SUNRISE, Fla. ( – After a decade of futility, the Florida Panthers have started the season with quite a bang.

After two months of play, the Panthers are in first place in the Southeast Division and if the season ended today, the Panthers would be the number two overall seed in the Eastern Conference.

Not bad for a team that no one expected to even contend in 2011-2012. It’s a testament to the direction of both general manager Dale Tallon and head coach Kevin Dineen.

The Panthers are also starting to reap the rewards of their fast start.

According to the team, during the team’s last home stand last week; the Panthers averaged 16,000 fans per game. For a team that finished almost dead last in the NHL last season, that’s quite an impressive turnaround.

The Panthers’ first place standing in the Southeast was padded with a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. The win pushed the Panthers’ overall record to 13-7-4 and the Cats are 5-2-4 at home and 8-5-0 on the road.

The team will find out a lot more about itself in December when it plays 15 games, with seven games played at home and eight on the road.

If the team can remain in first place at the end of December, it could become a special year for a franchise that is often forgotten in the realm of South Florida sports.

It also might be time to pull out the rubber rats again if the team continues to improve.


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