Back to Florida - Easy On Rowe
Photo: David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire
In late November TP looked at the Panthers after Gerard Gallant was released and replaced by Tom Rowe. See BEWARE WHAT YOU WISH FOR.
The numbers suggested Gallant started the season in a difficult situation, partly due to a revamped d-core slanted precariously towards offense.
Tom Rowe took the helm and hoped a few system changes, including moving from man-on-man to zone coverage in the defensive end, would compensate for the Panthers early season defensive struggles.
The 16/17 NHL regular season is almost completed and with Florida on the outside of the playoff picture, Rowe has entered the crosshairs of a disgruntled fan base.
What do the average-per-game play-by-play numbers say?
Florida’s overall team contribution dropped from 8th to 23rd among 30 NHL teams but their offensive contributions actually went up by just over 5% (even though goals scored are down from 20th to 23rd of 30 teams).
The key to Florida’s drop in overall performance is found in their defensive play, where they have plunged 43% from the 15/16 season. Almost 90% of that drop is attributed to the Panthers d-core, which currently ranks 29th defensively among 30 teams, from 15th in 15/16.
During this defensive lapse, the Panther’s d-core jumped in offensive contribution from 25th to 4th (keep in mind these are play-by-play results and not based solely on points).
Unfortunately along with the increased offense has come a corresponding increase in turnovers of 39.3% (even strength). Particularly toxic has been a 46.9% increase in bad turnovers which put’s extra stress on team mates, especially d-partners. This sheds some light on the sudden development pains of Aaron Ekblad who was improving at an incredible rate prior to this season. See AARON EKBLAD.
Should Rowe shoulder the blame for the current state of the Panther's and the decreased performance of the Panthers d-core?
We suggest not much more than Gallant was at fault. The Tom Rowe led Panthers had stretches of success, but the pre and post Gallant periods were very similar on a play-by-play basis. With the exception of Ekblad, most of the Panther's defensemen performed close to or better than their average over the last few seasons. The topic of man-on-man vs zone DZC deserves a longer discussion other than to say; while a specific type of defenseman may fair better in either system, a base level of defensive proficiency is required to succeed at either.
How important is generating offense from the blueline to winning?
It depends on the quality of offense and the supporting defensive play. There is some great offensive talent on the Panther's blueline, but much of it comes at a high cost in the number and severity of turnovers. In addition, the current Panther’s d-core is lacking a minimum level of defensive proficiency.
Can the current Panthers d-core be coached to reduce turnovers, increase defensive proficiency and return to the level that saw them win their division in 15/16?
Possibly but it will require extreme attention to details, a deft touch and a willing group. If Rowe is soon to go, the next coach must accept that this Panther looks more like a tiger, and some stripes need changing.
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