Sign in with your NHL account:
  • Submit
  • Or
  • Sign in with Google
Florida Panthers Facebook Florida Panthers Twitter Florida Panthers Google+ Florida Panthers Pintrest Florida Panthers Instagram Florida Panthers

Current Cats Have Many Similarities With '96 Edition

Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:38 PM / Features
By Alain Poupart  - Correspondent
Share with your Friends

Current Cats Have Many Similarities With \'96 Edition
The Florida Panthers of 2012 have a lot of things in common with the 1996 team that was the most successful in franchise history.

SUNRISE, Fla. — No sooner had the final horn sounded on the night the Florida Panthers clinched their first-ever division title that the plastic rats starting raining from the stands at BankAtlantic Center.

There also were a few rats tossed onto the ice Friday night after each of the Panthers' two goals in their 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

It was shades of 1996.

The whole season, to an extent, has been like a trip back in time for the Panthers — and it goes way beyond the plastic rats.

The most obvious parallel between the 1996 and 2012 Panthers is their ability to reach the playoffs with a group of players who came from other teams and weren't expected to experience much success.

The 1996 Panthers were made up mostly of players who had been acquired three years earlier via the expansion draft. The 2012 Panthers featured more than a dozen newcomers, the result of general manager Dale Tallon deciding to overhaul the roster to get his rebuilding project heading in the right direction.

Both teams featured a first-year NHL head coach, Doug MacLean in 1996 and Kevin Dineen this year.


NJ-FLA matchup serves up memories

By Alain Poupart - Correspondent
Devils and Panthers franchise lines intersect for Pete DeBoer, John Madden and Scott Clemmensen. READ MORE ›

And, finally, both teams included a rookie defenseman who was a high pick in the draft, Ed Jovanovski in 1996 and Erik Gudbranson this year.

Jovanovski returned to the Panthers this year and he can see the similarities between both teams, even though he's more concerned these days with dealing with New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

"There's countless people who thought we're supposed to be done right now," Jovanovski said. "I guess you can say the same on the ‘96 team. No one really gave us a chance. I kind of like being in that role. It is what it is. We know what we can do in here if we're playing well. That's all that matters is trusting in your teammates and knowing you have that ability to get it done. For our group, that's what we rely on, each other."

Jovanovski is but one link this year's Panthers have to that 1996 team that made a magical playoff run through the Eastern Conference playoffs, beating Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh before being swept by Colorado in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Gord Murphy, a defenseman on the 1996 team, is an assistant on Dineen's coaching staff; Brian Skrudland, the captain of the 1996 team, is now the team's director of player development; and Bill Lindsay, a forward on the 1996 team, is now the team's television analyst.

When Murphy and Skrudland both were hired in July of 2010, Tallon said, "We wanted to bring back the sense of family, the sense of history and tradition from earlier Panthers days."

Lindsay scored the most famous goal in franchise history when he skated around Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque and beat Bill Ranford while falling to the ice for the game-winner in the Panthers' Game 5 first-round series clincher against the Bruins in 1996.

A picture of that goal has been hanging at BankAtlantic Center in the Panthers' Den of Honor, which was unveiled in March of 2010.

This year's team also figures to have a place in the Den of Honor before too long, and Lindsay is hoping the 2012 Panthers can have a long postseason run of their own.

"You can draw a lot of parallels between those two teams," Lindsay said. "We'll have to see how it plays out. But it's been a long time. I'm incredibly happy for this group and what they've been able to do and move forward. Hopefully they can get some of their own memories and start the tip of this iceberg going the right way and hopefully this is just the sign of many good years to come.

"Both teams really had no stars. It's a group that's going to have to get it done as a team. It's going to be that four lines, six defensemen. That's what we had in '96. I think the similarities from that standpoint are very alike. They have some talent, but they're going to have to get it done as a group. They've worked hard all season long, that's the only way to get there and that's the way we did it in ‘96."

Murphy, for his part, doesn't care to start comparing the two teams.

"This group is its own group," Murphy said. "It's got its own story lines, it's got its own blend of players, talent, leadership, personality. Obviously, it's nice to do that and look back and that was a heck of a team and a heck of a run, but these guys deserve the recognition for what they've achieved and what they're doing. I don't try and put too much kind of comparisons and similarities into it."

For a team with such a limited playoff history as the Panthers, it's almost inevitable to look back.

But there is one big difference between the two teams, one that should encourage the Panthers and their fans.

Even while they were making their run in 1996, the Panthers never looked like a team that was starting something big.

There's reason to believe that's the case with this year's Panthers. Tallon built this team for the future, stockpiling the organization with high-end prospects like first-round picks Jonathan Huberdeau, Quinton Howden, Nick Bjugstad and Gudbranson.

Gudbranson made a major contribution this season, but he figures to only get better and the others should start joining him in the NHL in the next couple of seasons.

"That's what's really exciting for me is the fun begins now," Tallon said. "Moving forward we didn't disrupt our future to get success early here in the present. We have a bright future ahead of us. Now we can keep adding pieces to this core that's really a good strong core now. So we're in good shape as far as the organization is concerned."

Author: Alain Poupart | Correspondent




1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 48 14 31 3 90 171 31


N. Bjugstad 46 16 13 -1 29
A. Ekblad 46 7 21 6 28
J. Huberdeau 43 9 17 1 26
J. Jokinen 45 4 21 -3 25
B. Boyes 44 10 12 2 22
J. Hayes 38 13 7 0 20
S. Bergenheim 35 8 9 1 17
A. Barkov 35 5 10 -5 15
B. Campbell 46 3 11 -1 14
D. Kulikov 41 1 13 -4 14
R. Luongo 18 11 8 .920 2.42
A. Montoya 3 4 2 .891 2.96 is the official Web site of the Florida Panthers. Florida Panthers and are trademarks of the Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.