Over the next few days I will be looking at the Pros and Cons of the Florida Panthers new division, the Atlantic. I will break this into three parts covering the different aspects the new division could affect, the fan perspective, the team perspective and the financial perspective. In today’s article I will look at the Pros and Cons from the team perspective. As a reminder, the Atlantic Division teams are:
An obvious pro to the Panthers division changing would be that Alex Ovechkin is no longer going to feed off of the Cats, at least not as often as in years past being in the Southeast Division together. Ovechkin has obviously cooled off the past few seasons, but if last season is any indication he very well may be reaching a turning point where he begins to terrorize the NHL on a nightly basis as he once did. Florida has also had a run of bad luck against former Southeast foe, Carolina Hurricanes, who now move to the Metropolitan Division. Fewer games against both teams could very well help Florida in becoming consistent playoff competitors. Recently, Florida has had a good record against new division opponents, Toronto and Montreal; and the players seem to enjoy visiting those teams’ buildings and perform well in them. Any time the team is confident in going in to another team’s house, it makes things run a lot smoother and could play a big role in the final outcome of the game.
Travel! The Panthers now have to travel over the entire Eastern Seaboard (with the exception of Tampa Bay) to get to division opponent games. Florida usually falls into the top 4 around the NHL as far as miles traveled; however, this season they catch a little bit of a break. It probably won’t continue though, and eventually the travel will wear the team down. The Panthers start this season on the road for its first four games, which could help with team bonding, but also could bite them and cause fatigue. Add additional trips to the West Coast, as every team in the league goes back to playing each other a minimum of twice per season. Fatigue can also help lead to more injuries, which the Cats seem to have a problem with year after year as it is. One plus to travel this year is that eight of the last 10 games of the season take place at home, including the final five games of the season. If the Panthers are in the hunt for a playoff spot towards the end of the season, playing on home ice gives them a big advantage in gaining valuable points in the standings. Hopefully the travel earlier in the season doesn’t cause them to fall so far in the standings that they’re unable to climb out when this time comes though.
You can also check out Part 1: The fans.