Denis Potvin Returns as Panthers’ Color Analyst, Bill Lindsay Shifts To New Role

Who says you can never go home again?

Fox Sports Florida underwent a roster shake up this morning to their Florida Panthers’ broadcast crew by announcing the return of former Panthers color analyst Denis Potvin to their crew.

Potvin has spent the past four seasons with Rogers Sportnet providing color commentary for the Senators after his departure from the Panthers in 2009.

Panthers President and CEO Rory Babich had this to say: “We are pleased to welcome Denis back to the broadcast booth for the Florida Panthers. With an exciting season on the ice right around the corner, the addition of Denis, a hockey legend with long-term ties to the organization, to the existing broadcast team of Steve, Billy and Drew promises to provide an enhanced experience for our TV viewers with one of the premier broadcast teams in the NHL.”

“Billy” AKA Bill Lindsay will be shifting to a pre-game, post-game and interview analytic role with FOX Sports alongside Drew Goldfarb.

One key aspect to the Potvin hire is highlighted by Brett Opdyke, the executive producer of FOX Sports Florida: “It also allows us to showcase Bill’s analyst skills on our Panthers LIVE! shows, and gives our broadcasts the added bonus of a second analyst “between the benches” on marquee games.”

This will no doubt be a welcome addition for Panthers fans.

Regardless of the outcome of the 2014-2015 season, we know that the ones under the sun will be covered from top to bottom.

Tallon uses myriad of methods to build rising D corps

There is an old NHL proverb passed down from generation to generation that dictates the winning formula for a team to embrace and thereby succeed: “Build from the back out.”

It is this mantra that hints at stabilizing your core from the defensive side out when trying to build a winning team that can keep winning for years on end.

Dale Tallon inherited a limping roster when he was hired and has gone through the process to turn it into one of the most promising, young and dynamic groups in the National Hockey League. He stabilized his net when he realized Jacob Markstrom was not cut for full-time duty and is now in the midst of cementing his D corps that will hopefully lead to real success in the short and long-term.

Dale Tallon’s defensive rebuild conforms to many rebuilds we’ve seen in the league over the years with one notable exception. He has used key draft picks to select core players, traded for young undervalued players from other organizations and signed complimentary pieces via free agency. Despite taking the beaten path in those regards there, is one piece that he added that did not conform to the traditional rebuild schematic. The piece that I am referring to is Dale Tallon’s long con….but we’ll get to that.

When you look at the Panthers’ potential defense for the upcoming season you see the results of the aforementioned beaten path which Tallon walked with great effectiveness.

The Key Draft Picks

Dmitry Kulikov, drafted 14th overall in 2009, 99 points in 313 games played after making the team directly out of camp after his draft. The Panthers committed to Kulikov long-term and clearly see him as an integral part of their defensive system.

Kulikov ate minutes for the Panthers finishing 2nd on the team in terms of total minutes played and was deployed almost with complete neutrality between the offensive and defensive zone last season, meaning that the coaching staff believed in him in both offensive and defensive situations.

Within the last two years Kulikov has been on the upward swing possession-wise and has had a positive impact on his team’s performance while on the ice.

Next up: Erik Gudbranson, the Panthers’ esteemed 3rd overall selection from the 2010 entry draft. Erik was thrown into the fire as Kulikov was and has been through the struggles that one would expect a young defenseman to go through while playing in the NHL as an under-20 year old. While Gudbranson’s skill set is elite and the talent is obvious, he is only beginning to carve his niche on the ice as was evident at times last season. Regardless of the past, the future is bright for the likely captain of the Panthers and a serious jump (and I mean serious) in possession metrics suggests that he is coming into his own as planned. At 22 and with the best surrounding cast since his debut, Gudbranson is primed for another season of improvement.

Then there’s the 6’3 216 lbs colt in the room, Aaron Ekblad. The Panthers invested heavily in the defenseman in June and undoubtedly plan to make him a part of their core for as long as they can (aka his entire career). Ekblad’s elite talent is undeniable and his ability to transition that from the junior game to the NHL is obviously paramount for the Panthers’ success in any realm. It’s a risk to select a defenseman first overall due to their slow development and potential for failure but the Panthers clearly thought that he was worth the risk so he will have to make it worth their while.

