Tallon uses myriad of methods to build rising D corps

There is an old NHL proverb passed down from generation to generation that dictates the winning formula for a team to embrace and thereby succeed: “Build from the back out.”

It is this mantra that hints at stabilizing your core from the defensive side out when trying to build a winning team that can keep winning for years on end.

Dale Tallon inherited a limping roster when he was hired and has gone through the process to turn it into one of the most promising, young and dynamic groups in the National Hockey League. He stabilized his net when he realized Jacob Markstrom was not cut for full-time duty and is now in the midst of cementing his D corps that will hopefully lead to real success in the short and long-term.

Dale Tallon’s defensive rebuild conforms to many rebuilds we’ve seen in the league over the years with one notable exception. He has used key draft picks to select core players, traded for young undervalued players from other organizations and signed complimentary pieces via free agency. Despite taking the beaten path in those regards there, is one piece that he added that did not conform to the traditional rebuild schematic. The piece that I am referring to is Dale Tallon’s long con….but we’ll get to that.

When you look at the Panthers’ potential defense for the upcoming season you see the results of the aforementioned beaten path which Tallon walked with great effectiveness.

The Key Draft Picks

Dmitry Kulikov, drafted 14th overall in 2009, 99 points in 313 games played after making the team directly out of camp after his draft. The Panthers committed to Kulikov long-term and clearly see him as an integral part of their defensive system.

Kulikov ate minutes for the Panthers finishing 2nd on the team in terms of total minutes played and was deployed almost with complete neutrality between the offensive and defensive zone last season, meaning that the coaching staff believed in him in both offensive and defensive situations.

Within the last two years Kulikov has been on the upward swing possession-wise and has had a positive impact on his team’s performance while on the ice.

Next up: Erik Gudbranson, the Panthers’ esteemed 3rd overall selection from the 2010 entry draft. Erik was thrown into the fire as Kulikov was and has been through the struggles that one would expect a young defenseman to go through while playing in the NHL as an under-20 year old. While Gudbranson’s skill set is elite and the talent is obvious, he is only beginning to carve his niche on the ice as was evident at times last season. Regardless of the past, the future is bright for the likely captain of the Panthers and a serious jump (and I mean serious) in possession metrics suggests that he is coming into his own as planned. At 22 and with the best surrounding cast since his debut, Gudbranson is primed for another season of improvement.

Then there’s the 6’3 216 lbs colt in the room, Aaron Ekblad. The Panthers invested heavily in the defenseman in June and undoubtedly plan to make him a part of their core for as long as they can (aka his entire career). Ekblad’s elite talent is undeniable and his ability to transition that from the junior game to the NHL is obviously paramount for the Panthers’ success in any realm. It’s a risk to select a defenseman first overall due to their slow development and potential for failure but the Panthers clearly thought that he was worth the risk so he will have to make it worth their while.

The undervalued trade target

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure has never been truer when it comes to Dylan Olsen (and his fellow former Blackhawk Jimmy Hayes). Chicago deemed Olsen (and Hayes) expendable to regain the services of Kris Versteeg and I believe I would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks the Panthers got the worse end of the deal from a player perspective. Olsen went from a fringe NHLer in Chicago’s system to a mainstay blue-liner in Florida and managed to put up positive possession numbers for the first time in his career with a weaker line up supporting him. Olsen is poised to keep his spot on the blue line out of training camp and cement his spot in the NHL as a valuable top six defender.

The complimentary free agent

Any good GM knows that free agency is for filling out the roster, not building it. When Dale Tallon went on a spending spree in 2011 he picked up players to fill the roster while his prospects were gaining experience in the minor league and junior ranks. That spree pushed the Panthers into the playoffs but that clearly did not equate to long-term success. Tallon’s youth is finally maturing and he is now at a stage where he can use free agency to go after players he deems suitable for his squad.

Enter Willie Mitchell. Mitchell is the kind of player that GMs love. He’s a winner at all levels winning an ECAC title with Clarkson University, a IIHF World Championship gold medal and of course the two Stanley Cups with the LA Kings in 2012 and 2014. He is a 12 year NHL vet who has made a positive impact on every team he has played for. He is a leader who leads by example and is not afraid to put his body on the line as is evident by his team-leading 128 blocked shots last year. To impress you more, even with Mitchell’s high blocked shot totals he is still a fantastic possession player who creates more positive possession events than he gives up and considering he blocked 128 shots last season that is a lot of positive possession events.

