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.

Panther Parkway Radio: Coaching Change, Game Recap and Preview, Upshall, & What now?

Tune in to tonight’s show while we discuss game recaps and previews, goalie situations, the bright spots of the team, coaching changes, what the future holds for the Florida Panthers, and more!

Host: Paige Lewis

Guests: Frank Rekas, Dave Lasseter, and Jameson Cooper


  • Game recap of Tuesday night’s game.
  • Discussing the coaching change
  • Scottie Upshall has been a bright spot
  • Does Jacob Markstrom belong in San Antonio?
  • What comes next for the Panthers?
  • Fake trades and signings are fun to discuss!
  • Minnesota Wild game preview

Click the link below for today’s podcast!


We welcome and encourage comments and feedback!

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Florida Panthers Loan Jacob Markstrom to San Antonio

Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has loaned goaltender Jacob Markstrom to the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL.

After heading into the season with expectations that he may take a great leap forward in his development, Markstrom has struggled immensely between the pipes for the Panthers thus far, earning a 1-5-3 record with a 3.36 GAA / .877 SV%. While some of the blame for his current struggles can be put on the shoulders of the team’s mediocre defense, Markstrom’s two-way contract made him the odd man out of the team’s goaltending battalion now that both veterans Tim Thomas and Scott Clemmensen are healthy. 

Now in the minors, Markstrom will have a chance to regain some his wounded confidence while sharing time with Panthers’ prospect Michael Houser who currently boasts a surprising 4-1-0 record with a 2.17 GAA / .917 SV%. 

As the Panthers continue their tumultuous season it may be best that Markstrom once again become the team’s goalie in waiting while the club tries to sort out their roster problems at the NHL level. However, given both the age and recent injury problems of Thomas and Clemmensen, it is very likely that Markstrom will find his way back to the Panthers’ lineup at some point this season.

[Read more…]

Game Day Preview: Kings vs. Panthers


GAME DAY SONG: The KillersShot At The Night

The Florida Panthers hope to build on their 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins this afternoon when they take on the Los Angeles Kings at 3:00 P.M. in Sunrise.  That game started out positively for Florida, and for the most part continued that way throughout, with the Panthers controlling most of the play, and looking as though things have tightened up slightly.  After giving up 16 goals in their previous three losses, holding a powered offence like Pittsburgh to just three tallies, was very much a positive.

However, this is no time to rest on laurels, as the schedule gets significantly difficult beginning with today’s tilt against the Kings.  Florida will play LA, Nashville, Boston, Minnesota, and Chicago over the next five games.  None of those games will be easy, and all of them will feature teams that have varying styles of play.  If Florida can play with the intensity and aggressiveness that they did Friday night, and build some consistency in their game, then they can be competitive and have a chance to win.  The scoring was spread amongst five different players on Friday, and it was good to see players like Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann rekindle some of their magic from two seasons ago.  Also, Brad Boyes and Aleksander Barkov who both had three point nights was a pleasure to watch.  Boyes who leads the team in goals with four, is scoring at a 28% clip, as he’s taken 14 shots.  Barkov who is only 18 had what looked to be his best game so far in his young career.  For his age, he truly has good hockey sense, and can make some very smooth passes.

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Game Day Preview and Discussion: Lightning vs. Panthers

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 1-2-0 (2 PTS) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: 2-1-0 (4 PTS)


Game Day Song: “I Can Change” – LCD Soundsystem 

In the last leg of a grueling four game road-trip to begin their 2013-2014 campaign, the Florida Panthers will get their first taste of the Sunshine State rivalry this season tonight as they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning before heading home to take on the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Not suiting up for the Panthers tonight will be starting goaltender Tim Thomas who suffered a “slight groin pull” in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. However, fans should still have reason to feel optimistic as youthful goaltender Jacob Markstrom will get the start in net tonight after stopping all 25 shots he faced in relief against the Flyers. Though it is reported that Thomas’ injury most likely won’t keep him out for an extended period of time, Markstrom could still grasp this opportunity and use it to earn more starts down the line as he still looks to prove himself as an everyday NHL goaltender early on in his career.

While you may think that losing their starting goaltender three games into the season would be the Panthers’ biggest cause for concern at this point, that is sadly the least of their worries. Heading into tonight’s game in Tampa, the Panthers have still yet to register a power play goal – going an astounding 0-16 with an extra man this season thus far. Although the Panthers’ power play has proven to be formidable in the past – 6th in the league last season – it is possible that the arrival of so many new faces has disrupted the Panthers’ once potent chemistry on the power play. For example, Tom Gilbert, who joined the team right before the season started, has clocked the 2nd most power play minutes on the team this season. Hopefully for the Panthers’ sake, once the team is given more time gel, the power play will start to click once again.