The undervalued trade target

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure has never been truer when it comes to Dylan Olsen (and his fellow former Blackhawk Jimmy Hayes). Chicago deemed Olsen (and Hayes) expendable to regain the services of Kris Versteeg and I believe I would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks the Panthers got the worse end of the deal from a player perspective. Olsen went from a fringe NHLer in Chicago’s system to a mainstay blue-liner in Florida and managed to put up positive possession numbers for the first time in his career with a weaker line up supporting him. Olsen is poised to keep his spot on the blue line out of training camp and cement his spot in the NHL as a valuable top six defender.

The complimentary free agent

Any good GM knows that free agency is for filling out the roster, not building it. When Dale Tallon went on a spending spree in 2011 he picked up players to fill the roster while his prospects were gaining experience in the minor league and junior ranks. That spree pushed the Panthers into the playoffs but that clearly did not equate to long-term success. Tallon’s youth is finally maturing and he is now at a stage where he can use free agency to go after players he deems suitable for his squad.

Enter Willie Mitchell. Mitchell is the kind of player that GMs love. He’s a winner at all levels winning an ECAC title with Clarkson University, a IIHF World Championship gold medal and of course the two Stanley Cups with the LA Kings in 2012 and 2014. He is a 12 year NHL vet who has made a positive impact on every team he has played for. He is a leader who leads by example and is not afraid to put his body on the line as is evident by his team-leading 128 blocked shots last year. To impress you more, even with Mitchell’s high blocked shot totals he is still a fantastic possession player who creates more positive possession events than he gives up and considering he blocked 128 shots last season that is a lot of positive possession events.

Mitchell will bring a sense of stability to the Panthers defense this season. He will be a solid veteran presence to the young guns both on and off the ice and of course will be relied upon heavily by the coaching staff in key situations when needed.

The long con

Finally, we get to Brian Campbell.

When Brian Campbell was traded to the Florida Panthers on June 25th 2011 the narrative was that of “A cap dump by Chicago to rid themselves of a shell of a player that they thought they were getting to a team he won’t succeed with.”

Not exactly a rousing endorsement for the Panthers, but after finishing last in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs for the 10th straight year the pundits didn’t have to be generous to the team in Sunrise. From the Panthers’ perspective it was more than a cap relief favor to the GM’s previous employer, it was the start of the locomotive that was and is Dale Tallon’s rebuild of the Florida Panthers.

NHL GMs think that far ahead and that’s what Dale Tallon was doing when he traded for Campbell. He acquired a piece that would help the team in the short-term and one that would evolve into the cornerstone of his defensive corps in the long-term.

Tallon took it on the chin when he traded for Campbell but he is only reaping the benefits of acquiring a premiere all-around defenseman who can, has and will do it all for the Panthers.

Let’s talk leadership. Brian Campbell epitomizes the word.

I don’t just mean that he is a “leader,” of course he’s a leader. He’s a 35 year old decade plus player with 838 games under his belt. He’s a Stanley Cup Champion, has been a Captain, an alternate captain and is a poised and professional person who deals with fans and media with aplomb. His career speaks for itself in terms of intangibles but I want to talk about the aspects of his game that makes him the cornerstone of the team.

When I said leader I meant “leader” as in team leader in 5 on 5 ice time since he was traded to the Panthers. In fact he led by 288, 220 and 281 minutes within the past 3 seasons, which is insane. He has either led or finished 2nd in shots taken by a defenseman since his Panthers debut and has been among the team leaders (and led in 13-14) in blocked shots. He finished 2nd, 1st and 1st since the 11-12 season in takeaways by a Panthers defenseman. To top it all off, since 2011-2012 Campbell has led all Panthers’ D in points.

Beyond these stats, his possession numbers are exceptional.

He boasts a 52.1% Corsi For Percentage which means that when Campbell is on the ice 52.1% of the total shot attempts are going towards the opposing team’s net. To give you a comparison, that is 38th best among defenseman after the 13-14 season and best on the Panthers by 1.5%, which is astounding. Campbell literally drives possession forward for the Panthers better than any other D by a significant margin.

In terms of Fenwick (shots directed toward the net that aren’t blocked) Campbell clocked a 52.5%, 1% better than the closest Panthers D and good for 39th in the league.

These numbers are even more impressive when you take into account that Campbell played the 3rd most 5 on 5 minutes out of any defenseman in the NHL. To add to his impressive resume his 5 on 5 Zone Start Ratio is 50.8% meaning that he was nearly evenly distributed between the offensive and defensive zone which alludes to my “all-around player” label.

