For Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell, last season was tough. It was the first time in a long time that he hadn't gotten a chance to fight for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup. In fact, the last time the blueliner missed the playoffs was the season prior to the 2005-06 lockout.
"You want one shot to win it all and for us that stings a lot," said Campbell on missing the playoffs last season on the Panthers Media Day at the BB&T Center on Wednesday. "It's not a good feeling. You just can't sit back and expect that to happen and accept it."
Missing that chance has Campbell and his teammates all the more anxious to get this season started, beginning with training camp.
"For us it should be a lot of fire in guys and I feel like guys are here ready to get going," said Campbell. "We've got a lot of areas to improve on in a short period of time here in camp. We have to focus on each day and use the most time that we have."
"I'm excited to get this started. It's been a long summer and we all know it was tough last year," said goaltender Jacob Markstrom. "We'll leave that behind us and look forward."
Most of the team has been skating in informal skates at the JetBlue Practice Facility at the Saveology.com Iceplex the past few weeks. On Thursday that changed as the coaches and staff are allowed to host their first official practice and get prepared for the Panthers 20th Season Anniversary opener. There, they'll have exactly three weeks to prepare for the Dallas Stars.
"I've seen it already. The fact they've all come here early and they've all bonded together and they're all in great shape," expressed Panthers GM Dale Tallon when asked about the bitterness of last season's finish and record. "I think they know themselves. They've identified it.
"I think we all pretty well know that we don't want to have another disaster like last year."
While training camp will see 59 players take to the ice looking for a roster spot come opening night, Tallon says that some guys who are still recovering from off-season surgery like Ed Jovanovski, Jonathan Huberdeau, Kris Versteeg and 2013 No. 2 overall pick Aleksander Barkov will be worked back into the flow during training camp.
"Everything is fine. Everyone is on pace to start the season. I'm excited about that," said Tallon. "Jovo, we don't know for sure if he's going to be ready for the season but he'll be ready soon. Overall, everyone else should be ready for the start of the season.
"Guys working in and being cautious and making sure they're ready for the opening game and not the first week of camp."
"I want to get back. It's been a long time and I want to play for sure before the season," said the 2012-13 Calder Trophy winning Huberdeau who Tallon said came into the shortened season with a bit of his hip ailment that caused off-season surgery. "I would like to play some games too to get in game situation. We're going to see how the process goes with my hips. Like I said, I'm feeling good. I don't think I'm going to need some rest. I got rest all summer long."
Injuries helped derail last season but by all indications is the team should be healthy to start this upcoming season. If that's the case then it should provide for a very competitive training camp.
This season's training camp will feature seven pre-season games, including a double header against the Nashville Predators on Monday, Sept. 16 and games around the state of Florida. The Panthers, in fact, will only leave the state of Florida for three of their 21 training camp days as they head to Texas to play the Stars on Wednesday, Sept. 18 and then again on Friday, Sept. 20 in San Antonio.
And that last season's bitterness? It's motivation for the Panthers to put in the work during this training camp and get the season off to a good start.
"I think you're always motivated. If you don't remember how it feels then that's not a good thing because it didn't feel very good at any time or wasn't acceptable," said Campbell. "There's many words you can say about it so I think you think about it but you think about hopefully guys have been on winning teams to and you think about that so you have to put everything in the fold and see how both those remember how both things felt and what you don't want to feel like.
"You want it to be a fun season that goes by real quick and while doing that you win and you have success. That just makes coming to the rink, you're happy every day and makes things go by at the according time schedule."
Upcoming Training Camp Schedule
Sept. 12 – on-ice testing & practice (9 a.m. – Noon) – Saveology.com Iceplex
Sept. 13 – practice (9 a.m. – Noon) – Saveology.com Iceplex
Sept. 14 – practice & intra-squad scrimmage (9 a.m. – Noon) – Saveology.com Iceplex
Sept. 15 – practice (9 a.m. – Noon) – Saveology.com Iceplex
Sept. 16 – doubleheader vs. Nashville (2:30 p.m. & 7 p.m.) – BB&T Center
Sept. 17 – practice (10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) – Saveology.com Iceplex
Sept. 18 – practice (9 a.m. – 11 a.m.) – Saveology.com Iceplex; depart for Dallas 2 p.m.