In many ways, the NHL presents "workers" with the most elemental of capitalist employment situations: If you don't do your job well, there's someone ready and waiting to take it.
Legendary Minnesota high-school hockey coach Tom Saterdalen had a favorite expression, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
The Florida Panthers have focused on drafting centers in this decade, starting with Stephen Weiss, the fourth-overall pick in 2001. They used their second, third, fourth and sixth picks in 2002 on centers Petr Taticek (ninth overall), Rob Globke (40th), Greg Campbell (67th) and Vince Bellissimo (158th). Florida's first two picks in 2003 were centers Nathan Horton (third overall) and Anthony Stewart (25th), and Rostislav Olesz was taken seventh overall in 2004.
Campbell, 22, seems to be the original "put me in coach, I'm ready to play" kid. He's eager to please and buoyant off the ice, almost too green, but on the ice, he's sensible and seemingly fatigue-free.
"I think I'm expected to be an energy player," Campbell said. "I have to come every night and be consistent. I have to do what I'm told, I have to kill penalties and be a responsible player. Unfortunately, when you have limited ice time, if you go out there and make a mistake, it's magnified. When my line goes out there, I just try to make the smart play and bring a lot of energy."
Campbell has been playing mostly right wing since turning pro, but he has played center in juniors and in the minors.
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"I played center in the past but not for awhile," he said. "I played center in juniors and during the lockout year in San Antonio. I didn't play any center at all last year in San Antonio. But two years ago, I spent about three-quarters of the season at center. It's not a permanent thing, but I think they think I've been playing all right."
Panthers assistant coach Guy Charron worked with Campbell during the lockout year and reminded Martin that he could play center.
"I was fortunate to work with Greg in San Antonio," Charron recalled. "I brought that up with Jacques in conversations and because of Greg's style, we thought it might be worthwhile to try him there. We thought that because he is intense and aggressive, he might have the kind of success here that he did in the minors. He skates well enough to be in people's faces. It may be an experimental thing but he hasn't had to make a big adjustment."
"Guy is very helpful. He worked with me on the penalty kill and he's been working with me on taking draws," Campbell said. "We just work on a lot of the little things. It's important for me to focus on the little things that will make me successful. Both Guy Charron and George Kingston have spent a lot of time working with me."
Charron is a recognized expert on faceoff skills and strategies and he was pleased when Campbell won five of 10 faceoffs against the Rangers and four of six against the Devils earlier this season. But losing six of eight to the Islanders in the same stretch showed him there's work still to be done. Charron thinks it was only a temporary setback. More importantly, given Campbell's nature, it will spur him to continued hard work.
"He's been doing a great job. It reflects on his personality," Charron said. "He doesn't like to be in a situation where the opposition beats him at anything. So, he tries to excel. He's such a competitive player that's why he can be effective in that area."
If Campbell's famous for anything so far in his career, it was the shorthanded goal he scored for Canada in the 2003 World Junior Championship. The Panthers are using his penalty-killing skills that he began developing under Peter DeBoer and Mike Vellucci when he played for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. Charron says he has the right foundation, but the skill level in the NHL is greater and there's room for improvement.
"We have to work with him to become an effective penalty killer. In the NHL, it's details," Charron said. "For instance, against the New York Rangers' power play, you can't be overly aggressive. You have to know when to pressure and when to back off. He's done a good job. He works at it and he wants to develop into a role like that."
Campbell won a silver medal for Canada at the World Juniors, but he feels his greatest accomplishment was winning the 2003 Memorial Cup with the Kitchener Rangers in his final OHL season. It's all about winning, you see.
"Playing in the NHL is a huge honor," Campbell said. "But winning never gets old. We won the Memorial Cup my last year in junior and that was very exciting. It's everyone's dream to play in the NHL, so it's hard to overlook that. I'm glad to be playing in the NHL but winning the Memorial Cup is my biggest accomplishment so far. It takes so long, you work so hard that when you finally do it, win a championship, it's something that sticks with you for a long, long time.
"It was a thrill to play for my country and scoring that goal was a highlight. That was a huge year for me. We didn't win the gold but it was an amazing time, with the World Juniors being played in Canada. Looking back, I'd have to say that winning the Memorial Cup is more important to me than playing in the World Juniors, where we didn't win.
"I know every kid wants to play for his country and it was a great honor to be selected but winning is the most satisfying thing."