This article is part of our From the Press Box series.
Which is the hottest team in the NHL right now? Which team boasts the league's lowest goals-against average?
The answer to both questions is the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers' recent hot streak – 10 wins in a row! – has propelled them to the top of the Atlantic Division. That's a lofty height for a team that has only finished first one time in franchise history and has missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.
The architect of this roster is GM Dale Tallon, and this isn't the first time he's built a team this impressive. He was in a similar situation with the Blackhawks in 2003 – Chicago was a floundering franchise when he started out and missed the postseason in Tallon's first three years. But in his fourth year with Chicago, the 'Hawks finally made the playoffs; they haven't been left out of springtime play since.
With their success to date, the Panthers look like a cinch to get back to the playoffs, taking that first step back to respectability.
The job has been accomplished with the same blueprint. Tallon has hit on a high percentage of his top draft choices and he has filed out the roster with some careful free-agent additions.
A series of high draft picks has yielded top-six forwards Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, each of whom is blessed with good size, great offensive skill and a high hockey IQ. Tallon, a No. 2 overall pick himself