Brian Campbell knows the task of helping turn the Florida Panthers into a contender is a challenging one. However, it's one he gracefully accepted back in June when he waived his no-trade clause to once again work with former Chicago Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon.
"It wasn't a case that I really wanted to leave Chicago," Campbell told NHL.com Friday morning during the 2011 Player Media Tour. "I enjoyed my time there and I liked everybody. I liked my lifestyle living in Chicago, and I still am. It was tough, but knowing and talking to Dale Tallon, I knew I could trust him from his days being in Chicago. He's a man of his word. Looking at all the scenarios, I felt it was the best thing for me personally, and that's what I had to look at. I was happy to make the move to South Florida."
Campbell, who helped the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup in 2010, is joining an organization that hasn't made the playoffs for an NHL-record 10 consecutive seasons. But Tallon was awfully busy this summer signing talent that he hopes will end that dubious stretch. Campbell will be joined by newcomers such as Tomas Kopecky, Ed Jovanovski, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall and Sean Bergenheim when the puck drops on Oct. 8 against the New York Islanders.
"I do know some of the guys and I've played with some of them before, so it makes it a lot more comfortable walking into the dressing room," Campbell said. "All the guys that Dale brought in are character guys that have fun coming to the rink. They all want to compete every night. That's going to give us a chance to win.
"I feel like we're going to have success a lot quicker than people think. For us, as long as we think that in the locker room and know that it's playoffs or everything else is a failure and not acceptable, it's a good place to start. I think that's the mindset that we all need to have going into the season."
A shortened whirlwind of a summer has all but come to a close for Tim Thomas.
The Boston Bruins goaltender is finished celebrating a season that saw him win a Vezina Trophy, a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup. With training camp just a week away, Thomas is one of dozens of players participating in the Player Media Tour. On Friday morning, the 37-year-old sat down with NHL.com and was asked to reflect on what has to be an unforgettable summer.
"There were a couple of times where I was able to appreciate it for a short period," Thomas said. "One was just watching the DVD. It reminded me of everything that happened. I think that's what made it kind of hard to appreciate to a certain extent. So many great things happened for us to win the Cup that even if I had the time, it's hard to wrap your mind around everything that had to go right -- the overtime goals, the save by Ryder, coming back in Montreal in the third period with Chris Kelly and Ryder scoring that overtime goal -- the list just goes on and on and on. It's part of what makes it great, but it's also part of what makes it hard to totally soak in and say, 'Wow.' "
Thomas appeared in 57 regular-season games in 2010-11 and went 35-11-9 with a 2.00 goals-against average and an NHL-record .938 save percentage. He followed up with one of more remarkable postseasons in recent memory as he posted a 1.98 GAA, .940 save percentage and four shutouts in 25 games. One might recall that Thomas was Boston's backup goalie during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs and shortly thereafter underwent major hip surgery.
"It was not even knowing for sure whether you'd be able to get to anywhere near the level that I was the first time I won the Vezina (in 2009)," Thomas said. "I don't think it was retirement-serious at any point, but I didn't know if I was looking at spending the rest of my career as a highly-paid backup that was taking all the heat in the media and from the fans constantly."
From the moment he found out he'd be facing John Tavares in a competition at the NHL Store Powered by Reebok, Michael Grabner knew he would be victorious.
The Calder Trophy finalist squeaked past his New York Islanders teammate Thursday afternoon in a skills competition that saw the pair attempt to sell T-shirts to consumers, as well as folding shirts and pressing their names and numbers on Isles' sweaters.
One thing Tavares learned after the competition, though -- Grabner had previous experience.
"It was a little rigged, but my first job was working in a hockey store … I was 14," the speedy Austrian winger said afterwards. "I was used to talking to customers and printing shirts and stuff like that. I'm one-up on Johnny to start the year. It's 1-0 and that's all that matters right now."
Not surprisingly, Tavares first earned his paycheck on the ice. He wasn't pleased in dropping the competition to Grabner, but he was humble in defeat.
"My first job was working for a goalie school," Tavares said. "It was definitely a lot easier than this. I think it was a little bit rigged, but I'll let Mike take this one."
When Doug Weight retired in May, it left the New York Islanders without a captain.
That vacancy is expected to be filled, with the most likely candidates being Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo. But if John Tavares joins that mix, that's just fine the third-year pro who turns 21 this month.
"I'd love to be (captain)," Tavares told NHL.com Thursday morning. "I definitely understand maybe I am still too young and just need to worry about the game, but if it was presented to me, it definitely would be something I would talk about and make sure it's the right decision for the group and for myself as well. I'd love to be a leader of this team.
"Mark Streit and Kyle are great guys and are going to be highly recommended, for sure. But I still feel I'll be a big leader no matter what, and I'll still have a lot of responsibility in a lot of ways. Whatever way it goes, it's going to be a guy that definitely deserves it and will do a great job at it. If I get the opportunity, it would be a huge honor."
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He's only 17 but he can see the ice so well and he moves the puck and goes to the open ice all the time, so I just think he's a player that is ready to play in the NHL. I'm really looking forward to coaching someone like this.