A floridapanthers.com exclusive, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon will be sharing his thoughts with Panthers and hockey fans throughout the year in his blog entitled G.M. Journal.
We’re halfway through our four-game preseason road trip, and I have to admit, it’s good to finally be playing games. After two exhibition games – a 4-1 win at Carolina and a 3-2 win over Boston last night in Rochester – we’re starting to get a sense of what type of team we have.
For fans, it must have been exciting that young players like goalie Jacob Markstrom
(17 saves, 0 goals against) and Erik Gudbranson
(1 goal, 1 assist), excelled in their first NHL game action. And of course its nice to have David Booth back and playing the way he is capable of, with two goals in last night’s win over Boston.
All told, it’s been a successful training camp thus far. It was incredibly positive for the organization to spend a week of rookie camp and a week of main camp in South Florida at the Saveology.com Iceplex. From a player and staff point of view, we were home and able to spend time with our families and sleep in our own beds every night.
It was an added bonus to practice in front of our own fans, whose support has been nothing short of extraordinary since we opened camp. I was particularly impressed with the turnout for our first rookie game against the Nashville Predators, when over 1,500 fans packed the Iceplex.
That tells me that there is some real, sincere excitement about this organization, and for hockey in South Florida. But now it’s time to do our jobs, to reward that support and grow it by putting a winning team on the ice.
We know it can be done here. Talk to Director of Player Development Brian Skrudland or Assistant Coach Gord Murphy – both original Panthers – and they’ll tell you about the mid-90s when the Panthers won, and subsequently owned the town.
We want to bring that feeling back, as quickly as possible, and this Training Camp is just another step toward that goal. The puck has dropped and the evaluation process has truly begun.
During the offseason, it’s easy to envision where everyone will fit. It’s during the offseason when every piece fits neatly together, and forms a team that plays well, plays hard, and accomplishes our goals of making the playoffs and contending for the Stanley Cup this year, and into the future. But once the puck drops, that’s when you see what people are made of, what their true colors are, and how the pieces really fall in to place.
Thus far, we’re seeing that we’ve got some pretty good pieces. You’ve got to be impressed with our goaltending, which has seen Tomas Vokoun, Scott Clemmensen
, Tyler Plante and Markstrom all play well, allowing three total goals.
We’ve had a bunch of fresh faces get in the mix as well. Forward Mike Santorelli
and defensemen Dennis Wideman and Nathan Paetsch all scored goals, Andrew Peters dropped the gloves, and Joe Callahan and Scott Timmins
got on the scoresheet as well.
Tomorrow night we get back at it with the Bruins in Boston, and then on to Montreal for a good test in front of hostile crowd at the Bell Centre. Finally, next week the BankAtlantic Center will host its first game of the 2010-11 season, and I expect those same passionate fans to make a good showing.
As of today, we’re just over two weeks until the regular season opener, and I will admit that I’m filled with a mixture of nervousness and excitement. After spending the bulk of my career in Chicago, this is my first season with a new team in over a decade.
Obviously, working with a new franchise with new expectations, and moving with my wife to a new city, lends to the nervousness. But for the most part, I am excited about the challenge that lies ahead. I’m excited to help this franchise get back to the days when hockey ruled this town and our fans had a team that they could all be proud of. Every day is a new step toward that goal.