Florida's Dennis Seidenberg
is everything a coach would want in a defenseman.
That's why he was signed by the Panthers to a one-year contract in September and why he'll be representing Germany in the Winter Olympics for a third straight time next month in Vancouver.
"He's come exactly as advertised when we signed him," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer
said. "Based on his performance last year in the playoffs for Carolina, he played big minutes, he blocked shots and he finished hits. He's just a hard guy to play against."
Seidenberg played in 16 of the Hurricanes' 18 postseason games last season, finishing first on the team with 39 blocked shots, second with 59 hits and third in average ice time (22:25) per game. In 70 regular-season games, he finished 17th in the League with 160 blocked shots and was third on the team in hits (146) and ice time (22:19).
Despite a new address this season, Seidenberg, 28, has maintained the defensive mentality that has provided him so much attention throughout his six-plus seasons in the NHL. He's grateful to have another opportunity to join Germany, something that was once a childhood dream and has now become a relative given every four years.
"Playing in Europe is different; when you're younger, and only when you start to see those scouts come out, do you start thinking about the NHL. But, with me, it was a bit later. I was aiming at being an Olympic athlete long before the NHL." -- Dennis Seidenberg
"I didn't think about playing in the NHL until I was drafted, so before that I was thinking about making the national team and playing in those world championships and the Olympics," Seidenberg told NHL.com. "Playing in Europe is different; when you're younger, and only when you start to see those scouts come out, do you start thinking about the NHL. But, with me, it was a bit later. I was aiming at being an Olympic athlete long before the NHL."
He'd prove it too. Seidenberg was taken by the Philadelphia Flyers
with the 172nd pick in the 2001 Entry Draft. He made his Olympic debut with Germany in 2002 before earning his first NHL start with the Flyers during the 2002-03 campaign.
"I'm from a smaller city in Germany, Schwenningen," he said. "They had a team in town and my dad was a physical therapist, so I just kind of tagged along and just started playing hockey that way."
Like so many other European hockey players, he also excelled in other sports.
"I played soccer like everybody else in Germany and also tennis so I was busy," he said. "When I was 13, I went with tennis and hockey and then, when I was 16, just stuck with hockey. It's obviously been a big part of my life. Hockey isn't the biggest sport in Germany, but it was pretty big in my hometown so it was good to experience it.
"I never really had a role model or someone I followed," Seidenberg said. "I just kind of followed the guys who played in my hometown. Those were the guys I cheered for at the Olympics."
Now those same players cheer for Seidenberg.
Coming off his best offensive season in which he established career highs in goals (5), assists (25) and points (30) in Carolina, the steady defenseman was presented a new opportunity in Florida during the offseason.
Seidenberg leads the League in blocked shots (144) and is first on the team in hits (117) and ice time (22:43) -- numbers DeBoer doesn't take for granted. Particularly after the departure of some key defensive members from last season's club, including Jay Bouwmeester
(128 blocked shots in 2008-09), Karlis Skrastins
(171 blocks) and Jassen Cullimore
"We lost Bouwmeester, Skrastins and Cullimore -- some big defensive defensemen," DeBoer said. "They were guys who (blocked shots and hit) for us last year. Dennis was a guy at the top of our list we thought would be able to replace some of those intangibles."
Seidenberg doesn't really give much thought into making those intangible plays however. It's in his blood.
"I never really thought about blocked shots until the last couple of seasons when I realized I had a lot of them," he said. "But I like blocking shots and taking opportunities away. It's just something I enjoy doing. I don't really think about getting hurt or being courageous; it just comes natural."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org