Every franchise in the National Hockey League can safely label a specific player as their “franchise” player. A franchise player could be described as an athlete who is not only the team’s best player, but also a player that the front office knows they can build their team around. For the past decade or so, Stephen Weiss has been the cornerstone of the Florida Panthers franchise, however, after last season; I think it is clear that it has shifted to defenseman, Brian Campbell. He didn’t score the most points, he didn’t have the most goals, he didn’t even have a positive plus-minus last year; however, in my opinion Brian Campbell was the best all-around player on last year’s Florida Panthers team.
Games Played: 82
Penalty Minutes: 6
Coming into last season the Panthers were going through yet another rebuilding stage. There weren’t a lot of high expectations for this Panthers team coming into the season, but when it was all said and done, the Panthers ended up shocking the NHL by finishing third in the east, while capturing their first ever Southeast division title. I know that hockey, much like a lot of sports is a team game. Even with that being said, a large part of our success was due to Brian Campbell.
Brian Campbell’s road to the NHL wasn’t an easy one. After being drafted in the 6th round by the Buffalo Sabres, Campbell was immediately put into the AHL. He went onto split time with both the NHL and the AHL for the next few seasons. The 2001-2002’ season was the last time Campbell would see playing time in the AHL. In his first full NHL season, Campbell scored a total of 19 points while playing in only 65 games. It wasn’t until the 05-06’ season where Campbell had his breakout season. After only missing two games, Campbell finished the season with a career high in goals, assists, and points, as the Buffalo Sabres were able to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing in game seven to the Carolina Hurricanes, who went onto win their first ever Stanley Cup Trophy. For the next few seasons, Campbell would continue to provide the Sabres with nothing but fantastic play, as he continued to improve his numbers.
During the 2007-2008’ season, Campbell was entering the final year of his contract with the Sabres. On February 26th, 2008, Buffalo decided it was time to finally move on from Campbell, as they traded him along with their 7th round pick in the 2008 Draft to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a first round pick in the 08’ Draft and forward Steve Bernier. After playing 20 regular season games in a Sharks uniform, Campbell scored a remarkable 19 points. At almost a point a game the Sharks looked smart for trading for Campbell, knowing that he could ultimately help them go far in the playoffs. Unfortunately for San Jose, they were eliminated in the Western Conference Semi-Finals and they lost Campbell as he became a free agent at the conclusion of the season.
It didn’t take long for Campbell to find a new home, as he was signed to an eight year contract worth roughly $7.1 million dollars a year with the Chicago Blackhawks. In just his second season with the team, the Blackhawks went onto win their first Stanley Cup Trophy in nearly fifty years. His third season in a Blackhawks uniform wasn’t exactly what he had hoped for. Not only did he only play in 65 games, he also saw his numbers dropped dramatically due to decreased ice time, and the emergence of the Blackhawks top defensive pair of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. After what some would call an “off” year in Chicago, the Blackhawks who needed some salary cap space agreed to trade Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward Rostislav Olesz.
Entering his first season with the Panthers, many people questioned whether Campbell could once again play at that elite level that people became accustomed to seeing. It didn’t take long for that questioned to be answered. In his first five games in a Panther uniform, Campbell made an immediate impact picking up a total of seven points, all of which were assists. Panther fans quickly got used to Campbell earning assist after assist as he skated so smoothly along the way. Scoring wasn’t the only thing Campbell was good at doing. In a total of 82 games played last year, Campbell spent only six minutes total in the penalty box, which was the best in the league. An even more remarkable stat is he also led the league last year in time on the ice. It is incredible to think that the man, who led the league in most time on ice, also led the league with only six penalty minutes. Due to his incredible success on the ice last season, Campbell was named the winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which is given each year to the player who exhibits the best type of sportsmanship to go along with a high level of playing ability. His incredible maturity and knowledge of the game helped him establish the role of the “quarterback” of the team. Although he wasn’t the biggest player on the ice, and certainly not the most aggressive, he was still able to go out every night and get the job done. His dedication, leadership, and drive to be successful are one of the main reasons the Panthers were in the situation they were in last year. Hopefully Campbell can continue to produce at a high level of play here in Florida for many years to come.
That does it for the list of who I thought were the top ten players from a season ago. I hope you all enjoyed the series of articles.
Thanks For Reading!
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