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Panthers Improved Play Not Enough To Overcome Flyers

Following Saturday night’s debacle in St Louis, a 7-0 loss, there was no way to go but up for the Florida Panthers. Tuesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers saw the Cats thoroughly outplay their opponent but still walk away with a 2-1 loss.

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Tim Thomas Injured, Scott Clemmensen Recalled From San Antonio

After allowing the second of two very flukey first period goals against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, Panthers’ goaltender Tim Thomas exited the game after suffering an injury while attempting to make a save on the Flyers’ second goal of the evening. While Thomas has yet to receive a full diagnosis, the team is currently saying that Thomas’ suffered a lower-body injury and that it is not thought to be serious at this time. Prior to tonight’s game, Thomas had a 4.20 GAA / .873 SV% while going 1-1-0 for the Panthers.

Until the full extent of Thomas’ injury is known, the Florida Panthers are expected to recall veteran backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen from the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage. Coming off a knee surgery that kept him out for three weeks, Clemmensen won his only start for the Rampage thus far while allowing just 1 goal on 25 shots faced. While it looks like Jacob Markstrom will now receive the bulk of the starts until Thomas’ return, the return of Clemmensen’s veteran presence to the dressing room should prove to be beneficial to the Panthers.

We will continue to update you on the extent of Thomas’ injury as more information comes forward.

Update: Tim Thomas reportedly has a “slight groin pull”, not expected to be serious, but Clemmensen should join the team in Tampa.

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Get Ready For The Upcoming Panthers’ Season By Re-Living Last Year’s Biggest Moments

With the arrival of new owner Vincent Viola and recent roster additions such as goaltender Tim Thomas, it’s hard to imagine that Panthers’ fans could get more excited for the upcoming season. However, before the puck drops in Dallas on Thursday for the team’s season opener, lets take a moment to look back at some of the biggest events of the Panthers’ 2012-2013 campaign.

While the teams eventual fall to 15th place in the Eastern Conference may be worth forgetting, there were several “wow” moments from last season that are definitely worth revisiting. Although the team could not find sustained success last season, it’s plays like the ones listed below that gave fans a glimpse into the future and what the Panthers may become someday.

Huberdeau Starts His Career With a Bang!

In front of a sellout crowd at the BB&T Center, Jonathan Huberdeau scores not only the first Panthers’ goal of the 2012-2013 season, but also the first of his hopefully stellar career.

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What Will Tim Thomas Bring to The Florida Panthers?

Tim Thomas (Wikipedia)

Tim Thomas (Wikipedia)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps a bunker, it’s fair to assume that you are already aware that former Boston Bruins’ goaltender Tim Thomas has accepted a tryout with the Florida Panthers and took the ice for the first time yesterday afternoon at the team’s practice facility in Coral Springs. Although the mystery of where Thomas will sign is now no longer a hot topic, the question of what exactly he will bring to Florida is. On the surface, the potential signing of Thomas seems like a no-brainer based on his imposing hockey resume. Sporting a career .921 SV%, 2.48 GAA with a career record of 196-121-45 in 378 games professional games played, it’s hard to argue against the signing Thomas simply based on numbers.

Off the ice, Thomas’ became a lightning rod for controversy toward the end of his career with the Bruins due to his outspokenness on issues ranging from politics to gay rights. However, after 17 months away from the game and out from under the spotlight, it seems that Thomas is finally ready to get back to focusing on the  game he loves so much.

“I feel almost reborn in a way,” Thomas said to Panthers’ media after his first full practice with the team. “After 14 years of pro hockey, I got tired. I needed a break. But I’m energized and looking forward to it. I feel great.”

[Read more…]

Goalie Tryout Rob Madore Impresses at Panthers’ Rookie Tournament

With the sting of Friday’s 8-4 loss to the Nashville Predators still in the back of their minds, the Florida Panthers once again found themselves playing from behind against the Boston Bruins in Friday’s installment of the team’s annual rookie tournament. After going down 4-0 early in the first period of Saturday’s game, the Panthers once again looked as if they may fall victim to yet another blowout in front of their home fans. After the first intermission gave the Panthers time to “get angry” as center Nick Bjugstad stated, the team decided to pull goaltender Michael Houser midway through the 2nd period in favor of a mostly unknown tryout by the name of Rob Madore.

From that point on the game had a completely different feel. Madore stood on his head for the remainder of the game, stopping all 18 shots he faced, including several sprawling saves. In front of Madore, the team was finally able to establish their offense and complete an impressive 5-4 comeback victory. Although Nick Bjugstad garnered most of the post-game attention after leading the Panthers’ attack with three goals, it’s fair to argue that Madore may have been the best looking player in that game.

The question now is: Who exactly is Rob Madore?

Rob Madore (Kelsey Hinds)

Rob Madore (Kelsey Hinds)

[Read more…]


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