they were last season.
 
Wishful Thinking: Sean Bergenheim will never be more than what he already is, a scrappy, lovable, talented third-liner who can score 15 goals a season. The Islanders organization waited nearly a decade from him to develop into a star. It didn’t happen. One fantastic playoff run with the Lightning made the Panthers take a gamble that will never pay off.
 
Prediction: The Panthers will be in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference if Weiss, Versteeg and the rest of the Panthers offense repeat the hot early start they got off to last season. However if Theodore and Clemmensen can’t stay consistent, the team will end up around the ten spot in the Eastern Conference.

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