POSTED ON Thursday, 10.13.2011 / 5:30 PM
|Defenseman Brian Campbell has posted 40-plus points in four seasons during his 11-year career including a career-high 62 split between Buffalo and San Jose during the 2007-08 season.|
After another finish out of contention during the 2010-11 regular season, the Florida Panthers were on the lookout for a turning point this offseason. On draft night in Minnesota, GM Dale Tallon found one in a familiar face – Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell. Tallon convinced Campbell to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Panthers, after explaining his plan to recreate his masterpiece in Chicago, which resulted in a Stanley Cup, here in South Florida.
“He brings us credibility,” Tallon said in an interview after the trade.
Tallon, himself, may not have known how right he was, as the move started a general migration of players to hockey’s most Southern market. Next on board was another Blackhawk – Tomas Kopecky, who was quickly signed by Tallon after the Panthers acquired his negotiating rights.
Then came the much talked about free agency haul that brought the Panthers into the South Florida spotlight for perhaps the first time since the glory days of 1996.
But it was the trade for Campbell that got the process started, and it is just one of the many reasons that he is the number one player to watch this season on our countdown.
A former sixth-round (156th overall) draft selection in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, Campbell is the definition of a late-round gem. He spent eight seasons trying to establish himself as a contributor at the NHL level, before bursting onto the scene in 2005-06 with the Buffalo Sabres. That year he racked up 44 points, before improving to 48 points the next season. On pace to smash that pace in 2007-08, with 43 points in 63 games, the Sabres dealt Campbell to San Jose at the trade deadline, where he scored a whopping 19 points in 20 regular season contests, and 7 points in 13 playoff games. The next year, Tallon signed Campbell to a long-term contract in Chicago, and Campbell justified the decision with a 52-point regular season, and 10 point playoff campaign.
Campbell enjoyed a successful run in Chicago, including the championship season in 2009-10.
It’s really no wonder why Tallon chose “Soupy” as the main piece to help turn around the franchise. Championship teams are made up of championship players.
Campbell fits the bill perfectly.
BY THE NUMBERS
2 - Posted two assists in his first game as a Panther on October 8 as he set up Stephen Weiss and Jason Garrison for first period tallies.
6 - Finished with a career-low (for playing more than 40 games) six penalty minutes last season with Chicago.
12 - Netted career-high 12 goals during the 2005-06 season with Buffalo. Had a career-high five game-winners during that campaign.
53 - Entered 2011-12 season with Florida with a plus-53 rating. Has finished with plus-28 in two seperate seasons (2006-07, 2010-11)
62 - Registered a career-high 62 points split between Buffalo (43 points) and San Jose (19 points) during the 2007-08 season.
POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.11.2011 / 4:25 PM
|Two forwards that should see a lot of top-six minutes are Tomas Kopecky (82) and Tomas Fleischmann (14). Both were added this off-season by GM Dale Tallon. Kopecky was traded for and then signed on June 27 while Fleischmann signed as a free agent on July 1.(Getty Images)
With so many new faces in the Panthers lineup this season, including seven forwards that weren’t here at the end of last season alone, chemistry will be key for Florida to sort out. The sooner they find the right balance, the better chance the team will have at a strong start to the season.
Early season play suggests that the top forward line will consist of Tomas Fleischmann (21 points in 22 games with Colorado last year), Stephen Weiss (team-high 49 points last year), and Kris Versteeg (46 points in 80 games last year). Looking at the trios’ numbers, as well as their potential to grow even stronger, and it’s a logical choice of a line combination to stay together and perform well.
With health issues in his rearview mirror, Fleischmann is oozing with breakout potential. He scored nearly a point per game after being traded to the Colorado Avalanche last season, and is just entering his prime at 27-years old. After leading the team in points last year, Weiss looks ready to pick up where he left off, with a goal in the team’s first game. At 28-years-old, he is also entering the prime of his career and could be poised for his best season to date. And finally, even while bouncing around to a few teams in the past couple of years, Versteeg has shown that he has loads of potential. Just 25-years-old, Versteeg already has three twenty-goal seasons to his name, and a Stanley Cup ring. Not to mention, he may be available to sing at your next big gathering.
