VIDEO: Paige Lewis from Panther Parkway chats with Hockeybuzz

Our very own Paige Lewis was today’s guest on Hockeybuzz.com’s Hokeybuzzcast!

Check out Paige as she goes head to head with Josh Rimer, Mike Augello and Eklund here:

Paige talks in depth about the Panthers, and fields questions from the rest of the panel.

Enjoy!

How can the Panthers fill their rink?

With single game tickets going on sale early Friday morning, I spurned a debate on the Twitter by suggesting that ticket sales would be on the rise for the upcoming 2014-2015 season. Aside from the usual scoffs at the notion that the Panthers can get people in the building, there were some good points made about the slow but sure culture change that is going on in Pantherland.

It is no secret that I have professed my belief in the “Hockey is the business” model for the Panthers and from what I have seen, the ownership and front office seem to agree. The Panthers have spent big on free agent day and are poised to ice a line-up that they believe to be a competitive one. The Panthers spent big in 2011 and went into the year with a Frankenstein team that ended up winning the Southeast Division. This year the Panthers spent their money filling out a roster with a young and rising core with key and complementary players that will each contribute in their own way.

This orchestra conducted by Dale Tallon and backed by his ownership team all lead up to two variables that directly correlate to one another: Fans in the stands and wins on the score sheets.

Over the last 5 years you can see a shift in capacity percentage at the BB&T Center

Year Capacity Percentage Record
2008-2009 78.7 32-37-13
2010-2011 81.5 30-40-12
2011-2012 86.4 38-26-18
2012-2013 88.3 15-27-6
2013-2014 75.5 29-45-8

Source: http://www.hockeyattendance.com/team/florida-panthers/

A lot goes in to the attendance of an NHL team but the common denominator is always the on ice product. Fans will watch a team that they think can win games. That’s sports fans 101, nothing new. You can see a steady increase in attendance from 2008-2012 that culminates in the season following the Southeast Division Championship and subsequent first round elimination. Unfortunately that momentum was met with the team’s worst finish in 5 years leading up to their worst attendance in the same span.

If the fans don’t expect wins then the team shouldn’t expect the fans.

So what makes this year different? Is this year even going to be different? I’ll spare you the optimistic rant but Tallon’s rebuild is in full swing. The core is there, the complimentary parts have been acquired and the team is poised to ice the most competitive version of themselves that the league has seen in a long while.

The marketing side has done its job to set the tone for the upcoming season. They have started to build fan pride and unity with their “One Under The Sun” slogan. They have created and upheld the buzz of the youth movement with the “Be Here to Witness” campaign. In addition to the posters and social media efforts, Tallon was also fairly blunt about the acquisition of Roberto Luongo being as much of a marketing move as it was a hockey move. Tallon was right to do it; Luongo’s presence has not only excited the fans but brought a media relevance that the Panthers have lacked in recent years.

These actions appear to have the market ready to go for the 2013-2014 season but it ultimately comes down to the on-ice product. The Panthers on ice play will dictate if the initial surge of season-opening attendance will linger or taper off.

When a fan base is used to a losing team and starving for a winning one, the sheer notion of competitive hockey can be enough to bring fans in. I think that this will be the driving force behind the resurgence of the attendance at the BB&T Center. The fans will slowly realize that this team is V.2 of a rebuilt squad that is slowly coming into its own. They will see the dynamic youth, the scoring veterans, the entertaining goaltending and be drawn in as they have in the past.

The Panthers have a tough task ahead of them, but they are primed to surprise and with that the seats will be filled.

Florida Panthers Re-Sign RFA Brandon Pirri

Today the Florida Panthers announced the re-signing of F Brandon Pirri to a two-year contract, worth $925K AAV. Pirri, 23 was a late season acquisition by Florida after trading a 2014 third round pick and a 2016 fifth round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for the young forward.

Playing in 21 games for the Panthers, Pirri posted 14 points (7-7-14) and became one of the team’s most relied on players as the season came to a close. During the 2012-13 season, Pirri spent time playing for the Rockford Icehogs of the AHL, where he led the league in points, scoring 75 points (22-53-75) in 76 games.

