Mike Van Ryn's healthy return could be a huge boost to the Panthers blueline in the upcoming season. Van Ryn only played in 20 games during the 2007-08 season. (Getty Images)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
Sitting behind his desk at BankAtlantic Center earlier in the week, Jacques Martin started to go through his upcoming itinerary.
Let’s see (everyone inhale), there’s a few playoff games yet to attend, then off to the World Championships in Quebec, to Development Camp in Caledon Village, Ontario, to amateur and pro scout meetings, to the NHL Combines in Toronto...
“The month of May is pretty hectic,” admitted the Panther GM.
The season might be over for the Panthers, but, for Martin, things are popping as he looks forward to the 2008-09 season. “There’s a lot to do at this time of the year,” Martin said. “We need to do some re-tooling.”
That includes hiring a new coach, who Martin says does not have to be in place by the June 20 Entry Draft.
“I wouldn’t think I would have a coach hired by the draft,” Martin said. “For the draft, coaches have very little idea of the players being drafted. They don’t have a chance to see them because they’re focused, the demand of their job, is on the team. That’s the thing people sometimes have difficulty understanding. Usually, the coach is responsible for the team. The GM is responsible for the organization.
“That’s why it’s important to have the coach on the same page (as the GM). Look at New Jersey and Detroit. They’ve had different coaches from time to time, but their system of play hasn’t changed. When I came here and became GM, my mandate was to acquire people with more speed and a better understanding of the game, because I really believe it’s important to have smart players and people with character. Now, the difficult part is, it doesn’t happen in one season. It’s a long process. That’s why this organization has struggled, because there was so much change previously.”
Martin’s top priority is getting the Panthers to the playoffs next season, and that means possibly making changes on the blue line, where the Panthers currently have nine defensemen.
Bryan Allen, Jay Bouwmeester, Noah Welch, Karlis Skrastins, Mike Van Ryn and Cory Murphy are all signed through next season. Jassen Cullimore, Magnus Johansson and Branislav Mezei are free agents.
“I think our priority, with all the people we have here, is to get a defenseman with some mobility,” Martin said. “That’s my priority going into the off season. Hopefully, we can get a Van Ryn back healthy.”
The Panthers led the league in man-games lost last season, and many of those came on the blue line with injuries to Welch, Van Ryn and Murphy. The injuries took a toll on the blue line and “hurts your (defensive) pairs,” Martin said.
As for other upgrades? “Whether we try to upgrade through skill or physical play…that’s another question,” he added.