Are the Florida Panthers the NHL's best team?

Justin Cuthbert and Julian McKenzie discuss the Panthers' hot start, and whether or not another team can stake claim to being the league's best right now.

Video Transcript

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: It's just a question for you. Are you ready to anoint the Florida Panthers as the NHL's best team? They have the league's best record buy points and points percentage now. They've scored 50 goals in their last eight games. They have 20 more goals than the next best team in the NHL right now. And they haven't played five or six more games than everyone else because COVID hasn't hit them. They are on pace to score 20 more goals than the highest scoring team for a season since the lockout in 2005.

They are on pace to shatter goalscoring records this year. So Julian, I'll ask again. Are the Florida Panthers the NHL's best team?

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I think it's just too soon and I'm not ready to answer that question only because we're a couple days out from the Rangers being the best team in the National Hockey League in terms of points. The Tampa Bay Lightning, also near the top. I think as of this recording right now, I have the standings in front of me, the Panthers and the Lightning tied on points at 57. The Panthers do have a better win percentage. But as long as we're still using points, you have to consider the Lightning obviously.

The Carolina Hurricanes in terms of points percentage are not too far off from the Florida Panthers. I think there are still too many good teams near the top who are they have their reasons for being good. I mean, obviously the Florida Panthers have the goals that they have. But there's so many other teams who are worthy of that conversation. The Colorado Avalanche have six fewer goals scored than the Florida Panthers and only one more goal allowed. It's too soon. That being said--

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: In three fewer games too. Colorado is a tough start, and all of a sudden, they're the best team in the league perhaps.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I'll say this about the Florida Panthers though. I said they were going to win the Atlantic division. I believe in this franchise, and I believe that they're going to be able to win some rounds this year. There's a team in the Atlantic division that has not won a series since 1996. It's them. There going to win. They're going to win. People in Toronto complain all the time. We haven't won a series since 2004. The Florida Panthers have won since 1996. I mean, they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996. But hey, look. They deserve some love too.

All tens of thousands of them in the state of Florida and wherever else they are, they exist. They're out there. They're very lively. But yeah, I'm not ready to anoint them as that. I feel very good about my prediction that they will be the best team in their division. And I feel pretty good saying that the Panthers are probably going to win around or two this year. But because of the fact that they haven't outpaced everyone else in the league like a Colorado or a Tampa Bay, even a Carolina, even the New York Rangers too.

I have a hard time anointing them as the team. They can be the best team right now. But what are we-- if we had this discussion next week, would we be talking about-- if they're there, maybe we have that conversation. Who's to say someone else takes over that top spot?

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, I mean it's-- I wouldn't put them as my number one. And I have the receipts to prove it too. I believed in Florida at the start of the year I got them a future and then win the Atlantic. I have a future on them winning the Stanley Cup. I think they are very, very good. But if it weren't for the Colorado Avalanche, who again, you mentioned just a couple point behind. They actually have games in hand. I mean, I might be able to do that. But I still think that the Colorado Avalanche are the best team in the league and are playing like the best team in the NHL.

And I think the one big thing for me with Florida is that it's been a disproportionate number of home games for them where they are dominant. They are 21 and 3 at home. It is crazy how good they are on home ice. And as you mentioned, those tens of thousands of fans, they're coming out in droves, and they're enjoying it. There's a bit of an atmosphere. And it's not just Kodak Black providing that atmosphere. It looks like they're generating a little momentum there. And they deserve to-- they deserve to because they have been so good, especially on home ice.

But away from home ice, they've only won five of their 14 games, 5, 4, and 5. Again, they've managed to pick up points. But not only have they not picked up many road victories, but they haven't played many road games. So what happens when they go on the road? Are they going to come back down closer to the pack? Probably just based on how the season has gone for them.

But let me just run down their last eight games in terms of goal scoring. These are the number of goals they scored in their last eight games per game. Nine, five, six, five, four, five, seven, nine. They've just been incredible on this last little run. And again, most of those games have come in home ice sixth of the eighth. So that's the theme here. They are dangerous as all hell on home ice. If they are the number one seed in the east, you're going to have to go through them and it's going to be tough to get a victory in Florida.

But they're going to have to start winning some games on the road with more regularity and playing those games on the road with more regularity for them to cement themselves I think as the number one team in the NHL.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, but they have some good pieces up front. Jonathan Huberdeau could make a claim to being the best left winger in the league right now. Anthony Duclair, who scored goals pretty much every market he's been in, continuing to do that. Sam Bennett is continuing the revival of his career, was just dispatched off from Calgary, and he's fit like a glove in Florida. And their goaltending worked. That was the big question mark with the Panthers at the beginning of the year. But their goaltending is fine right now.

They have pieces. They have what it takes to be a top team in the NHL. It's just, again, there's just too many teams around them right now who are just fighting just to be at the top of the mountain. But it's fun to see a whole bunch of these different teams fighting at the top of the mountain.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Guess how many all-stars the first place, high powered, high octane Florida Panthers have.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: It can't be no more than two.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: It's only one, Jonathan Huberdeau. And he deserves it. He for a moment shared the league lead in points last night before, I believe, [? Jirayas ?] [? Hedal ?] got one more. But that's just--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: One guy.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: It's hard to have more than one, which is so ridiculous. Even the best teams in the league, yes, there are a couple duplicates in the Atlantic division. Vasilevskiy and Hedman, hard to say that they don't deserve that. Campbell and Matthews, hard to say that they don't deserve that, and they couldn't have one or two more from that team. It's just the way it is. Instead, we have Batherson, and Larkin, and Suzuki, and Dahlin. But yeah. The Florida Panthers, they deserve a little better.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: They deserve so much-- oh, I didn't realize it was just one guy. Oh man, that's painful.

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