A second round (59th overall) draft choice by the Blackhawks in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Pirri has a deceivingly powerful and accurate shot for his size (6’0″, 183 lbs). During his short campaign with Florida last season, Pirri posted an impressive 15.2% shooting percentage and also recorded five power play points (2-3-5).

Pirri has played in 56 career NHL games posting 27 points (13-14-27).

 

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Panthers Re-Sign RFA Dylan Olsen

On Monday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced the re-signing of RFA Dylan Olsen to a one-way, 2-year deal.

Olsen, 23, appeared in 44 games with the Panthers last season after being dealt to Florida from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Kris Versteeg. He recorded 12 points (3-9-12) during his first season as a member of the Panthers. Olsen recorded his first NHL goal this past season against Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.

The 6’2, 223 lb blue-liner is a native of Calgary, Alberta and was drafted by Chicago in the first round of the 2009 entry draft. The rugged defenseman has played 72 career NHL games, registering 13 points (3-10-13), 78 blocked shots, 159 hits and has averaged 14:14 minutes of time on ice.

 

 

We welcome your comments and feedback!

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Rocco Grimaldi: “This is my job. I’m going to do whatever I can to do the best at my job”.

The Florida Panthers have wrapped up day 3 of the on-ice portion of this off-season’s development camp. With 34 players invited to the annual event, one individual with very little size has had no issues fitting in with sizable competition . Rocco Grimaldi, taken in the 2nd round of the 2011 NHL Entry draft, has put on a show for Panthers fans this week, showing that size doesn’t always matter.

Grimaldi, 21, signed an entry-level deal with the Panthers last month after spending his last two full-seasons at the University of North Dakota, where he compiled 77 points (31G-46A-77P) in 82 games.

After falling short of the Frozen Four three-seasons ago, North Daktota earned another shot this past year when Grimaldi notched his first NCAA hat trick, beating the University of Wisconsin in the process. Shortly after, Grimaldi and North Dakota downed Ferris State in a gripping double overtime final, which sent North Dakota into the Frozen Four, impressing the collegiate hockey world.

But no one has been more impressed with Grimaldi than Brian Skrudland, the Panthers director of player development.

“When I went to the University of North Dakota, and I sat in the crowd, I felt so proud that Rocco Grimaldi was a Panther because people are talking about him. They’re all talking about him, getting ready for warm-ups saying ‘Hey, watch this little guy! He’s going to light it up’. He never disappoints.”

As any young athlete with the dream of becoming a professional, Grimaldi understands the challenges of the profession he has chosen. With the six free agent signings the Panthers made this off-season, Grimaldi knows that it’s not going to be an easy road ahead, but is hopeful of his future as Panther.

“I like a challenge though”, Grimaldi admits. “I think that’s going to be good for me, and obviously they brought in some good guys. I’m excited for what the future has in store here. I think they’re going to do some good things here in the coming years. Hopefully I’ll be a part of it sooner than later.”

With a near complete roster, and forwards like Vincent Trocheck and Drew Shore fighting for a spot on the NHL lineup as well, Grimaldi knows his journey to the NHL has become more difficult.

“Obviously if playing in the NHL was easy, then everyone would play”, explained Grimaldi. “I knew it was going to be hard, but those are just the sacrifices you’re willing to make. If that means not being able to hang out with your friends for a night and training instead, then so be it. This is a business now. This is my job. I’m going to do whatever I can to do the best at my job”.

Though he continues to face challenges, this positive attitude is what makes Grimaldi an attractive commodity to Panthers faithful.

“He’s got a great attitude”, Skrudland said. “I think he’s matured as a person. He’s become a better teammate in the 3 years that I’ve had the opportunity to work with him. He’s a very attentive individual, smart, and caring individual to his teammates.”

Even with a loaded roster, Skrudland see’s no reason to believe that Rocco and the prospects attending camp don’t have a shot at cracking the line up come October.

