When new General Manager Bill Zito first stepped in to the Florida Panthers organization, he immediately got to work. Within his first month of service, he already made some major moves. Named to the GM role on September 2nd, Zito completed his first blockbuster deal a mere 22 days later. The move shipped forward Colton Sceviour and defensemen Mike Matheson to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Patric Hornqvist. Although he also signed a plethora of free agents, the trade to acquire Patric Hornqvist brought the biggest impact to the team, without a doubt.
Florida Panthers Receiving Huge Impact from Patric Hornqvist
There are many ways one can evaluate the effectiveness of a trade. Some look specifically at the stat lines of the players before and after they are acquired. Then, compare their production (or lack thereof) with their previous levels of production to determine how they’re serving their new franchise.
Let’s first look at how Matheson and Sceviour fit in with the Pens. Over four years with Florida, Sceviour netted 79 points in 284 games played. Year-over-year, his numbers slowly dropped, but ultimately he served in a fourth-line role where offensive production came as a happy surprise. He played around 13-14 minutes a night but also had negative Corsi and Fenwick advanced statistics every year.
That being said, defenseman Mike Matheson was the bigger fish sent to Pittsburgh in the deal. However, he also had negative Corsi and Fenwick numbers every season he played in Florida. Dubbed as an offensive defenseman, many considered him a prospect still reaching his potential. The fact of the matter, though, is his production has never exceeded the 30-point plateau. With five years left on his contract after this season, at $4.875 million per in a flat-cap environment, Zito saw him as expendable.
Hornqvist Out-Producing the Players he was Traded For
In return, Hornqvist has brought more grit, determination, and scoring prowess to the team than the two who left did combined. An eight-time 20-goal scorer, Hornqvist currently is on pace for a career-best season with 16 points in 19 games. His eight goals ties Aleksander Barkov for first on the team, plus he ranks third amongst the team’s forwards in hits. The only two forwards with more hits play on the team’s fourth line; Hornqvist provides that same toughness but with a scoring touch. That’s a combination the Panthers haven’t had enough of for a very long time.
Beyond the Statistics – The Patric Hornqvist Impact
Yes, the scoring alone makes the trade a win for Zito and the Panthers organization. Yes, the addition-by-subtraction they gained by moving Matheson’s contract also makes the trade a win for Florida. But if you’ve watched this team closely over the years, you can immediately tell it goes far beyond the stat sheet or payroll.
Hornqvist came to Florida and immediately become a leader on their roster. Right away, coach Joel Quenneville put an “A” on his jersey to denote him as one of the team’s alternate captains. The rest of the captaincy unit in Florida consists of Barkov, Keith Yandle, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad. Of that group, only Yandle and Hornqvist are over 30 years old. And Hornqvist is transforming how they lead.
Hornqvist Creating a Winning, Hard-working Culture
“He communicates. He’s talkative,” Quenneville said of Hornqvist early in the season. “Sometimes you can say he can be on you, and I think that’s the type of thing that whether it’s coaches that are on you or players pushing each other, accountability is a great thing. His is done in a real good way. I think that’s healthy and as a coach, you couldn’t ask for a better situation to have that message related by players. And he backs it up with how he works.”
There’s a noticeable difference in the swagger the team rolls with today. A season ago, they were slow to get into games and fast to give up loads of goals. Too often they appeared to be phoning it in. Maybe “content with losing” is a little harsh, but after so many years of it, it’s hard to not start thinking that way. But nowadays, it’s like the team’s work ethic nob got turned up from seven to ten. And Hornqvist’s hand is the one on the nob.
Patrick Hornqvist Making Overwhelmingly Positive Impact in Florida
On Thursday, February 24th, the Panthers completed a massive come-from-behind victory over the Dallas Stars. With seven minutes remaining in the game, Dallas led 2-0. Two minutes later, the score was tied 2-2. Then, the Panthers continued to dominate play and pinned Dallas in their own end for an extended period of time. Florida was able to change on-the-fly while the Stars were trapped on the ice. Desperate for a zone clear, a Stars defenseman wrapped the puck around the wall towards the side where Florida had just sent a winger off on a change.
Just as the puck rolled up that far-side wall, Hornqvist came flying into the zone. He intercepted the rim and cycled the puck back down low behind the net to Alexander Wennberg. Wennberg found Frank Vatrano wide-open in the slot, and Vatrano made no mistake on the shot. In a 3:11 span, and with just 3:10 remaining in regulation, the Panthers turned the game on its head. They choked out Dallas successfully and wound up with the victory. More importantly, they prevented Dallas from even securing one point in the standings by completing the comeback in regulation.
Had Hornqvist not sprinted from the bench, the puck would’ve exited the zone. And if that puck had exited the zone, maybe the game winds up going to overtime. Who knows what would’ve happened then. Thankfully Florida doesn’t have to wonder because their hardest-working player was the one who got on the ice at that moment.
Hornqvist Leading On and Off the Ice
The best moment of the game was still yet to come. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky played a stellar game that evening, his best of the season. This was extremely significant, as he had been watching Chris Driedger steal away the majority of the team’s games recently. Driedger simply outperformed Bob of late, so getting a high-calibre performance from Bobrovsky is going to be huge to get him back to elite form on a consistent basis.
You could tell, too, that Hornqvist was fired up about that. While others gave Bobrovsky the standard stick-tap, helmet-to-helmet tap, and “good game” compliments, Hornqvist went a step further. A full embrace, screaming in his face with exuberance, and jumping with excitement was his treat for the netminder. Others followed suit to make it a quick little group hug in front of the crease. Bob’s face lit up, and watching from home you could feel his relief. He needs to be a part of this team; if Bob turns in Vezina-caliber goaltending, this team will be even scarier than they already are.
Hornqvist made it obvious how much he cares and wants his teammates to have success. That’s the kind of leadership winning teams have. A member of two Stanley Cup-winning teams in Pittsburgh, Hornqvist brought that mentality and attitude with him to Florida. Thankfully, it’s rubbing off on everyone else too.
No wonder the Panthers are first in the Central.