Connect with us

Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers Lost A Chance at Greatness. And Know It



Florida panthers
Members of the Florida Panthers stand by during the Stanley Cup presentation after the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Panthers 9-3 in Game 5 of the Cup Final on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

In the hours following their loss in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Tuesday night, Aaron Ekblad said he and his teammates did not go out on the famed Strip to drown their sorrows or have one final night out on the road.

He says they all went back to the team hotel and hung out together, playing cards and having a few beers amongst themselves.

Avoiding their loss, in Las Vegas of all places, would not be easy.

The biggest reminder that the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup and the Florida Panthers did not came on social media.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” Ekblad said. “Instagram sucks. All you see is them lifting the Cup. That hurts for sure. It has been a tough couple of days, for sure. But it is what it is. The sun comes up.”

Daily Coverage Of the Florida Panthers

All Summer Long

Get a Subscription to Florida Hockey Now, Today!

Throughout this playoff run, a number of Panthers talked about the journey, to appreciate the moment and to realize these opportunities do not come around all the time.

For many members of the Panthers, this was their first trip this deep into the playoffs.

Get FHN+ today!

Others had had a crack at hockey immortality before and know exactly what it feels like to get close to you dream and see someone else live it out.

While the Golden Knights held their championship parade down Las Vegas Boulevard on Saturday night, the Panthers were still lamenting the loss.

“In a couple of days, or weeks or months you’ll start to realize what actually happened,” Sasha Barkov said on Thursday morning, “and how far we got and how close we got to the ultimate goal that we have in this organization.

“Usually when a season ends or the playoffs end, you think ‘OK, it’s over and now it’s time to rest.’ This is a different feeling. We can build on this. We can get better and learn from this and get better.”

Although Florida lost the Final series in 5 games and, looking back at things, it was not that particularly close, the Panthers know this was an opportunity they hope to get again — but know it is not guaranteed.

Florida coach Paul Maurice had his first shot at winning the Stanley Cup in 2002 with the Carolina Hurricanes, that team losing to the Detroit Red Wings in 5.

It took Maurice 22 years to get back to the Final and he knows how hard it is to get back.

Yes, these Panthers are built for long-term success. One of the reasons why general manager Bill Zito traded for Matthew Tkachuk over the summer was to extend Florida’s championship window.

But that does not mean the Panthers will make it back anytime soon.

They very well could, sure, but it may not happen.

This very well could have been the best shot the Panthers have to taking that Cup for their own, to have their names engraved onto it.

Losing Game 5 was painful for the Panthers, yes, but mostly because of what they all knew was on the line.

That Cup is what everyone plays for, the reason teams do what they do each and every day. If your team is not a contender and you are in rebuilding mode, the Stanley Cup is the goal in which you build your team to win.

If you are a contender, you try and do everything within your power to go for it.

The Panthers went for it and fell short. There is no shame in that game.

But they all know it is an opportunity they may never see again.

And that is what hurts the most.

“Every year is different. You start from scratch, you start from zero,’’ Maurice said. “I did fall in love with those guys. I wanted it so bad for them. It didn’t happen but it is still raw and painful.’’


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

One of the best things about our postseason run, we didn’t make any deals at the deadline like we did last year. There are teams that “went for it” and gave up a ton as far as draft capital and prospects go, and didn’t get half as far as we did. Kind of what happened to us last year, and obviously the other thing about this postseason run is that the first rounder to Montreal doesn’t sting as much now with it ending up being the 31st pick. We have over 10 million dollars to spend, and IMO truly only… Read more »


Hornqvist is probably finished as a player. Two concussions is short succession does that. Panthers need to replace Staal on faceoffs. For less than $2M each, they can probably bring in David Kampf and Noel Acciari for fourth line roles. Kampf can center a third line, if there’s an injury down the middle and Acciari can move to center. One of the best things about the current Panthers line-up is the flexibility with so many natural centers. Luo and Reinhart can move inside of one of Barkov, Bennett, or Lundell aren’t playing. Panthers should look into acquiring Noah Hanifin. If… Read more »


You may be right about Hornquist, he’s certainly no spring chicken. If it is the end for him, he can hold his head high, hell of a career. I love the though of giving Denisenko a legit shot at one of the presumed open spots, truth be told, I thought he did enough to make it out of camp last year, and would have rather seen him over White and Giovanni Smith, nothing against either one of those guys, I just wanted him to get a chance to get a year of experience in the league under his belt. Speaking… Read more »

Cats and Leafs

I agree. They “went for it” last year by trading for veterans they couldn’t afford to keep. They did nothing this year and had a magical season that exceeded everyone’s expectations. I think Hornqvist is done, hope they sign Gudas and get some depth they need to add to this solid core.


