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Last year's ranking: 82
Title track: 116
Fan relations: 62
Stadium experience: 81
Bang for the buck: 105
The Panthers were awful. Really, truly awful. They were worst or second worst in the NHL in goals and goals against, power play and penalty killing. How Buffalo (52 points) actually finished worse in the standings than Florida (66) boggles the mind.
These cats are in rough shape, falling another 20 spots in our rankings (after plummeting 49 places last year) to land with a thud outside the top 100. After missing the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 years, Florida fired interim coach Peter Horachek and hired Gerard Gallant, who last coached in 2006 for Columbus. Not one player reached 40 points last season. Adding salt to those wounds, GM Dale Tallon used the compliance buyout on Ed Jovanovski this offseason, saving Florida about $4 million in cap space but jettisoning the fan favorite it drafted first overall 20 years ago. But as one icon leaves, another returns. The Panthers will have goalie Roberto Luongo, whom they dealt away in 2006 but reacquired just before the trade deadline last season, for a full campaign. He put up a .924 save percentage in his 14 starts with the team last season. Florida will bank on Bobby Lou and a bunch of kids, including 2014 first overall pick Aaron Ekblad, to keep them ahead of the Sabres.
But at least they're priced to market value. The average cost per game for the Panthers, already one of the cheapest dates in the NHL, decreased by a league-best 15.4 percent this year. At about an average of $41 a ticket, the BB&T Center offers a nice place to come in and cool off from the Miami heat. Apparently, the air conditioning isn't enough, though; the Panthers rank 29th in attendance in the NHL. Who said Floridians don't know good hockey when they see it?