|The Panthers play just three of their first nine games at home in the month of October, including the home opener on October 16 against Tampa Bay. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) |
In today's topic, we take a closer look at if the Panthers will get off to a better start this season in our Top 10 Questions this season.
The Panthers have been known as notoriously slow starters.
For whatever the reason, the team in past seasons have come out of the gate slow and by the end of October, they're playing catch up. And by the beginning of December, they're really behind the eight-ball.
Looking at past seasons, the Panthers have had a losing record in the first month of the season (not including the strike shortened season in 1994-95) in 11 of the 15 seasons. Just one of those non-losing seasons has come after the lockout when they went 6-5-1 in the 2005-06 season. The years that follow? 5-7-2 in 2006-07, 5-7-0 in 2007-08, 4-5-0 in 2008-09 and 4-7-1 last season.
November has been a little kinder to Florida as the team has five seasons in which they had a "winning" percentage. That includes two of the last three seasons (7-6-1 in 2007-08 and 6-5-3 in 2009-10).
If the Panthers hope to be competitive at the end this season and break their playoff drought, then they'll have to be more competitive at the start.
"We have to be way more consistent as a group," said captain Bryan McCabe. "We have to get off to a way better start. It's tough to come back when you start 3-8 or whatever. It's a long road to climb so we need to get off to a good start."
This season's schedule early seems to be more condusive for better results. While the team does play six of it's nine October games away from the BankAtlantic Center, only three opponents made the playoffs last year.
"We've got a much better schedule this year than we had last year as far as the number of back-to-backs and two games in three nights," said head coach Peter DeBoer. "I think our schedule is the best it's been since I've been here."
Another reason for optimism early in the season is that the Panthers spent all of the pre-season in the Eastern Time Zone. In year's past they traveled to Calgary, Edmonton, Helsinki and other places to play a pre-season game. That's not the case this season.
"We're not traveling. We're home," said McCabe. "We've got a good, easy schedule to start so we're ready to go."