What impresses me most about Campbell’s metrics are his Relative Corsi and Fenwick numbers. He is a +3.0% 5 on 5 Corsi and Fenwick player which means that the team is much better (3% better) at possession when he is part of the 5 man on-ice unit. That is, again, a full percent higher than the next Panthers D which means he is better at making the team better than any other defenseman on the team.

With skating that cuts the ice like a knife does warm butter, a hard and accurate shot with a quick release, a premiere first pass and exceptional defensive skills, Brian Campbell is the whole package for the Panthers. He is the unequivocal cornerstone of a defensive group that has been carefully constructed and perfected over the years. Campbell was brought in with the knowledge that he would one day be this player for the team. He knows what it means to be a Panther, he wears an A and is a strong candidate to wear the C and has been through the absolute worst the franchise has seen. With the team ready to rise up from the bowels of the NHL, Brian Campbell is at the helm.

With less than two months until opening night, the current blue-line for the Panthers is shaping up to be one of the most talented defensive corps the franchise has seen in a long time.

Ekblad Leaves Team Canada Development Camp With Concussion

There were rumblings of Aaron Ekblad sustaining an injury earlier this week and they came to fruition this morning when Team Canada released the news that the 2014 1st overall selection suffered a concussion.

The Panthers’ first selection at the 2014 draft was participating in Team Canada’s  annual Summer Development Camp, a tune up camp to perform preliminary evaluations for this winter’s World Junior Hockey Championships in Montreal and Toronto.

 

Ekblad has been sent home from the camp but is expected to make a full recovery by Panthers’ training camp which is good news for Panthers fans who are hoping to get a good look at their potential star D-man.

Panthers GM Dale Tallon had this to say: “We have been in communication with Team Canada and have mutually agreed to hold Aaron out for the remainder of the summer development camp, as a precautionary measure,”

While the language here is not as concerning as it can be, concussions are always a sensitive topic and the team and Ekblad himself should approach this setback at a snail’s pace.

“We will closely monitor Aaron’s health for the remainder of the offseason and expect him to be ready for our rookie camp in mid-September.” Tallon added.

It seems like the right steps will be taken to assure a full recovery.

VIDEO: Paige Lewis from Panther Parkway chats with Hockeybuzz

Our very own Paige Lewis was today’s guest on Hockeybuzz.com’s Hokeybuzzcast!

Check out Paige as she goes head to head with Josh Rimer, Mike Augello and Eklund here:

Paige talks in depth about the Panthers, and fields questions from the rest of the panel.

Enjoy!

How can the Panthers fill their rink?

With single game tickets going on sale early Friday morning, I spurred a debate on the Twitter by suggesting that ticket sales would be on the rise for the upcoming 2014-2015 season. Aside from the usual scoffs at the notion that the Panthers can get people in the building, there were some good points made about the slow but sure culture change that is going on in Pantherland.

It is no secret that I have professed my belief in the “Hockey is the business” model for the Panthers and from what I have seen, the ownership and front office seem to agree. The Panthers have spent big on free agent day and are poised to ice a line-up that they believe to be a competitive one. The Panthers spent big in 2011 and went into the year with a Frankenstein team that ended up winning the Southeast Division. This year the Panthers spent their money filling out a roster with a young and rising core with key and complementary players that will each contribute in their own way.

This orchestra conducted by Dale Tallon and backed by his ownership team all lead up to two variables that directly correlate to one another: Fans in the stands and wins on the score sheets.

Over the last 5 years you can see a shift in capacity percentage at the BB&T Center

Year Capacity Percentage Record
2008-2009 78.7 32-37-13
2010-2011 81.5 30-40-12
2011-2012 86.4 38-26-18
2012-2013 88.3 15-27-6
2013-2014 75.5 29-45-8

Source: http://www.hockeyattendance.com/team/florida-panthers/

A lot goes in to the attendance of an NHL team but the common denominator is always the on ice product. Fans will watch a team that they think can win games. That’s sports fans 101, nothing new. You can see a steady increase in attendance from 2008-2012 that culminates in the season following the Southeast Division Championship and subsequent first round elimination. Unfortunately that momentum was met with the team’s worst finish in 5 years leading up to their worst attendance in the same span.

If the fans don’t expect wins then the team shouldn’t expect the fans.

So what makes this year different? Is this year even going to be different? I’ll spare you the optimistic rant but Tallon’s rebuild is in full swing. The core is there, the complimentary parts have been acquired and the team is poised to ice the most competitive version of themselves that the league has seen in a long while.

