The Capitals face a tougher division this year than the supposed "cake walk" it was a season ago. I am going to preview the Southeast one team at a time heading south to warmer weather and the Florida Panthers.
Fans at Miami Beach might be scratching their heads more than cheering their Panthers on this season. Upon Dave Tallon's employment as general manager, the Panthers moved to shake some salary burdens saying good-bye to Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell for some draft picks and defenseman Dennis Wideman.
The Panthers would like to rebuild from the bottom up, but whether their fans have the patience for that or not will remain to be seen. There is a lot a speculation that Miami might lose the franchise.
Forwards - D
This team was 28th in the league in goals per game (2.46). Considering they have dumped 74 points in Horton and Campbell being shipped up north. They still have great talent in David Booth and Stephen Weiss. Both should carry the offensive load for the Panthers. But this is going to be a tough year for them to generate much offense.
Defense - D
There are only two names on the blue line for the Panthers that are worth even noting. Wideman, acquired in a trade with Boston, and Bryan McCabe. Beyond that, you are looking at a bunch of players that you may have never heard of.
Goaltending - B
Tomas Vokoun should be the Panthers' crutch for most of the season. And Vokoun is good for a few wins. Behind him is Scott Clemmensen, a very capable back up. The Panthers will have to rely on both heavily as this team will most likely try to make it close rather than play anything wide open.
The Florida Panthers fans may not want to take this road the organization is taking them. A fan base that once tasted the Stanley Cup Finals may decide to save their money for LeBron James and the Heat. With the building empty, it might be hard for this team to gain any kind of emotional lift from it. They could catch a few teams napping this year, but the outlook at the moment seems pretty bleak.