By Glenn Odebralski for floridapanthers.com
|Former Panthers Gord Murphy and Brian Skrudland return to South Florida as part of the Cats hockey operations staff.
For Panthers GM Dale Tallon, there's no better way of making for a bright future than borrowing from the illustrious past.
At least that's what was thought when he hired two players who led the Panthers to the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Stanley Cup final in 1996, to positions on his hockey operations staff.
Tallon tabbed the Panthers first captain Brian Skrudland as the new Director of Player Development and former defenseman Gord Murphy as an assistant coach on head coach Peter DeBoer's staff.
"I wanted to bring back some of the alumni," said Tallon. "Get them involved and bring a sense of family, bring some of the history and the winning tradition in the earlier Panther days."
Adding Skrudland and Murphy to the mix, the Panthers have two people with impeccable resumes, combining for 666 points in 1743 games in the NHL.
"Their passion, their dedication, they've got history – all those things," said Tallon of the additions. "They've been through it and know what it takes down here to be successful.
"They can familiarize our younger players, get them pointed in the right direction as well and they have history and they had success. That's what we want. We want to build that tradition and rebuild that culture of winning and paying the price to win and these guys exemplify that."
|Brian Skrudland was the first captain for the Panthers and played from 1993-97. |
Both Skrudland and Murphy, who were selected by the Panthers in the 1993 expansion draft, couldn't be happier to return to an organization that they still hold highly.
"I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be, first and foremost, back in the game, especially at the level of the Florida Panthers," said Skrudland. "And to be back involved with this team that I have a special place in my heart. I think it's a good fit."
"I spent six great years there," said Murphy. "It's a place that's still very, along with my wife, a place that we hold very close to our hearts. We still have a lot of good friends down there. I've followed the franchise ever since I've left. That organization, that crest, that jersey means a lot to me so I'm really excited and looking forward to this."
It also doesn't hurt that the two are returning together some 14 years after taking South Florida on that wild ride in May and June of 1996.
"Obviously I have got a lot of respect for Screwy, not only as a player and a teammate but as a person," said Murphy. "He was one of the best captains I ever played for and learned a lot from.
"He's still a really good friend of mine so I think it's a great hire and I know he's such a good guy and a caring guy, he's going to be great for the player development portion of it with the guys coming in. I think all the guys that they drafted and, the great draft they had, he's going to be a great addition and fill that role really well."
"I'm thrilled to be coming back with Gordy," said Skrudland. "We had so many good times together and I know as soon as he called the other day and we chatted for a half hour, forty-five minutes, we just chuckled and laughed. Great conversation and I can't wait.
"I know Gord is going to do a hell of a job with Pete and Jim and I know they're all very excited about the whole thing."
|Gord Murphy played in six seasons (1993-1999) for the Panthers as a defenseman. |
While hiring the duo because of their Panthers ties were an added bonus, the characters and the qualities that each of them personified were the main reason that Tallon and DeBoer came about selecting Skrudland and Murphy.
"That position is vital that we stay on top of our young guys," said Tallon of the Director of Player Development position. "Brian's reputation, his knowledge, everything about him is what you want your kids to be like so he'll be perfect in that role"
"We were fortunate that he became available when he made some changes in Columbus," said DeBoer. "I like the fact that he's a former Florida Panther and he had success here but to be honest with you guys that was way down my list on the criteria for finding a good assistant. The number one criteria for me was that we were going to have a very young defensive core this year. The guy had to be a good teacher. He had to be able to present and know the game. Had to have a high hockey IQ and a good work ethic and for me he had to have worked under some great coaches and Gord fit every one of those criteria and happened to be a former Panther which was great.
"This isn't a guy that quit playing in the NHL and hasn't paid his dues. He started at the bottom of the totem pole, worked with a whole bunch of different coaches, has done just about everything on a coaching staff that you can do and I really felt a real chemistry when I interviewed him."
The duo will be very instrumental in the future of the Cats both on and off the ice.
As the Director of Player Development, Skrudland will travel around the world and meet with prospects and draft picks one-on-one while letting them know what being a pro is all about and what it will take to make it.
"This is more of a one-on-one relationship building," said Tallon of Skrudland's position. "Spending time with the player, the coaches and families and the player one-on-one and dedicating his time to the improvement and maturity of our young players.
"I think the idea is that everyone that's on our roster and everybody that's employed for the Florida Panthers to feel like we care about them because we want them to care about us," said Skrudland. "And we want this team moving in the right direction and you can't do it individually, you've got to do it as a group."
For Murphy, it's working with the defensemen on the NHL level and helping speed along the growth process.
"His primary duties will be running the defense and working with our young defensemen," said DeBoer. "You've got (Dmitry) Kulikov. You've got (Jason) Garrison. You've got (Keaton) Ellerby potentially. Potentially (Erik) Gudbranson. It's a big job. For me, maybe the most important job in the franchise going forward with the group we've got. "
Skrudland and Murphy say they are up for the challenge of returning the Panthers to the much better times.
"We want it to be a place where it's tough for teams to come in and play," said Murphy. "I remember what it was like playing there and having buddies on the other team that in warmup would skate by and say 'take it easy on us tonight'.
"Between the competitive team and the fan base there, it was a tough environment to play in. I look forward to trying to pass that along to help that with the team and the players and get that back."
"I think that's the biggest point is that we just want our fans to first and foremost be proud of our effort," said Skrudland. "If they can come to the rink and spend a couple of hundred bucks on a ticket, they should be entertained.
"I think we've done the right things. You look at the people that we've got in our organization, the people that have maybe been there for a couple of years and want nothing more to get their feet wet in the playoffs. I think the excitement in Florida is going to be fantastic for this upcoming season and the people in South Florida are excited about our youth."