The marketing side has done its job to set the tone for the upcoming season. They have started to build fan pride and unity with their “One Under The Sun” slogan. They have created and upheld the buzz of the youth movement with the “Be Here to Witness” campaign. In addition to the posters and social media efforts, Tallon was also fairly blunt about the acquisition of Roberto Luongo being as much of a marketing move as it was a hockey move. Tallon was right to do it; Luongo’s presence has not only excited the fans but brought a media relevance that the Panthers have lacked in recent years.

These actions appear to have the market ready to go for the 2013-2014 season but it ultimately comes down to the on-ice product. The Panthers on ice play will dictate if the initial surge of season-opening attendance will linger or taper off.

When a fan base is used to a losing team and starving for a winning one, the sheer notion of competitive hockey can be enough to bring fans in. I think that this will be the driving force behind the resurgence of the attendance at the BB&T Center. The fans will slowly realize that this team is V.2 of a rebuilt squad that is slowly coming into its own. They will see the dynamic youth, the scoring veterans, the entertaining goaltending and be drawn in as they have in the past.

The Panthers have a tough task ahead of them, but they are primed to surprise and with that the seats will be filled.

2014 Draft Profile: Sam Reinhart

Welcome one and all to the Sam Reinhart prospect preview. /thunderous applause/. This is a continuation of Panther Parkway’s 2014 Draft Profile Series. Considering this piece will be profiling the Kootenay Ice phenom Sam Reinhart I took the liberty of seeking out the sage wisdom of Cody Nickolet. Cody, formerly @WHLfromabove and now @avs_tweets on twitter, is an expert on Canadian Major Junior hockey with a specific focus on the Western Hockey League.

Cody was great enough to partake in an interview centering around top prospect Sam Reinhart, so here we go:

Mike Obrand: For our readers who may not be familiar with you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your familiarity with the Western Hockey League (WHL)?

Cody Nickolet:  I’ve worked in the league for the past 4 years, doing a little bit of everything including radio color commentary, managing the communications and community relations departments for the Saskatoon Blades.  Along with that I’ve worked as a scout of WHL talent for a pair of different draft publications, while also maintaining a blog and personal set of NHL Draft rankings featuring WHL players.  This year I also did a bit of bantam scouting for the Blades, which is nice as I get a more hands-on feel for all the players who will be entering the league over the next couple of years.

So now that you all know who we’re dealing with here, let’s get to the topic at hand.

Standing tall at 6’1 and weighing in at 183 lbs, Sam Reinhart has been hailed as one of the top prospects heading into the 2014 NHL draft. Through 4 seasons playing for Kootenay in the WHL he has amassed 101 goals and 153 assists for 254 points in 203 games, including an astounding 105 points in 60 games this past season. Through 29 playoff games he has tallied 26 points including his 23 points in 13 games in 2014.

Reinhart ranks 2nd overall among Bob McKenzie’s April 15th pre-draft rankings, 3rd overall among North American skaters in the NHLs CSS final rankings and 1st overall on the ISSs rankings as of June 3rd.

While opinion on his draft stock differs it is needless to say that Reinhart is a top 3 talent in this upcoming draft.

You know that the Panthers have the first overall selection. Will they use it on Reinhart? Should they? Well…

MO: First off, to be blunt: do you think that Sam Reinhart should go 1st overall in the 2014 entry draft?

CN:  Unfortunately, I don’t think he should.  And that’s not because I don’t like him as a player, I do.  I think he’s just in a bit of a tough spot this year, mostly because of the class of 2014.  It’s not a super strong crop at the top and unfortunately that leaves him in a somewhat bad light.  As for the rest of his competition at the top in 2014, the guy for me is Aaron Ekblad.  Not only is he a do-it-all defender with size, but I’m usually a guy that wants to ensure my team has a solid core of defenceman going forward.  Is Aaron Ekblad a legit 1st overall type of guy in another draft year?  I would probably say no to that too, so it’s not only a guy like Reinhart who might take some undue criticism in a few years when looking back at this class.

Cody blames the overall talent of this class for the lack of a clean cut number one pick, which I agree with. Teams will look at need over flat out ability. The Panthers have a solid crop of young forwards with skill so the time may come to go for the top flight defenseman, as Cody suggests.

Nevertheless, Sam Reinhart is a player that would help any team including the Panthers. Let’s take a closer look.

MO: Can you speak about the play style of the Kootenay Ice and how Reinhart fits in with that style?

