What's to blame: There simply isn't enough skill in Florida. The Panthers can't score, they don't do an incredibly good job of stopping others from scoring, either. It's a young team full of players that were in the minors at some point this season. Plus, there was no busier team at the deadline than Florida, which vetted itself of most all of its valued talent. Oh, and they're the Florida Panthers.
What's not to blame: It's hard to find much on this side, but the goaltending hasn't been abysmal. Tomas Vokoun, streaky as he is, isn't the reason the 'Cats are done, nor is his backup Scott Clemmensen. Head coach Pete DeBoer belongs on this list, as well. He might take the fall for three straight posteseason-less seasons, but it's hard to blame a guy directing a team that has no talent.
Biggest offseason step to recovery: Because of the rash of trades and contracts coming off the budget, Florida is going to have a ton of money to spend. And they'll have to make a decision in goal. But neither is what's most important; it's the draft. That's where GM Dale Tallon needs to build this organization, and he'll have plenty of picks with which to work again.
Draft need: They desperately need a scorer, a guy that can put 30-plus in the net. The Panthers will be in the running for the top pick again, so perhaps fortune can strike and they'll have the pick of the litter. They have gone defense the last two years (Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson) so it's time to think offensive.
Reason for hope: Tallon going into a second full season at the helm. He has a history of drafting well, so Panthers fans, the ones that are left, can believe in that. Also, there were some nice surprises among newcomers, starting with Mike Santorelli and flashes from rookie Evgeny Dadonov.
When will they see the playoffs again: The 10-year wait will last a couple more seasons. The realistic target has to be after two more years. Florida does have the makeup of a good blue line moving forward, so the challenge will be getting scorers. And honestly, despite the cash, Florida will have a very hard time attracting players. So at this point, it's a waiting game to see the development of the youngsters.