Every year the Stanley Cup playoffs roll around; fans and analysts across the country find themselves all asking a similar question. “Which team has the most depth?” Whether it be defensive depth, depth on the offensive side of things, or even goaltender depth. No matter what, you need everyone to contribute night in and night out to be crowned the champions. Looking back to the previous Stanley Cup winners, you will not find a “deeper” team in the league that season. If by some chance you do, they were either ridden with injuries affecting their circumstances; or on the ice playing against the team that won the Cup. Nonetheless, we are here to look at if the 2020-21 Florida Panthers are the deepest team in franchise history.
2020-21 Florida Panthers Depth is Key
The main question behind this remains, “Is this the deepest Florida Panther team ever?” Then you may be asking, “Is this the best Florida Panther team ever?” While they are almost identical, they remain two separate questions. Let me explain…
Depth can be defined as “the quality or state of being complete or thorough.” The sports definition of depth is “the quality of having many good players” or “the strength of a sports team in its reserve of substitute players.” Ultimately, depth within sports is about balance. While it was intended to be used positively, you can still have a balance of mediocrity. Where on the other hand, the word “best” is synonymous with skill.
You can have some of the best players on your team, but if there is no one to compliment them. Who will be there to pick up the slack when the best players are not on the ice? Look at past Panther teams; the 2020-21 Florida Panthers are here to compete with one team only. The 1995-96 Stanley Cup Finalists Florida Panthers.
It’s hard to say that this current team is the best in franchise history; perhaps when they are competing with a Stanley Cup Finalist. But with how they are playing, on top of the depth they have… that could all change in a few months.
What the Eyes are Seeing
If you were to sit down and watch the 2020-21 Florida Panthers play, you would be shocked that a Panthers’ team could be this good. In his first season as general manager, Bill Zito has turned the Panthers from the usual bottom-of-the-barrel team into a clear playoff contender.
Riding on the backs of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad. The ‘Cats’ have stormed to the top of the charts in the blink of an eye. Now that they currently sit tied for first in the National Hockey League, it’s the Panthers’ overall game that has gotten them there.
Yes, Barkov is leading the team in points and goals while playing like a Selke-front runner. Huberdeau is right there tied with him in points and leads in assists. While Ekblad second in all NHL defenceman in goals and finds himself in the Norris conversation.
Those are all fantastic for the team and the individual players. But it is the team as a whole. They are playing as one complete unit that is helping them dominate. Radko Gudas punishing defensive play or Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger‘s brilliant play in net.
Not to forget young studs like Mason Marchment, Owen Tippett, and Eetu Luostarinen, who have made immediate impacts on both sides of the ice. Every night Florida plays, guys from all over the line-up are contributing, which is why the team is playing so well.
What the Numbers Say
With a current record of 19-5-4, this team is off to its best start in franchise history, through the first 28 games. They currently sit tied at first in the league in points and points percentage. On top of that, they now sit fifth in the league in Goals For and 13th in Goals Against. They possess the sixth-best home record, fifth-best away record, and the sixth-best power-play in the league at 27.1 percent. It would be ludicrous to ask this team to play any better than they are right now.
Since the Moneyball era, sports analytics has rocketed off to be one of the most critical parts of any sports game. Even though hockey is coming into the analytical world a little later than others; the statistical side of hockey has proven to have a positive impact on the game and the teams. Even the “advanced numbers” are fans of the Florida Panthers.
According to Moneypuck.com‘s ‘Team Stats’ page, the 2020-21 Florida Panthers rank “good” in four of the five graphs; xGoals For/Against, xGoals vs. Goals, Corsi For/Against, and xGoals vs. Corsi. Even Evolving-Hockey‘s team Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus table has them as one of the top 10 teams in both Goals For Per 60 and Expected Goals For Per 60. Whether you are a fan of advanced analytics or an old-school eye-test only kind of person, it is incredibly challenging to say this Florida Panther team isn’t good.
With that, no Panthers’ fan can forget the heartbreak of last season’s decline. Before the All-Star break, the Panthers looked like they were playoff bound. No question about it! Then, February rolled around, and the team had one of their worst months in franchise history. Yet, thanks to Bill Zito’s magic in the off-season, this is the deepest and most fun Florida Panthers’ team to watch in a very, very long time.