Andrew Brunette Got Dog Walked, The 2022 Panthers Underachieved
It’s not because they lost. It’s about the way they lost. The 2022 Florida Panthers were ousted in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a four game sweep to the in-state rival Lightning. There are many takeaways from this series but make no mistake about it. The Panthers have nobody to blame but themselves. The finger pointing should start with Andrew Brunette.
Look, it sucks that they lost Joel Quenneville midseason. We also know why he got fired and we’re not even going down that road. Andrew Brunette was able to guide the Panthers to a Presidents trophy using his predecessors system. It became evident real quick when the game slowed down in the playoffs, Brunette proved he’s not the guy for the job. Brunette got dog walked. That’s just the bottom line.
I want to make this very clear. I have all the admiration and respect for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Those guys are warriors. We just have to be totally honest and just acknowledge this team was gassed. No Brayden Point. Brandon Hagel, Erik Cernak, Nick Paul, Nikita Kucherov, etc were all facing injuries. There is no reason the Panthers should have gotten swept.
Florida lost this series for very simple reasons. None of them really have anything to do with talent minus Sergei Bobrovsky being outdueled. The 5 on 5 numbers were very even.
The Panthers weren’t willing to make the dirty plays to beat Tampa’s forecheck and puck cycling ability. Let’s face it, Ben Chariot stinks and was never the right pick up. The Panthers defense core wasn’t good enough. Tampa is out here blocking shots left and right. Meanwhile, McKenzie Weegar is making defensive miscues with seconds left on the clock to lose a game.
Beyond goaltending, special teams is what sealed this series. Florida’s inability to catch that regular season magic was the difference. If you want to chalk it up to Vasilevskiy being a ninja warrior in the crease, be my guest. Just remember Toronto scored plenty against him. The guy is human.
The truth of the matter is, Brunette got tight. His butthole puckered like he had just been told he was receiving a life sentence in jail. The Panthers went 1-31 on the power play this postseason which includes the Washington series against the dumb and dumber tandem of Vanecek and Samsonov.
A smart man once said if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Brunette tried to fix what seemed like perfection and it obviously backfired. Florida finished 5th in the league in power play percentage and was primarily sparked after the Aaron Ekblad injury.
The Panthers deployed this deadly PP unit with Aleksander Barkov at the quarterback. Claude Giroux and his 60% faceoff win percentage quickly controlled possession. Jonathan Huberdeau was firing pucks around the ice while Anthony Duclair or Sam Reinhart buried it. It was a thing of beauty and electric to watch.
Brunette did what any great idiot would do. Ekblad went back on the ice. Duclair got benched. Giroux was no longer tasked with winning the faceoffs and was removed from the line entirely. Huberdeau’s brilliance became more predictable trying to find only Barkov. Desperation even set in and 800 year old Patric Hörnqvist was tasked with saving the day.
It was like Brunette saw Cooper deploying the weirdos of Hagel and Paul in multi faceted ways and failed trying to match it. When Brunette threw his adjustments in, they appeared odd and foolish. Why exactly did Mason Marchment and his 60.1 CF% get BENCHED? Anton Lundell… BENCHED? Did Brunette watch Maxim Mamin? Apparently his -5.6 CF% rel number was good enough for top line in a game 4!
This Panthers team also shows no heart. They were dead dogs walking. That’s what happens when there is no leadership at the top. The team got bombed the night before the series clinching funeral and even Joe Thornton got some action as a way to wave the white flag.
Brunette looks like a guy throwing shit against the wall hoping it sticks. In the mean time, Jon Cooper put the leash around his neck and now tells him when he can go outside. If you had any questions about Brunette, don’t worry, he already exposed as a great idiot in the Washington series. Let’s take you back in time…
There was a game during the Capitals series. Final few seconds of the game. Brunette inserts Gustav Forsling in with the game on the line with a few seconds left while Florida has a one point lead in the defensive zone in a 6 on 5 situation. Forsling commits a penalty, turns into a 6 on 4, boom TJ Oshie scores to tie it. You can’t make those mistakes.
You want to put some of this on Bill Zito, that’s more than fair. The Chariot price tag was outrageous. Radko Gudas is a physical player every team needs but he’s far too slow and burns them on fast breaks. Giving away Frank Vatrano for no reason probably wasn’t smart either.
The Florida Panthers really have something special here but I can’t see how you bring back Brunette after this playoff disaster. Some interim coaches aren’t built for the job. Some of them just aren’t ready. Some of them are thriving (Jay Woodcroft). Finding a real head coach and improving the team defense takes Florida from good to great.