“He’s going to fit in here great.” Skrudland said of Grimaldi. “You never know. He might just be that guy who says ‘You know what, Brendan Gallagher did it in Montreal, I’m coming in here, I’m not going to San Antonio (Rampage)’. But it’s for them (prospects) to decide”.

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

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!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

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

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Aleksander Barkov puts on a show at Development Camp

After Jonathan Drouin of the Tampa Bay Lightning was seen showing off his sweet moves during the Bolts prospect camp this past week, cross-state counterpart Aleksander Barkov, who went one pick ahead of Drouin in the 2013 NHL draft, gave fans a show of his own.

At the end of day 2 of Panthers development camp, the prospects had a little fun with shootout drills. Barkov was instructed to shoot twice, and boy he did not disappoint.

One-handed? No problem. I’d say he has pretty strong wrists.

Yeah. He’s good.

 

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

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Mike Kelly and Mark Morris join Gerard Gallant and John Madden behind the bench

Monday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced that they have hired two assistant coaches to join head coach Gerard Gallant and current assistant coach John Madden behind the Panthers bench. The new additions are Mike Kelly, former head coach and general manager of the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, and Mark Morris, former head coach of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.

Kelly 54, joins the Panthers coaching staff after spending four seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs as Gallant’s associate coach during Saint Johns infamous dynasty years. After Gallant left the QMJHL to join Michel Therrien and the Montreal Canadiens in 2012, Kelly was promoted to general manager and head coach of the Sea Dogs for one season before being relieved of his duties in 2013.

Before joining the Sea Dogs in 2009, Kelly had already gotten a taste of the pro leagues, where he was an assistant coach for both the Mantioba Moose of the AHL and Vancouver Canucks of the NHL.

Morris, 56, is no stranger to the pro leagues either as he spent 8 season’s with the Manchester Monarch’s, making him the longest tenure coach in franchise history. During his time in Manchester, Morris had coached a handful of notable players such as Jonathan Quick, Matt Moulson, Jake Muzzin and Brayden Schenn.

In 628 games behind the Monarch’s bench, Morris compiled 338 wins, which is 10th all-time in AHL wins for a coach, just two behind current NHL head coach Bruce Boudreau.

Along with retaining current assistant coach John Madden, the Panthers have re-signed goalie coach Robb Tallas.

 

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

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NHL players tweet their goodbyes 2014

With the tumultuous early days of this year’s free agent frenzy now behind us, recently moved players are beginning to adjust to their new organizations as fans still lament their departures. In years past, if a player wished to show their gratitude to a former fan base or organization they were limited to mainly newspapers as their only outlet to express their appreciation. In today’s modern world, however, social media has made it possible for fans and players to be closer than ever in terms of communication.

Although not everyone chooses to participate, many players around the NHL have turned to twitter to help build stronger relationships with fans as well as opening their lives up to the public. It is through this social media revolution that players can now openly express their thanks when their time with a club has expired.

With all of the chaos that comes with free agency, many players have changed area codes within the past week and bid farewell to the organizations they once called home. After scouring twitter for a while, I have compiled a list of farewell tweets from some of the NHL’s recently moved skaters.

Willie Mitchell

[Read more...]

Panthers Sign G Sam Brittain and D Blake Parlett

With the Viola-Cifu tandem giving Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers the green light to spend this offseason, the Panthers have kept quite busy this summer with the addition of 1st overall pick Aaron Ekblad, and the signings of six new roster players on day one of free agency. In addition, the team announced the signing of University of Denver goalie Sam Brittain to an entry-level contract, and AHL defenseman Blake Parlett to a 1-year, 2-way contract.

Brittain, 22, is coming off of his most productive season with the Denver Pioneers where he recorded a .946 save percentage, 2.22 goals against average, and 5 shut outs in 39 games. Because of his successful senior season, NCHC named Brittain the 2014 Goalie of the year, and also a finalist for the Mike Richter Award.

Parlett, 25, has spent most of his career with the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL, and both the Springfield Falcons and Connecticut Whale of the AHL. The rugged blue-liner has recorded 81 points (18G-63A) in 217 career AHL games, as well as 179 penalty minutes.

 

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

 

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