Mitchell will bring a sense of stability to the Panthers defense this season. He will be a solid veteran presence to the young guns both on and off the ice and of course will be relied upon heavily by the coaching staff in key situations when needed.

The long con

Finally, we get to Brian Campbell.

When Brian Campbell was traded to the Florida Panthers on June 25th 2011 the narrative was that of “A cap dump by Chicago to rid themselves of a shell of a player that they thought they were getting to a team he won’t succeed with.”

Not exactly a rousing endorsement for the Panthers, but after finishing last in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs for the 10th straight year the pundits didn’t have to be generous to the team in Sunrise. From the Panthers’ perspective it was more than a cap relief favor to the GM’s previous employer, it was the start of the locomotive that was and is Dale Tallon’s rebuild of the Florida Panthers.

NHL GMs think that far ahead and that’s what Dale Tallon was doing when he traded for Campbell. He acquired a piece that would help the team in the short-term and one that would evolve into the cornerstone of his defensive corps in the long-term.

Tallon took it on the chin when he traded for Campbell but he is only reaping the benefits of acquiring a premiere all-around defenseman who can, has and will do it all for the Panthers.

Let’s talk leadership. Brian Campbell epitomizes the word.

I don’t just mean that he is a “leader,” of course he’s a leader. He’s a 35 year old decade plus player with 838 games under his belt. He’s a Stanley Cup Champion, has been a Captain, an alternate captain and is a poised and professional person who deals with fans and media with aplomb. His career speaks for itself in terms of intangibles but I want to talk about the aspects of his game that makes him the cornerstone of the team.

When I said leader I meant “leader” as in team leader in 5 on 5 ice time since he was traded to the Panthers. In fact he led by 288, 220 and 281 minutes within the past 3 seasons, which is insane. He has either led or finished 2nd in shots taken by a defenseman since his Panthers debut and has been among the team leaders (and led in 13-14) in blocked shots. He finished 2nd, 1st and 1st since the 11-12 season in takeaways by a Panthers defenseman. To top it all off, since 2011-2012 Campbell has led all Panthers’ D in points.

Beyond these stats, his possession numbers are exceptional.

He boasts a 52.1% Corsi For Percentage which means that when Campbell is on the ice 52.1% of the total shot attempts are going towards the opposing team’s net. To give you a comparison, that is 38th best among defenseman after the 13-14 season and best on the Panthers by 1.5%, which is astounding. Campbell literally drives possession forward for the Panthers better than any other D by a significant margin.

In terms of Fenwick (shots directed toward the net that aren’t blocked) Campbell clocked a 52.5%, 1% better than the closest Panthers D and good for 39th in the league.

These numbers are even more impressive when you take into account that Campbell played the 3rd most 5 on 5 minutes out of any defenseman in the NHL. To add to his impressive resume his 5 on 5 Zone Start Ratio is 50.8% meaning that he was nearly evenly distributed between the offensive and defensive zone which alludes to my “all-around player” label.

What impresses me most about Campbell’s metrics are his Relative Corsi and Fenwick numbers. He is a +3.0% 5 on 5 Corsi and Fenwick player which means that the team is much better (3% better) at possession when he is part of the 5 man on-ice unit. That is, again, a full percent higher than the next Panthers D which means he is better at making the team better than any other defenseman on the team.

With skating that cuts the ice like a knife does warm butter, a hard and accurate shot with a quick release, a premiere first pass and exceptional defensive skills, Brian Campbell is the whole package for the Panthers. He is the unequivocal cornerstone of a defensive group that has been carefully constructed and perfected over the years. Campbell was brought in with the knowledge that he would one day be this player for the team. He knows what it means to be a Panther, he wears an A and is a strong candidate to wear the C and has been through the absolute worst the franchise has seen. With the team ready to rise up from the bowels of the NHL, Brian Campbell is at the helm.

With less than two months until opening night, the current blue-line for the Panthers is shaping up to be one of the most talented defensive corps the franchise has seen in a long time.

Panthers Re-Sign Defenseman Erik Gudbranson

On Thursday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced the re-signing of RFA Erik Gudbranson to a 2-year deal.

From the Panthers press release:

“Erik is an important part of our young core of talented players who we are pleased to have signed,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon told the team’s website. “He is a big, strong and physical defenseman who is one of the building blocks for our team. We look forward to his continued development and his contributions to the South Florida community.”

Gudbranson, 22, is a former 3rd overall draft pick in the 2010 draft and kicked off Dale Tallon’s tenure as the general manager of the Panthers. The Orleans, Ontario native is coming off of a career-high 9 points (3G-6A-9P) and 114 penalty minutes.