CN: This is an interesting question, just because Reinhart has had two different coaches during his time with the Ice.  When he first entered the league he played under Kris Knoblauch.  He was a young coach who played an extremely disciplined system.  They could lock it down as good as any team in the CHL, and they won a WHL title with him at the helm in 2011.  Reinhart was a 15 year old on the team at that time and wow was he ever impressive then.  He was so smart and fit in well as a 3rd line center with a cage on, due to his age.  It’s pretty unbelievable thinking back to those early games of his WHL career.  Since then they’ve hired Ryan McGill, who really lets the offensive guys be creative and likes to play with much more tempo than the previous staff did.  They’ve had an extremely small top 6 in the last couple of seasons and like to play with speed.  That speed has forced other teams to back off when trying to defend, and Reinhart has used his vision, hockey sense and passing ability to shred teams apart.  He’s a great fit for how they play and in the end it’s likely an offensive style that was molded to make a player like him succeed by using his best talents.

This seems like a very good fit from a Panthers perspective. Dale Tallon has preached that he wants an offensive coach who knows how to utilize the talents at his disposal. There is no doubt in my mind that Sam Reinhart would flourish in such a system as he has with Kootenay.

MO: What would you say are Reinhart’s most attractive assets as an NHL prospect?

CN:  First things first, his hockey sense.  In my several years following the WHL and hockey prospects closely, I don’t think I’ve seen a player as smart as Sam Reinhart.  He processes the game at such a high level, really approaches his offensive attack like a game of chess.  He knows where to go to and where to put pucks in order to generate offensive chances.  To go along with that, his passing ability and vision are both phenomenal.  You mix in a shot that’s steadily improved over the last few years and you have a guy that can beat you in a variety of ways, and often does.

I don’t think there’s much more that you want from a prospect. A lot of the time you see that a player has the skills but lacks the sense. In Reinhart’s case you can see that first and foremost his hockey sense is his best asset. The ability for a player to see two steps ahead and act instead of react is something that makes a star NHL player.

MO: What would you say are Reinhart’sleast attractive assets as an NHL prospect?

CN: His skating has always been an area that I looked to as an area that needs to improve.  He’s a fine skater at the junior level, but he’s not an overly dynamic player.  There aren’t too many games where I’ve seen him blow by defenders or catch guys flat-footed.  I think his stride is ok, I just think it will take some time for him to get a stronger lower body and to work on his explosiveness and footwork.  If he can ever get that part of his game to an “above-NHL-average” level, he could be an extremely dangerous weapon to have.

Strength comes with time and Reinhart has just that. As he continues to grow and train with NHL players with NHL regimens you’ll see that leg strength come into play. Chances are he won’t reach the elite level in terms of his skating but I don’t think that will hamper his career as an NHLer.

MO: How high is Reinhart’s ceiling? What role do you project him to fill when he reaches his prime?

CN: I think he has the ability to be a middle of the pack 1st line center. That might sound harsh, but I think he could end up being a guy that’s not quite a top 10 center in the NHL, but is more of a guy who is ranked 10-15 in that area of the league.  I don’t see him as a true franchise cornerstone guy, even though I’m sure some scouts do.  Ideally for me he would be a guy that is one day a fantastic second line center on a championship-caliber team.  I think he’ll be a captain of an NHL team one day and a guy that can play first line powerplay minutes and also someone who can kill penalties if you need him to.

Obviously if you’re picking somebody first overall you want them to be a franchise player. The perceived weakness of the draft class may be hurting Reinhart here but I think it would be perfectly acceptable for a team to select this type of potential 1st overall should the team need these services and talents.

MO: Is Reinhart NHL ready?

CN:  This is a tough one.  I think it really depends on the team and situation he ends up in.  If you just analyze his game, he’s very close.  He’s so smart and can think his way around the ice.  But, can he get around the ice well enough as an 18 year old?  That’s debatable, but probable.  Can he match up physical against grown men as an 18 year old?  That’s also debatable, but less likely to be probable.  I think if Reinhart was going to an established team that could insulate him effectively and protect his minutes, it would be an easy yes for me.  But, if he ends up with a team like Florida or Buffalo or Edmonton, teams who lack some size, depth and experience up front, things get more tricky.  In the end, with a gun to my head, I say Reinhart plays in the NHL in 2014-15. 

