SUNRISE, Fla. – After cleaning out their lockers at the BB&T Center, Florida Panthers players, filled with a mixture of anger and optimism, greeted the media on Tuesday morning at the BB&T Center.
The discussion quickly turned to how the franchise can make a triumphant return trip to the playoffs next season.
“I don’t think it’s going to take much at all,” said Vincent Trocheck, who led the Panthers in scoring with 54 points. “I think we have the team to do even better than we did last year. It’s going to be a few tweaks. If we can come in with the right mindset next year, I think we’ll be right back on track.
“I wish the season started next week. It [stinks] to end like this after such a good season last season. We know we have a team here that can go far. Not being able to do so this year, it [stinks]. There’s definitely some frustration. We’re all hoping to get back as soon as possible.”
Only a season removed from an Atlantic Division title and a franchise-record 103 points, the Panthers, who posted a 35-36-11 record this season, believe that their road back to the playoffs is fairly free of obstacles. With a stockpile of budding superstars such as Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and Trocheck all locked into long-term contracts, the general consensus among players is that only a few minor changes are needed in order to turn this season’s disappointment into a deep postseason run in 2017-18.