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Leading In The Trenches

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Signing with the team in July, Cory Stillman brought 839 games, 234 goals and 368 assists along with 2 Stanley Cups with him to the Panthers. This season, the forward has 12 goals and 23 assists.  (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
By Dave Joseph for

CORAL SPRINGS – When veterans Cory Stillman and Bryan McCabe moved south over the off-season to the Panthers, they realized their work wasn’t going to be restricted just to the ice.
On a team with eight players 25 years of age or younger, McCabe and Stillman were going to be looked upon to help guide a young team back to the promised land.
So far the two veterans with more than 1,800 NHL games between them have delivered.
Stillman, a two-time Stanley Cup winner who signed as an unrestricted free agent July 1, is fourth on the team in scoring (35 points) and second in assists (23), while McCabe, who waived a no-trade clause after seven seasons in Toronto, has 25 points with five of his 10 goals on the power play.
“The two have brought leadership on and off the ice,” said GM Jacques Martin.
When asked to describe Stillman and McCabe’s contributions off the ice, center Stephen Weiss responded; “Leadership is the first thing to come to mind.”
McCabe, who had a sometimes tumultuous relationship with the fans of Toronto, injured his back in the Panthers first game of the season and missed the next 10. But the 13-year NHL defenseman has since been a leader on the blue line and has quarter-backed the Panther power play.
“I knew it was a young team here, and I’ve been around a lot of years and played with a lot of great leaders and learned a lot,” McCabe, 33, said. “So, for sure, when I came here I saw myself in a (leadership) role. It’s the type of guy I am. I talk a lot. I try to be very vocal. I certainly wasn’t going to change that coming down here.”
Stillman, in his 14th NHL season after splitting last season in Carolina and Ottawa, has also been a key to the Panther power play. Despite missing 16 games this season with a concussion, Stillman is on a tear, collecting points in (six) consecutive games before Thursday night and (nine) of the last (11) games.
“I sort of new coming in, too, that my role would change a bit here,” Stillman, 35, said. “They are a young team, with the captain leaving. They’re looking for a different approach, a different view, and I wanted to be part of that.”
Coming over in a trade with Toronto in September, Bryan McCabe has brought 917 games, 115 goals and 303 assists to the Cats lineup entering this season. He has 10 goals and 15 assists this year for the club. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
Martin said both McCabe and Stillman have been big contributors on the power play.

Off the ice?
“I think (McCabe) is one of the main leaders in the dressing room,” he said. “Cory also brings leadership, and I think he’s been a positive influence on some of our younger players with his commitment off the ice.”
Panther coach Peter DeBoer said he never spoke to either McCabe or Stillman about being leaders. “That came with them,” he said. “It comes with years of experience and winning Stanley Cups. They’re both consummate professionals and they know what to do and what to say and when to say it.”
Forward Brett McLean called Stillman and McCabe “real positive guys, real fun guys.”
“They’ve been through the trenches, been through the wars,” he said. “It’s just nice to have guys who every single day know what it takes to win. They just have that calm demeanor that you only learn over time. It’s not something that can be manufactured. They make things light when they need to be and get serious when they need to be, too. They’ve been a great influence on this entire room.”
The Bruins will skate Saturday night into BankAtlantic Center after having a three-day break. Since snapping a four-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory Tuesday against the Hurricanes, the Panthers have been in South Florida. They took the day off Wednesday, golfing or deep-sea fishing, and have been practicing at BankAtlantic Center Thursday and Friday.
Despite losing four in a row to Philadelphia, San Jose, New Jersey and Nashville between Feb. 7-14, coach Claude Julien told he was happy with the way his players and coaches responded.
“I think we handled it really well,” Julien said. “And I say we because even the coaches (persevered). If you start harping on losses, it becomes heavy. But at the same time, you create a little bit of desperation to win the next game.
“I think that’s what happened, nobody panicked. But we all showed some desperation, that wanting to win.”
The lines they’ve been working with include Marc Savard with Milan Lucic and Blake Wheeler, David Krejci with Phil Kessel and Vladimir Sobatka and Patrice Bergeron with P.J. Axelsson and Chuck Kobasew.
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