Slotting a player in based on need isn’t necessarily the best way to go when it comes to developing prospects but if a player is going to help you win then it shouldn’t be a question. As a winger, Reinhart can slot into the Panthers lineup immediately and make a difference but I don’t think he is best suited there as Cody indicated above.

It might be a blessing in disguise for Reinhart as the Panthers’ do have great depth down the middle. Another year in Kootenay could help his strength and stock before cracking the NHL down the middle later on his career.

Is a center what the Panthers need most with the top pick? I don’t believe so, but a player of Reinhart’s caliber is something that no team can afford to pass on.

Luckily, or unfortunately, for the Panthers it is their choice to make.

A big thank you to Cody Nickolet for the interview.

Drew Shore Dazzles Hockey World in Belarus

                                               fortunecookie

Drew Shore thought it was a bit odd when he received the above fortune cookie at Belarus’ lone Chinese dining establishment last night, but that didn’t stop him from fulfilling said prophecy.

Warning: The goal you are about to watch may cause heavy breathing, loss of consciousness and in the case of German defender Constnatin Braun: death.

shore

Need a minute? Need to sit down? Need to reflect upon your existence? Go ahead, I have time.

Drew Shore ladies and gentlemen.

Despite a thrilling Stanley Cup Playoffs and obtaining the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft it’s been a long off-season for Panthers fans so let’s talk about this goal in frame by frame detail.

  • Shore bears down on Braun from the leftwing looking to the right side with his stick elongated in an attempt to lure the defender to play the pass.
  • Braun bites as he has no chance as Shore dips his shoulder and brings the puck between his legs, past a helpless Braun, to his backhand. (note how Braun doesn’t even have time to get his stick in position. He tries to interrupt Shore’s deke with an outstretched knee)
  • Shore then drives the net as German goalie Danny aus den Birken prepares for a poke check.
  • Shore reads it all the way by switching to his forehand, evading the pokecheck, and sliding the puck 5 hole.
  • Shore scores a really, really, really nice goal.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I look forward to Shore performing feats like that in Sunrise.

Credit to @myregularface for the GIF

How Important is Luongo to the Florida Panthers Brand?

In a piece from Panthers.com, the Florida Panthers new (former) franchise goalie mused over his new/old found fame in South Florida. He said things like “I swear, every time I go out, there are people recognizing me, which I don’t remember as much when I was younger” and “I feel like I’m more popular here now than when I played here, for some reason, which is crazy.”

Well Roberto, when you consider the reason, it’s not that crazy.

South Florida has been waiting for you (well, the idea of you) for a long time.

The Panthers have been one of the NHL’s fringe teams for a while in terms of on ice play and public image but as most of us on Panther Parkway have pointed out; those days are numbered.

Jameson Cooper outlined how to improve the Panthers’ brand in a piece earlier this week, which continued with our theme of “Hockey IS the business,” the regime ownership is slowly but surely putting into place. They’re doing it by promoting players instead of cars and wins instead of restaurants. They’re doing it by putting their faith in the brand that is the Florida Panthers’ on ice product rather than what surrounds the ice. The rebuild that Dale Tallon is undertaking is playing a huge part of that rebrand, but the “new” rebuild of the franchise has been underway for months and will continue to evolve as the year progresses. In terms of the rebrand, the acquisition of Roberto Luongo officially kicked it into relevancy.

For years, Luongo has been widely recognized as one of the league’s elite netminders. He boasts a career .919 save percentage and a 2.51 Goals against average. He has 373 career wins and only has one season with fewer than 30 wins since 2004. Despite his age, his reflexes are still sharp, positioning is sound and his passion for the game is as high as it ever was.

When it comes to the on-ice product, the Panthers and their fans shouldn’t be worried about what Luongo brings to the table. But the “Luongo Effect” that I am alluding to doesn’t refer to what he’s capable of doing between the pipes.

As Tallon said: “This is the beginning of something special for this Florida Panthers organization, having Roberto back in the fold and back here in Florida where he belongs.”

Operating under the “Hockey IS business” model, Tallon knows that Luongo is the perfect amalgamation of those terms. Luongo is charismatic, fan-friendly and known league-wide. He’s active on social media, makes TV appearances and is known for his quick wit with the press.

You have to think that Dale had all this in mind when he brought Luongo back to the Panthers. The Panthers as a franchise desperately needed a poster boy who the rest of the league can identify and gravitate to.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that Tallon wants that gravitation towards the Panthers.

