Commentary

Ultimate Standings 2009: No. 90

Florida Panthers

Updated: July 1, 2009, 12:15 PM ET
By Jason Catania | ESPN The Magazine

Last Year's Rank: 98
Title Track: 103
Ownership: 100
Coaching: 59
Players: 92
Fan Relations: 86
Affordability: 47
Stadium Experience: 81
Bang for the Buck: 89

Call it karma. It wasn't enough that Panthers fans last season suffered through the NHL's longest active postseason drought (eight straight seasons). Adding insult to effigy, the team just missed earning a drought-breaking No. 8 East seed to Montreal on a head-to-head tiebreaker, after the teams finished with identical point totals and record. No wonder Panthers fans rank the team No. 103 in Title Track; their ring hopes seem nonexistent. What glimmer they do have is in the guidance of rookie bench boss Peter DeBoer. After 13 years of dues-paying as an OHL boss (he was twice Coach of the Year), DeBoer, nicknamed PDB on fan forums, installed an aggressive, push-the-puck style that got the most out of a young squad. Five of the top six scorers are 26 or younger. Aggressive marketing reaped some benefits as well. The Panthers Total Ticket package includes game, a combo meal and a $5 gas card for as little as $17. Even better is the policy that grants first-time fans admittance for free. You can never invest in good karma too early.