The Panther also have guys out at the start of the season which could free up another 8M-12M of LTIR cap space. The number one priority this off season should be the defense and then use what ever is left to add depth. They have enough scoring but they gave up way too many.

Brian Biggane

One of the reasons this time should be different than the last (1996) is GM Bryan Murray wasted no time breaking up that group, trading Stu Barnes to Pittsburgh for Chris Wells barely a month into the season. While Barnes went on to score 30 goals alongside Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, Wells was a gawky, unskilled stiff whose biggest impact was running into a full-speed Pavel Bure during a practice. Somehow Bure wasn’t injured. I trust Bill Zito will not only keep this group together but improve it, building on key pieces like Tkachuk, Barkov, Ekblad, Reinhard, Verhaege, Forsling… Read more »


I agree, I think we are probably in the best position to have success in the upcoming year than we have been in at least a decade. As far as Aaron not being ready for the start of the season, to me that may be a blessing in disguise, the first time he missed significant time Weegar was able to emerge as a bonifide top pairing d-man, then the next time he missed time Montour was able to establish himself as a top d-man, I have faith that whoever Zito goes out and gets they’ll be more than capable to… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by surveyjay

By the way this wouldn’t happen to be former post beat writer for the Panthers Brian Biggane would it? If so I’m a former enjoyer of your work.

Armando R Perez

I fully agree. The Panthers have been my favorite hockey team since 1993 when they came into the league. Everything that you have said about Bryan Murray is spot on. I will add that it was not only Stu Barnes but also Jason Woolley was also traded for Chris Wells. I’m ashamed to admit that I have forgotten who the Penguin’s gm was at the time of the trade, but he certainly must have been rolling around on the floor laughing his head off crying his eyes out with joy at the sheer stupidity of Bryan Murray! I’m sorry but… Read more »


I think you need not worry about Bryan Murray and how much you trust him, he’s been dead for a few years. As much as I’ve hated the Stu and Wooley for Wells deal, he also brought in Jokinen and Loungo for Parrish an Spacek. As far as worse deals, the list is long and infamous. Keenan trading Loungo in his prime during a temper tantrum. Dale Tallon giving Vegas Rielly Smith and Marchesault in the expansion draft just to protect a fairly average group of young defensemen that will all be gone within two seasons. I could go on,… Read more »


fix the audio please…. it’s inaudible.


All these injuries may end up working in our favor in the long run… we can pull a “Tampa Bay” by putting injured guys on LTIR and then signing players to fill their spots but come playoff time, activate the LTIR guys!!!…. and *bingo* we have depth.

Cats and Leafs

Don’t think the LTIR will help much next year. Even if Ekblad or others are out for the first month or so, once they come back, they count against the cap. Tampa had used the LTIR for Kucherov for the whole year, were able to get players for the entire season. He came back once the playoffs started when the cap didn’t count so they kept everyone.


I’d like to see us go after Ryan Graves this year. He is a shot blocking, hitting machine who paired up well with Cale Makar in Colorado. I see him paired with Forsling or Montour and (as much as I love the Butcher) a better option that Gudas. But he’s a right hand shot and I believe we need lefties


Good call, with Jersey’s cap situation they are most likely not going to be able to bring him back. He’s currently at 3.3 million a year and he’s most likely due a raise which will likely put him somewhere between 4 and 4.7 million a year. I checked, he’s definitely a left-handed shot. He’s 28, got decent speed and always plays defense first, he’s a perfect fit to pair with Montour OR Forsling….great call.

Get FHN in your inbox!

Be the first to know. Enter your email to get the latest from Florida Hockey Now delivered straight to your inbox.

FHN on Facebook

Panthers Team & Cap Info


Would love your thoughts, please comment.x