Tallon has said that he wants to win, that he can win and that he will win. He’s well on his way to building a winner and bringing in a high-profile talented player with league wide fame is only going to help his cause.

In concordance with his push to the top, Tallon has said that he has the resources to spend and that he will do just that to put a competitive winning team on the ice.

How does Luongo fit into that plan? “I’m hoping that it does show other free agents that it is a serious organization and the ownership is definitely committed to winning.” Luongo said. “When you know that the ownership is committed to winning it really does tend to attract players that want to come play. This is a great place to live.”

For too long the Panthers have been without a top-tier ambassador. Money talks, winning talks louder and the combination of the two is exactly what Tallon (and subsequently Luongo) is offering to future Free Agents.

So add another feather to Tallon’s cap because he’s doing everything right when it comes to building a winner.

Hockey IS business. The owners get that, Tallon gets that, and the acquisition of Luongo proves that they’re putting it into place.

Which NHL Playoff Team Should You Root For?

Panther Parkway Playoff Preview

We’re hours away from puck drop for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and it donned on me (and on all around good guy Jameson Cooper) that there may be thousands and possibly millions of you readers out there who don’t have a vetted interest in a team this year. Your team may have not made it to the post-season, you could be a new fan or you could have amnesia…if that’s the case, thanks for reading and consult a physician immediately after reading this post. Whatever the reason may be, if you need to latch on to a team for the post-season then do I have a piece for you! There are 16 teams in this year’s post season, some are good, some are really good, some are really really really good and some are just OK. Let’s take a look at which team may be a good fit for you.

Anaheim Ducks

Do you like Disney movies about a scrappy gang of youths melded together by the bonds of teamwork, being poor, and national pride? If so then the Ducks could be the team you’re looking for. Don’t be confused by their captain’s lack of hair – he’s amazing at hockey and will not let you down if you’re looking for a deep playoff run. The kicker is 92 year Teemu Selanne, who is retiring at the end of these playoffs, so if you’re into nostalgia and crying then you’re on the right path.

Boston Bruins

Nobody in their right mind should cheer for the Bruins so if you’re not in your right mind you can cheer for them I guess. Also I hate you.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been the toast of the NHL for a while now. If you’re that person who wants instant gratification then hitch your horse to the wagon and hang on for dear life. If you’re the person who has never seen a Rocky movie, watches Rocky 4 ,and then tells everyone that you love every Rocky movie then cheer for the Blackhawks.

Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche is made up from a group of young players with an excessive amount of high-end dynamic talent. Players like Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene (injured, but still), Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Paul Stastny, will surely make your eyes pop out of your head. They’re also coached by a crazy person. Their playoff hashtag is #whynotus so if you’re into innovative playoff hashtags you might want to look elsewhere for a team to support.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have made the playoffs for the 2nd time in their history. Good for them right? If you like an underdog and or jokes about fellatio then you should fit right in with this fanbase. The Blue Jackets are this year’s working class blue-collar team so if you get a kick out of those Ford F-150 commercials where the announcer is pretty much reading everything on the screen, then go ahead and cheer for the Jackets.

Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn, best player by far, has led his Stars to the last playoff spot in the West. I’m sure all of Texas is behind them but if you feel like hootin’ and hollerin’ and ho-downin’ and other Texas slangs then hop right on this chuck wagon!

Detroit Red Wings

Detroit has made the playoffs 23 years in a row. They have won only 4 Stanley Cups in that span, so if you like high winning percentages, then don’t root for the Red Wings. If you like Sweden, rookies, cool breakaway moves and great coaching then they may be right up your alley.

Los Angeles Kings

All of LA’s top C list celebrities are totally into the Kings so if you want to head to Staples Center and snap a selfie with Matthew Perry then you’re in the right ballpark. The Kings are a team that Wayne Gretzky used to play for so if you want to impress your friends with that bit of trivia when explaining your fandom then wear that silver and black.

Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey” which would be accurate if Michigan, New York, New Jersey, California, Missouri, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania all didn’t have hockey teams too. Liars.

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal has won the most Stanley Cups out of any NHL franchise with 24. They haven’t won one since 1993 so if you’re looking to get on board with a group of self-entitled history-clutching crazies, who are desperately waiting to see a cup win in their lifetime then mon ami/e you are knocking at the right door. Poutine is fantastic too, that should be good enough.

New York Rangers

The Rangers are one of three teams in New York (keep thinking of that third one). They’re like the Yankees if the Yankees have only won 4 World Series ever and haven’t won one since 1994 and the one before that was in 1940. If you like not having lofty expectations met then go put on a blue shirt.