The 6’5, 216lb Gudbranson, known for his efforts within the South Florida community, was recently awarded the Panthers Community Ambassador of the Year.

 

We welcome your comments and feedback!

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Panthers Extend Qualifying Offers to Seven Players

On Monday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced that Dale Tallon has extended qualifying offers to seven players.

Qualified players and notable stats:

  • D Erik Gudbranson: (Last season NHL totals) 63 games played, 9 points (3G-6A), 114 PIMs, 91 blocked shots, 158 hits, and Corsi F: 51.2%
  • F Jimmy Hayes: (Last season NHL totals) 55 games played, 18 points (11G-7A), 18 PIMs, 115 hits, 72 shots, 15.3% shooting percentage, and Corsi F: 47.5%
  • D Dmitry Kulikov: (Last season NHL totals) 81 games played, 19 points (8G-11A), 66 PIMs, 127 shots, 125 hits, 92 blocked shots, 21:41 TOI, and Corsi F: 51.2%
  • F Ryan Martindale: Played in AHL with the San Antonio Rampage.
  • D Dylan Olsen: (Last season NHL totals) 44 games played, 12 points (3G-9A), 116 hits, 55 blocked shots, and Corsi F: 51.1%
  • F Brandon Pirri: (Last season NHL totals) 49 games played, 25 points (13G-12A), 16.3% shooting percentage, 44.9% face-off, and Corsi F: 51.7%
  • F Garrett Wilson: (Last season NHL totals) 3 games played, 0 points, 4 shots, 11 hits, and Corsi F: 45.9%  (Played majority of the year in AHL)

The Panthers did not extend qualifying offers to Anthony Luciani, Jonathan Hazen, and Mattias Lindstrom.

Player Usage Chart for the 7 who were qualified (Courtesy of Extra Skater)

Unknown

(No information on AHLer Ryan Martindale)

 

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

 

 

Panther Parkway Radio: Jeff Marek Discusses Mackenzie Weegar, Free Agency, Draft Day & More!

Tune in to tonight’s show where we discuss the biggest Florida Panthers news of the week with Jeff Marek!

Host: Paige Lewis

Guests: Jameson Cooper and Jeff Marek of Hockey Central

Topics

  • SportsNet
  • What does Mackenzie Weegar do for the Panthers blue line?
  • Ekblad discussion
  • Panthers draft discussion
  • Is Florida an attractive free agent destination?
  • Best free agents for Florida

New Episode Here

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Florida Panthers and the Role of Leadership in the NHL

The leadership debate has been kicked into high gear recently in the hockey world and everyone who’s everyone is throwing in their two cents (5 cents if you’re from Canada). Leadership is a tricky notion in any realm to define and quantify, but in the sports world leadership is more like an omnipotent force than quantifiable trait. The inspiration for this piece comes from Steve (Dangle) Glynn, who debates the quantities/qualities of leadership in this video: http://theleafsnation.com/2014/4/7/leadership-in-hockey-what-s-that

Steve questions whether or not leadership is even real, if it’s tangible based on goals, hits, motivational speeches etc. It’s a great video; I’d check it out if I were you.

So what is it? What is leadership?

To re-hash and expand on what Steve said: Is leadership defined by production? Fighting? The notion of clutch-ness? (That’s a whole other can of worms)

Is it defined by being vocal in the locker room? On the bench? On the ice?

Is it by example? Putting your body on the line to help your team win? Attending charity events? Being available to the media no matter the situation?

Is it how you interact with your teammates? Patting them on the back when they do something right? Teaching them when they did something wrong? Calming them down when they’re making mistakes?

Is it just being old? How many cups you’ve won? How many years you’ve been in the league?

To me, leadership is a mixed bag. It’s a combination/selection of everything I listed above and more.

You can sense leadership in sport (and life, really) at any level, from the professional grade to the beer league. There are people who others gravitate to for inspiration, support, guidance or security. There are people who possess those unquantifiable quantifiable qualities that make people gravitate to them.

The term “Leadership” is used so often these days so it’s not insane to see why it’s been watered down and questioned as much as it is being. When a team wins or loses, part of that result was due to what we call leadership. Players cite their captains, alternates, goal scorers, grinders, goalies, coaches etc. as people who were impactful on the game’s outcome. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and are defined by the many variations of leadership. There’s not just one answer, there’s not just one quality, leadership is an orchestra.

