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SSO Spotlight: “Proven Success...Dale Tallon Has It.”

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Panthers Season Seat Owner Mike Lefebre has shown his confidence in a bright Cats future by renewing for two years. Floridapanthers.com sat down with him to get his thoughts on myriad topics, including Panthers GM Dale Tallon, the Blueprint, the future and more.


Floridapanthers.com: How long have you been a Panthers fan?
Mike Lefebre: I have been a Panthers fan since the team's inception when I went to the very first home game in the Miami Arena. I became a season ticket holder in '96. I hate to admit it, but I was a Flyer's fan before the Panthers.
 
FP.com: Where are you from originally?
Mike: I am a Floridian; born in West Palm Beach. I still live in West Palm and will be a Floridian for life.

FP.com: Who do you attend games with? Where are your seats located?
Mike: I attend games with friends or my girlfriend. My seats are in section 118, right on center ice.
 
FP.com: Why did you decide to renew your season tickets for two years?
Mike: I am excited about the direction of the team. The fans are more excited also. You can feel it in the arena. Fans are more excited and the team is responding.

FP.com: What are your thoughts on Dale Tallon and his blueprint for successs?
Mike: Proven success means a lot in any sport and Dale Tallon has it.

FP.com: What is it specifically about Dale’s plan that you latched on to?
Mike: I like teams that compete and play hard every night. I also believe defense wins Championships in any sport. What I have seen from Dale Tallon is that he shares these same ideas.
 
Defenseman Dennis Wideman leads all Panthers blueliners in goals (7), assists (19) and points (26) in his first season with the team.
FP.com: What did you think of the Panthers 2010 Draft?
Mike: I'm very happy with the 2010 draft and the deals that were done before it. Nathan Horton is a very good player but he played when he felt like it. We dont need those type of players in the locker room. Getting Dennis Wideman along with draft picks for him was a great move and I believe the team is better for it.

FP.com: What are your thoughts on this year’s team and how they have played thus far?
Mike: I didnt have very high expectations this year, but must admit I am pleasantly suprised. The team plays very hard every single night and even though they may not be as talented as a lot of their opponents, they are not a fun team to play against.

FP.com: What player do you wish was still a Panther?
Mike: The Roberto Luongo trade was a lowlight for me as a Panther fan. Trading a player like that and basically getting nothing in return was a huge mistake. It is water under the bridge now, but those kind of mistakes can set a franchise back three years. I don't miss Jay Bouwmeester, mainly because he didn't want to be here, but another huge mistake. He was leaving and everybody knew it. Not trading him and getting something in return was not good. Imagine if we got some talented players for these two guys, we would be three years ahead of where we are now. Anyway, Tallon is here now and I don't think those kind of blunders will happen again.

FP.com: What do you think about Mike Santorelli, Mike Weaver and some of the new players Dale has acquired through signings and trades?
Mike: As I said earlier, I am very happy with the trade that brought Wideman here. Santorelli has been a great trade as well. I think he has exceeded expectations and is a great addition to the Panthers. Mike Weaver has been a solid player all year long.

FP.com: How about young players like Keaton Ellerby and Evgeny Dadonov?
Mike: This is what really gets me excited. I love to see young players come in and contribute and the Panthers are really loaded; especially on the blue line. I am excited about the prospect of a top three defense in the coming years and the fact that we have trade bait to improve our offense with the big number of talented defensemen that we have.

FP.com: What’s your prediction for the trade deadline and the rest of the season?
Mike: I don't really know what is coming for the trade deadline. I hope we can pick up a talented forward or two (provided he is a two way player). No Kovalchuks, thank you very much.

FP.com: When are the Panthers going to make it back to the playoffs? Win a Stanley Cup?
Mike: I really think we will be in the playoffs next year (I'm hoping for this year, but don't want to push it). If we can continue to improve and if this year is any indication, I think we will get better fast. I think the Stanley Cup is within reach in five years.
 
FP.com: What’s your favorite part about attending a Panthers home game?
Mike: I really enjoy the sport of hockey. I just love the game and I am a passionate Panthers fan. I love the comraderie of other fans and also love the excitement level at the games. It has been steadily improving and will continue that way as the team gets better.
 
Center Stephen Weiss is tied for the team lead in goals (15) and leads the team in assists (21) and points (36).
FP.com: Who is your favorite Panthers player and why?
Mike: I am a big Stephen Weiss fan. A cerebral player who plays in both ends of the ice. I don't think he gets the credit for all the things he does well. Excellent passer, good scoring touch and a very good defensive hockey player as well as a great character guy.

FP.com: What new players do you think will be on the team next year? What do you think the team’s biggest needs are (scoring, defense, goaltending, etc.)?
Mike: I am hoping we have a few more young players come up. I can't wait to see Erik Gubranson play on a nightly basis. According to everything I have read, he is the real deal. Big, fast, mean and nasty is really what the Panthers need. A guy that makes the Panthers not a very fun team to play.
 
FP.com: How does hockey compare to other sports you’re a fan of?
Mike: I am a big NFL fan, but if I could just go to one sport for the rest of my life, it would be hockey. I just love the speed of the game and the athleticism of the players. It really doesn't get much better than that.
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