Philadelphia Flyers

They sing America the Beautiful instead of the Star Spangled Banner so if you like alternate forms of patriotism then cheer for the Flyers. They’re also historically violent, made the Red Army team refuse to play against them because of it and their fans have the reputation of being a-holes. If this made you mad then you’re probably a Flyers fan already.

Pittsburgh Penguins

If you like cheering for the best at anything then step right up and feast your eyes on Sidney Crosby. Supporting the best hockey player in the world is reason enough to cheer for the Penguins and fans have been doing just that since 2005. I’d like to point out that former arguably best player in the world Mario Lemieux partly owns the team and will be shown frequently on TV throughout these playoffs so if you like passing torches from generation to generation then grab a Pens jersey and get ready to be disappointed by Marc Andre Fleury.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have never won a Stanley Cup and have the unfortunate reputation of being “playoff chokers.” If you like great teams with great players then cheer for the Sharks. If you like teal then cheer for the Sharks. If you like the Jaws theme song then cheer for the Sharks. If you want to get offended every time someone mentions the word “choke” then sheer for the Sharks. If you want to be part of their first cup win then don’t cheer for the Sharks because they’re kind of chokers.

St. Louis Blues

Another team without a Cup win ever. A lot of people don’t like the Blues so if you’re a fan of being the outcast who sticks up for their team no matter what horrible thing they do that makes everyone else angry then cheer for the Blues. American almost hero Ryan Miller is their starting goalie. You probably heard of him a few years ago.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Led by elite sniper Steven Stamkos for now, the Lightning are one of those cool teams that doesn’t end in an S. If you like the Oklahoma City Thunder then DEFINITELY cheer for the Lightning because then you can make your twitter handle @ThunderandLightning and you’ll be really cool.

By now you should have a team that suits you perfectly. If you’re still undecided, then refresh this page and read the post again. Go Hockey Go, enjoy the playoffs folks.

Florida Panthers and the Role of Leadership in the NHL

The leadership debate has been kicked into high gear recently in the hockey world and everyone who’s everyone is throwing in their two cents (5 cents if you’re from Canada). Leadership is a tricky notion in any realm to define and quantify, but in the sports world leadership is more like an omnipotent force than quantifiable trait. The inspiration for this piece comes from Steve (Dangle) Glynn, who debates the quantities/qualities of leadership in this video: http://theleafsnation.com/2014/4/7/leadership-in-hockey-what-s-that

Steve questions whether or not leadership is even real, if it’s tangible based on goals, hits, motivational speeches etc. It’s a great video; I’d check it out if I were you.

So what is it? What is leadership?

To re-hash and expand on what Steve said: Is leadership defined by production? Fighting? The notion of clutch-ness? (That’s a whole other can of worms)

Is it defined by being vocal in the locker room? On the bench? On the ice?

Is it by example? Putting your body on the line to help your team win? Attending charity events? Being available to the media no matter the situation?

Is it how you interact with your teammates? Patting them on the back when they do something right? Teaching them when they did something wrong? Calming them down when they’re making mistakes?

Is it just being old? How many cups you’ve won? How many years you’ve been in the league?

To me, leadership is a mixed bag. It’s a combination/selection of everything I listed above and more.

You can sense leadership in sport (and life, really) at any level, from the professional grade to the beer league. There are people who others gravitate to for inspiration, support, guidance or security. There are people who possess those unquantifiable quantifiable qualities that make people gravitate to them.

The term “Leadership” is used so often these days so it’s not insane to see why it’s been watered down and questioned as much as it is being. When a team wins or loses, part of that result was due to what we call leadership. Players cite their captains, alternates, goal scorers, grinders, goalies, coaches etc. as people who were impactful on the game’s outcome. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and are defined by the many variations of leadership. There’s not just one answer, there’s not just one quality, leadership is an orchestra.

When it comes to a team’s captaincy group, I have no doubt that whoever makes the decision takes all of these qualities into account. Technically a team only has captains and alternates so that there is a designated group of people to talk to officials. Obviously that has evolved into what we have today. Being a captain or an alternate is seen as a prestigious honor.

We rank the best captains; we debate if a player should be captain, we even put more weight on a goal when it was scored by a captain or when captains fight! Obviously leadership matters in the NHL and whatever you quantify leadership as it has an impact on how you watch the game and how the game is played.

[Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: