CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Jamie McGinn has been living in the Sunshine State for less than a week, but the gritty veteran forward already believes he's found a home with the Florida Panthers.
Acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Jason Demers on Sunday, McGinn has a proven track record as an effective bottom-six forward, with the majority of his goals being scored near the crease - a.k.a. dirty goals.
McGinn, 29, had 17 points (9-8-17) in 72 games for Arizona last season and has amassed a total of 184 points (100-84-184) in 522 games during his nine NHL seasons with the Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche.
"One of the things that this team didn't do well enough last year was have that shooting mentality and the second and third chances around the net," head coach Bob Boughner said of McGinn. "I think that's what he's going to supply. He's going to put his body in the blue paint and take a little abuse and score a goal, pay the price to score some goals."
Following Saturday's practice at the Panthers IceDen, McGinn sat down with FloridaPanthers.com's Jameson Olive to discuss the transition from Arizona to Florida and what he can do to help the Panthers reach the playoffs in 2017-18.
FloridaPanthers.com: What was the first thing that went through your mind when you heard that you had been traded to the Panthers?
McGinn: I was initially shocked. It's training camp time, so you don't expect a trade to happen. I just got pulled in [to the office] and was told. I was shocked at the start, but right after, when it sunk in, I was very excited. It's a good opportunity for myself and hopefully a good opportunity for Jason [Demers] as well. Any time you get to come and join a solid squad like this, we should be fighting for the playoffs immediately. [The Panthers] are very good up front and good between the pipes and have a strong defense. That's something to be pretty excited about.
FloridaPanthers.com: I know it's only been a few days, but how quickly were you able to get a feel for the room and pick up on the fact that this team could be a playoff contender?
McGinn: It's an exciting time. Right away, you notice how big the team is. We're a very tall and heavy team, so if we can play like that then that's good. I'm going to try and bring a heavy element, you know, play between the whistles, play hard and be competitive in front of the net. The last few days I've just been getting to know the other guys. It's a good group. They have each other's backs and want each other to do well. At the end of the day, the goal is to win the Stanley Cup, but first you've got to make the playoffs. That's the goal right now.
FloridaPanthers.com: What can you do to help this team?
McGinn: Just lead and do the right things. I like to chatter a lot [laughs]. It's pretty early right now, but once I get to know the guys I'll be a little more vocal. It's just doing the little things like being good along the walls in our end, getting pucks out and just playing hard. I think sometimes being a leader isn't all vocal. It's doing the right things out there. If you just continue to work, the young guys will follow. I think that's another way you can lead.
FloridaPanthers.com: You had 17 points (9-8-17) in 72 games last season. As someone who scored nearly 40 points just a few seasons ago, what do believe you need to do to get back to playing at that level?
McGinn: Just grind away. Keep your head down, work and do the little things right. There's no special thing. I think it's just putting in the extra time in practice and getting the confidence back. I've got to just bear down in front of the net. You only have one or two quality chances a game, if that. If you do get that opportunity you have to make sure that you hit the back of the net because you don't know when the next one is going to be. As long as you practice hard and put the time in, you'll be ready when the opportunity comes during the game.
FloridaPanthers.com: With a new coaching staff coming in this offseason, you are actually only a few days behind the other guys when it comes to learning Bob Boughner's new system. How much does it help to be joining a new team when everyone is starting over together?
McGinn: It definitely helps a lot when it's a new system and everyone's learning at the same speed as I am. I'm only five days behind. But now, going into my tenth year, I've seen a lot of these systems before; it's just different terminology. I think the biggest thing is reminding myself what the terminology is here and what we're doing. It's a lot of information to take in, but I'm trying to learn as fast as I can. Once you get it and you do it every day and get into the routine, it's automatic. I want to be one of those players.
FloridaPanthers.com: You spent today skating on a line with Nick Bjugstad and Radim Vrbata. It's only one practice, but what have you liked about playing with Bjugstad thus far?
McGinn: Huge reach, great hands and can find the back of the net. I know we've talked about how he had a down year last year and I was the same way. We both hope to life each other and get behind each other and also push each other. The good things will happen. The skill [on the Panthers] down the middle and on the wings is just incredible. If I'm playing with [Bjugstad], it's going to be our job to get better and push each other and come out with better years than last year.
FloridaPanthers.com: In recent years you've played for a handful of warm-weather teams, such as Arizona, Anaheim, and now Florida. Are you feeling pretty lucky about the places you've landed so far in your career?
McGinn: I'm not complaining [laughs]. I don't want to be moving around too much anymore. I'd like this to be a home, but it starts with myself and working hard. I've been very lucky. Being a Canadian and growing up with the snow and everything, I consider myself very soft now. I enjoy the warm weather. I'm enjoying this and being near the beaches is never a bad thing either.
FloridaPanthers.com: Your brother, Tye, is currently a part of Tampa Bay's organization while your other brother, Brock, is with the Carolina Hurricanes. What is it like being a part of such a big hockey family and how nice is it to be back playing in the Eastern Conference with them?
McGinn: We follow each other, you know, day in and day out. We talk on the phone and we text. We're in communication all the time. They're very excited to have me back in the same time zone and be able to play each other a lot more. My parents come out here in the wintertime as well in Fort Myers. They drive back from Tampa to here. It's not that far in between [Sunrise] and Fort Myers. It's a good spot for them. We enjoy being here. Now that we're all close again, it's pretty amazing and kind of surreal.
FloridaPanthers.com: The Panthers open the 2017-18 season with a home-and-home series against the Lightning. Are you expecting your parents to hop in the car and make it to both games?
McGinn: That's the plan. Any time that I'm here or in Tampa, I'm sure they're going to make the drive. They like to spend about three weeks there and about three weeks in Canada, making the hop back and forth. I'm sure they'll be changing around their schedule when we're in town.
FloridaPanthers.com: A fun fact that some fans might not know about you is that you are one of the owners of the Southern Professional Hockey League's Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. As someone that has experience both on the ice and the in the office of a hockey team playing in a non-traditional market, what do you think you think about the prospect of selling hockey in Florida?
McGinn: You've got to put in the time. You've got to show the fans the love and appreciation back and just get to know the community. There are also things like giving money and time to places like hospital as well. It's about making everyone feel a part of it. If you don't put in the effort, they aren't going to come. You also have to put a good product on the ice.
FloridaPanthers.com: Speaking of the on-ice product, how eager are you to finally suit up in your first game with the Panthers?
McGinn: After the trade I had four days off the ice, so it was kind of a lull in there after feeling good in training camp in Arizona. Whenever you have four days off the ice, it's kind of tough to get back. The first day [in Florida] was kind of finding my legs and grinding through it. But each day you get a little more comfortable. Today was definitely the day I felt the best on the ice. You just grind it out and I'm looking forward to getting out there.