Murphy Burch is back for his second season of blogging. He will be sharing his views on the Panthers during the year, along with fellow fan blogger, Cliff Peeke (Peeke's Points).
Murphy, an airline pilot originally from North Carolina, is better known as vanmurph on the Panthers message boards and he, along with his wife Vanessa are two of the most vociferous fans at the BankAtlantic Center.VanMurph's View Blog Archive
With the 2009-2010 season now officially behind us, Panthers fans can look forward in earnest to the changes coming our way for 2010-2011. Several of those changes have already come to pass, and with the free-agency period beginning in just a couple of days, we can anticipate the structure of the Panthers to continue to take shape as the summer rolls along toward training camp in mid-September.
Within days of Dale Tallon’s introduction to the Panthers, the team he had previously assembled in Chicago skated around the rink in Philadelphia with Lord Stanley’s Cup held over their heads. That squad’s accomplishments are a testament to Tallon’s ability to quickly put together a winner. If you’ll recall, it wasn’t so long ago that the Blackhawk organization was languishing in a playoff drought of their own, having only made the postseason one time between 1997 and 2009. Now they are the Champions of the National Hockey League, and it’s in no small part due to the work of Dale Tallon. As a Panthers fan, it’s exciting to know that the person responsible for constructing the team that just won the Cup is beginning to put his mark on our franchise. From the first day, our new GM has maintained that he intends to ice a team in the mold of the Blackhawks. He has stated that he will do it through the draft, trades, and free agent signings. Well, so far he’s begun executing the plan in a flawless fashion. By signing the goalie of the future, Jacob Markstrom
, and making trades for high draft picks, Tallon has put into motion a strategy that should see us be competitive for years to come. At the recently completed draft, Tallon and the Panthers took home a draft-leading 13 players (second most in Panthers history), and it was apparent from looking at the haul that he is going for grit, toughness, and size (only one of the players drafted is under 6’ tall). Adding an element of nastiness to our lineup could be very good for the team and its fans. Watching our guys get pushed around night after night was getting old. Said Tallon, “I saw a lot of [Panthers] games last season. We were too easy to play against. That's going to end.”
Besides the size quotient, it was also apparent that the volume of players being sought wasn’t as important as the quality and rank of the players. The Panthers, who’d entered the draft with only one first round pick, ended up with three first-rounders (3rd, 19th, and 25th), and acquired another two former first-rounders in Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner when Keith Ballard was traded to Vancouver. The maneuvering to secure the high draft picks was all Tallon, but the actual players selected were the result of our scouting department. As Tallon said from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, “It's all about Scott Luce and his staff. He did an amazing job. I've just started working with Scott, but I'm really proud of him. After we made the deals, I was happy to sit back and let the scouts do their jobs.”
For those who’ve questioned our scouting in the past (myself included), I’m hoping that Tallon’s confidence in them will quell some of the criticism leveled at Luce and his staff.
Over the course of the last week, the Panthers have bid farewell to two of my favorite players on the team. In the trade with Boston, Gregory Campbell was included with Nathan Horton in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman and the 15th overall pick (which was traded for the 19th pick) in this year’s draft. And as previously mentioned, on Friday, Ballard was traded to Vancouver in exchange for Bernier, Grabner, and the 25th overall pick in this year’s draft. The loss of Campbell and Ballard has the potential to have an effect on the tenacity of our team, as both were players who were not afraid to get their noses dirty in the corners, finish their checks, lay a hit on someone, or drop the gloves. Ballard’s hip checks and his ability to separate his man from the puck are going to be missed in south Florida. Although Keith struggled considerably last season, and had a couple of notable incidents with goaltenders, he could still be counted on most nights to hold steadfast in the execution of his game. I wish both Campbell and Ballard well in their endeavors. Ballard didn’t want to be traded away from the Panthers, instead preferring to stay and help with the turnaround. And Soupy thanked the Panthers for giving him an opportunity to be an NHLer.
Horton was a fan favorite and an uber-talented winger, but he wasn’t happy here and asked to be traded. Tallon, in keeping with his promise to get rid of players who “don’t want to be here,” did just that and shipped Horton off to Boston.
Said Tallon, “We want a real solid team with players who care and are passionate and pay the price to win.”
Nate was coming off of one of his best seasons, and the numbers he was able to produce were despite the fact that he spent quite a bit of time off the ice after he was struck with a puck and had his leg broken. After getting to know Nate a little better last season, I can say that it’ll be a little weird when we see him for the first time on November 18th in the Garden. But when someone asks to be traded, there is generally a little twinge of betrayal (no matter how justified the guy was in asking to be moved). Some of the comments he made about our organization after the trade stung a little, but there is always a little element of “the truth hurts” when hearing negative comments from former players. While I don’t wish him anything less than success in the future, I hope that none of it comes against the Panthers.
Also gone from last year’s roster are Kamil Kreps and Nick Tarnasky. Kreps, who most likely was not going to be offered a contract by the Panthers (or anyone else in the NHL), signed to play next season with the Karpat Oulu of the Finnish League. Kreps struggled at the NHL level and had anemic numbers last season, but his scoring troubles certainly weren’t for a lack of effort. While he may not have been the best player on the ice at any given time, I always appreciated the fact that he seemed to give 100% on every shift night-in and night-out. I wish him the best of luck in his career. Tarnasky, though, never really made an impact while he was here, and his absence also most likely won’t be noticed. In the seasons before he came here via a trade for Wade Belak with Nashville, Nick was a noted Panther Killer. In one play a few seasons ago, he took out Mike Van Ryn (wrist injury) in the corner, and then laid out Bryan Allen with a nasty sucker punch while the refs were restraining Allen. It’ll be interesting to see if Tarnasky is picked up by anyone in the coming months.
With the free-agency period opening on Thursday, it’s going to be interesting to see what, if any, changes are made to our roster. The Panthers were able to unload a ton of money from the books when they rid themselves of a couple of expensive contracts, and that is money which can now be used to bring in free agents or complete further trades. It’s going to be exciting. For the first time in a very long time, there is buzz in Sunrise… It’s as if people are waiting to see what Tallon is going to do next. I’ll admit, I’m one of those people!
In just a few days I’m conducting an interview with David Booth, and the article resulting from that interview will be posted shortly thereafter. I hope you’ll check back and take a few minutes to read as I catch up with Dave in Michigan at the halfway point of the off-season. If there is a specific question you’d like to have me ask Booth, send me an email along with your name, and I’ll try to get as many fans’ questions answered as possible.
Thank you to all of you who emailed and sent messages to me on facebook after my last article. I enjoyed corresponding with each of you. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, I can be reached at: VanMurph@hotmail.com
or followed on Twitter @Van_Murph
Thanks for stopping by the blog.