When it comes to a team’s captaincy group, I have no doubt that whoever makes the decision takes all of these qualities into account. Technically a team only has captains and alternates so that there is a designated group of people to talk to officials. Obviously that has evolved into what we have today. Being a captain or an alternate is seen as a prestigious honor.

We rank the best captains; we debate if a player should be captain, we even put more weight on a goal when it was scored by a captain or when captains fight! Obviously leadership matters in the NHL and whatever you quantify leadership as it has an impact on how you watch the game and how the game is played.

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Panther Parkway Post-Game: Panthers vs. Flyers

Stars of the game

1st: Claude Giroux (2-0-2)

2nd: Vincent Lecavalier (1-1-2)

3rd: Jonathan Huberdeau (1-0-1)

Goals (Flyers 5, Panthers 2)

PHI: Vincent Lecavalier (20)  Assist: Adam Hall

PHI: Claude Giroux (26) Assists: Nicklas Grossman, Luke Schenn

PHI: Claude Giroux (27) Assists: Mark Streit, Scott Hartnell

PHI: Sean Couturier (11) Assists: Braydon Coburn, Matt Read

FLA: Erik Gudbranson (3) Assists: Scottie Upshall, Vincent Trocheck

FLA: Jonathan Huberdeau (9) Assists: Drew Shore, Colby Robak

PHI: Tye McGinn (4) Assists: Vincent Lecavalier, Adam Hall

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Game Day Preview: Flyers vs. Panthers. Don’t Worry We’re Gonna Find A Way.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: 40-29-9 (89 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 28-43-8 (64 PTS).

TSN GAMEDAY

GAME DAY SONG:  Waiting On A Sunny Day.  Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

This will be the third and final meeting of the season between the Florida Panthers and the Philadelphia Flyers, who have split the previous games with each team winning at home.  Both games were low scoring as the Flyers beat the Panthers 2-1 back in October, and the Panthers beat the Flyers 3-1 in late November.

The Flyers come into this game having gone 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, but they were 1-4-2 in a recent seven game stretch before beating the lowly Buffalo Sabres 5-2 on Sunday.  They’ll be looking to punch out another victory against a Florida Panther team that is right now playing the role of spoiler, especially after Sunday’s comeback victory over the Dallas Stars.  The Flyers who have a totally different look since the last time they came in for a visit, find themselves in a dog fight for a playoff spot.

[Read more...]

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

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Panther Parkway Post-Game: Panthers vs. Hurricanes

Stars of the game

1st: Jiri Tlusty (2G-0A-2P)

2nd: Anton Khudobin (35-35 saves – 1.000 sv%)

3rd: Jeff Skinner (1G-0A-1P)

Goals (Hurricanes 3, Panthers 0)

CAR: Jiri Tlusty (13) Assists: Eric Staal, Brett Bellemore

CAR: Jiri Tlusty (14) Assists: Andrei Loktionov, Justin Faulk

CAR: Jeff Skinner (28) Assists: Patrick Dwyer

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Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Maple Leafs. One False Move, And Baby The Lights Go Out.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 21-25-7 (49 PTS.) vs. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: 28-21-6 (62 PTS.)

TSN GAMEDAY

GAME DAY SONG:  The hauntingly perfect Point Blank from 1978, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

After a thrilling and emotional come from behind victory in Detroit on Sunday, the Florida Panthers got beaned in Boston Tuesday night by a score of 6-2.  While the Panthers have had some real character wins this season, it’s difficult to come back from a 4 goal deficit especially against a team like the Boston Bruins.  The Panthers weren’t in the game from the beginning, as the Bruins were all over them putting 19 shots on goal in the opening period.  If not for Tim Thomas, it could have been over in the first 20 minutes.

Slow starts and the excuses for them are beginning to get old, but let’s put that into perspective.  The Panthers have given up the first goal of the game in 33 of 53 games.  Despite the fact that they’ve managed some comebacks, their record is 8-21-4 when the opposition scores first.  That right there will be the biggest factor keeping Florida out of the post season, which as we know is a pipe dream anyway, but at one point there was some hope.  Let’s be brutaly honest, it appears now that any chance has all but faded.

Let’s admit as well that Boston is one of the elite teams in the East, and very difficult to play against.  However when you sit both Erik Gudbranson and Krys Barch two of your most physical players, you don’t stand much of a chance to compete with a team like the Bruins who are known for being nasty, as well as skilled.  Understanding the decision to keep those players out of Tuesday’s game isn’t easy.  Which again points to the fact that the Panthers must be more physical overall, otherwise teams will continue to push them around.

[Read more...]

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