The probable second line for the Panthers features a similar combination: two new Panthers and a familiar face. David Booth is the mainstay, and boasted a team-high 23-goals last season. His blazing speed and aggression to shoot give the Panthers a solid weapon up front. Tomas Kopecky enjoyed a breakout season last year, recording 42 points in 81 games for the Chicago Blackhawks. He’ll have a chance to show that the progression is a trend playing in a top six role for the Cats. Scottie Upshall should round out the Panthers top six, after scoring 22 goals and recording 34 points split between Phoenix and Columbus last season. The former sixth overall selection (2002 NHL Entry Draft) could blossom in the role, after setting a career high in goals and points last year.
Although each of those six forwards will make the case to remain firmly planted in that role, there are at least a few players who may push for extra ice time. Playoff wonder Sean Bergenheim scored nine goals in 16 games during last year’s postseason with Tampa Bay, and will certainly garner extra attention if that carries over to this year. Marcel Goc is coming off a year in which he probably would have set career highs across the board had it not been for injury. He'll be waiting to fill in a top-two line center role if the injury bug comes around. Jack Skille is another former top-ten pick that has shown flashes of that talent in his short time with the Panthers. Young Russian sensation Evgeny Dadonov could take a top six role and run with it if he gets an opportunity, after representing the Panthers in the YoungStars Game last season. Also, don’t forget about Shawn Matthias, whose size and skill could become a dangerous combination in an expanded role and Mike Santorelli who could easily find himself back in the top-six after coming back from injury. In the top-six for most of last season, Santorelli posted a career-high 21 goals with the Panthers.
Overall, the Panthers have to be thrilled at the depth they possess at forward. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game, but this year, Florida will be equipped with the weapons to overcome obstacles in their way.
POSTED ON Monday, 10.03.2011 / 5:27 PM
By Andrew Imber for floridapanthers.com
|Washington forward Alex Ovechkin and defenseman Mike Weaver fight for the puck in a game last season at the BankAtlantic Center. Florida went 3-2-1 against the Capitals last season. (Getty Images)
Although the February 1st game will be the third meeting between the Capitals and Panthers in the 2011-12 NHL regular season, it will mark the first game for Florida after the All-Star break. That game really starts the stretch run towards their postseason goal as there will be 34 games remaining on the docket with just over two months to play them. It will be a chance to start that push on the right foot by taking down what many perceive as the Southeast Division favorites.
For the Capitals, the act is wearing thin. Dominant regular seasons followed up by playoff failures are taking a toll on players and fans alike, as they all chase the same dream: the Stanley Cup.
During the offseason, Washington set out to make sure a young core had veteran leadership. They accomplished just that, bringing in playoff hero Joel Ward (seven goals, 6 assists in 12 games), former Panthers netminder Tomas Vokoun (.920 or better save percentage in last three seasons), and defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who is entering his 19th year of service in the NHL. That was added to a roster that is already filled with all-world talent.
The Panthers will have to also contain “The Great Eight,” Alex Ovechkin (32 goals, 53 assists last season), Nicklas Backstrom (18 goals, 47 assists last season), and Alex Semin (28 goals, 26 assists last season) up front. Joining Hamrlik on the back end are offensive dynamo Mike Green (19 goals, 57 assists two seasons ago), Dennis Wideman (10 goals, 30 assists last season), and young up-and-comers John Carlson and Karl Alzner. Between the pipes, Michal Neuvirth will provide solid goaltending whenever Vokoun needs a rest.
As the Panthers make the climb up through the tough Southeast Division, the Capitals will be perhaps the largest obstacle in the way. After posting a 3-2-1 mark last season against the boys from D.C., Florida looks ready for the challenge.