Going into the new season of the NHL, the Florida Panthers looked to improve on last season's success. It looked as if the Florida Panthers were ready to hit the big time and be a constant contender for a playoff spot. They had a good showing against the New York Islanders, but Jonathan Tavares got hot at the right time and knocked them out in the first round.
Florida, however, has not put up the numbers that they wanted at all. They currently sit at 16-15-8 with only 40 points. Florida sits back four spots for a wild card race today, however, the Panthers also sit just four points from the last place in the Eastern Conference. Florida’s season has been up and down and that can be accredited to their star players, with one in particular. Aaron Ekblad.
Greater expectations of Aaron Ekblad
Aaron Ekblad has been very productive over the first two years of his career. In 2014/15 Ekblad produced 12 goals and 39 points in total, a very impressive showing for a rookie defenseman on a below average team at the time. In his next season, Ekblad improved on his goal total with 15 but his points dipped to 36. In his defense, Ekblad did miss three more games that season. The Windsor native has also had great underlying numbers with a Corsi For percentage (5-on-5) of 53.9 and 50.6.
What’s going on with Ekblad so far?
Aaron Ekblad currently sits at four goals and seven assists over 39 total games. Ekblad’s base stats have completely bottomed out and he is projected to hit 23 points, 13 less than last season. Ekblad’s advanced numbers, however, match up with what he has been able to produce over his career at 51.4. This means that Ekblad is driving play for the Florida Panthers and creating more scoring chances and shots when has on the ice. Ekblad has just not been able to find the score sheet and put up the numbers he is used to. However, with his play now, he is not justifying his $7.5 million cap hit.
How can Ekblad and the Panthers improve?
The best way for Aaron Ekblad to improve his numbers and make his team better is to change nothing. Ekblad is driving play and it may not be showing up on the score sheet, but he still makes the team better. The 20-year-old has an enormous amount of pressure on him, and he needs to just shut out the media and continue to play his game. The points will come to him in time.
Will the Florida Panthers make the playoffs?
The Panthers and their playoff chances are a very different story. Ekblad needs to be a big part of that but its starting to become too little, too late for the Panthers. There are so many hot teams in the Eastern Conference, points are going to be hard to come by. Florida’s goaltending needs to improve for them to make the dance, but their odds don’t look good right now.
What do you think Aaron Ekblad needs to do to improve? Let us know in the comments section.