The Panthers introduced the immediate future of their franchise at a flashy press conference last Friday in Sunrise.
Starting Tuesday, players whom the Panthers hope will be their future stars will be on display in Coral Springs.
The Panthers will host a development camp starting Tuesday morning at the Saveology.com IcePlex. Florida's prospects have been ranked second-best in the NHL by hockeysfuture.com, with some of the team's top players in attendance.
Some players – such as collegiate players Rocco Grimaldi, Drew Shore and Nick Bjugstad – are expected to compete for roster spots in the coming years. Others, such as defenseman Erik Gudbranson and center Jonathan Huberdeau, could be on the team as early as October.
“There won't be much body contract, but there will be a lot of skating, shooting and passing,'' assistant general manager Mike Santos said. “We have a plan in place and part of that is to draft well. We have brought in 23 players in the past two drafts. Now we have to develop these young guys. We have 13 picks in the top three rounds of the past two drafts. That's two drafts worth of players in the top three rounds. We have as good a group of prospects as anyone. The excitement now turns into developing them.''
The prospects started arriving in South Florida on Saturday, with the team holding off-ice events on Sunday and Monday.
Starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, the Panthers will get a glimpse at what their players can do on the ice. The Panthers will hold three on-ice workouts throughout the week. All three sessions – Tuesday, Thursday and Friday – are free and open to the public. New head coach Kevin Dineen, goalie coach Robb Tallas and San Antonio Rampage coach Chuck Weber are among those who will be running the workouts.
This is a rare chance for local fans to see the Panthers top prospects in one place. In past years, the Panthers held such camps in Canada. Florida's new front office have made a commitment to hold more and more events locally, taking advantage of the new multi-million addition to their training facility.
Last year, the Panthers held a rookie camp with scrimmages against prospects from the Nashville organization. The Panthers will expand that this summer, with the Predators, Carolina Hurricanes and a yet to be determined team coming to Coral Springs for a rookie camp/tournament.
The Panthers will also hold their entire training camp in Coral Springs, leaving the state for just a single day to visit the Dallas Stars for an exhibition game.
Santos obviously likes showing off South Florida. When the players aren't on the ice, they will be checking out the sights. Santos has a workout on Fort Lauderdale beach trip planned as well as an airboat tour of the Everglades. When the Panthers report and spend training camp here, they can expect more of the same. Last year, Santos set up a team building trip at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Players will also meet with the team's sports psychologist, a financial advisor, a nutritionist and a chef.
“This week is planned to make them Panthers, to introduce them to the way we do things on and off the ice,'' Santos said. “Almost all of these kids are going to go their separate ways after this week, going back to college or to their junior team. They may not see each other until next summer. The relationships start now. When they become pros in a few years, they'll know each other and the way we do things.''
For players such as goalie Jacob Markstrom and winger Quinton Howden, this camp is a chance to get to know more people within the organization and check out what is expected to be their future home. They will be back for rookie camp and partake in training camp with the NHL players in September.
Others, such as Miami native Malcolm Lyles, are attending looking for future opportunities. Lyles is a defenseman who grew up in Miami Gardens and spent two seasons at Boston College. He's not looking for a contract with the Panthers – at least not right now.
Lyles has two more seasons of college to play at UMass-Lowell, but hopes to get noticed by those in attendance and improve his game as a result of the instruction and top-flight competition.
“All of the scouts will be there,'' said Lyles, who played in the British Columbia Hockey League last season. “I've been told time and time again this is a professional development camp. It will help me get some knowledge and develop me as a player. I enjoy playing at a high level. It's not every day you get to do this. I just want to become a better hockey player. It's a great opportunity to showcase myself, take another step in my hockey career.''
PANTHERS PROSPECT CAMP
Practices held at Saveology.com IcePlex in Coral Springs
Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 9 a.m.
Top players (last year's team, draft selection): D Erik Gudbranson (OHL Kingston, first round selection 2010); C Jonathan Huberdeau (QMJHL Saint John, first round 2011); G Jacob Markstrom (AHL Rochester, second round 2008); C Nick Bjugstad (University of Minnesota, first round 2010); LW Quinton Howden (WHL Moose Jaw, first round 2010); D Alex Petrovic (WHL Red Deer, second round 2010); C Rocco Grimaldi (US Developmental team, second round 2011); C Drew Shore (University of Denver, second round 2009).
RW Basaraba, Joe 6'2" 190 Right Fort Frances, ON Minnesota-Duluth
RW Birkholz, Josh 6'1" 182 Left Maple Grove, MN 3/28/1991 Everett
C Bjugstad, Nick 6'4'' 204 Right Blaine, MN 7/17/1992 Minnesota
D Boyd, R.J. 6'3'' 190 Left Fort Myers, FL 2/7/1991 Sacred Heart
C Brickley, Connor 6'1'' 195 Left Everett, MA 2/25/1992 Vermont
D Comrie, Adam 6'4" 205 Left Kanata, ON 7/31/1990 Rochester (AHL)
RW Donskoi, Joonas 5'11" 165 Right Raahe, Finland 4/13/1992 Karpat
LW Durocher, Corey 6'3" 175 Left Ottawa, ON 5/30/1992 Kingston
C Grimaldi, Rocco 5'6'' 160 Right Auburn Hills, MI 2/8/1993 U.S. National
D Gudbranson, Erik 6'4" 195 Right Ottawa, ON 1/7/1992 Kingston
RW Hazen, Jonathan 5'11" 170 Right Val-Belair, PQ 6/18/1990 Val d'Or
LW Howden, Quinton 6'2" 182 Left Oakbank, MB 1/21/1992 Moose Jaw
C Huberdeau, Jonathan 6'1'' 171 Left St-Jerome, PQ 6/4/1993 Saint John
C Hyman, Zach 6'0" 182 Right Toronto, ON 6/9/1992 Hamilton (OJHL)
LW Jenks, A.J. 6'2" 202 Left Detroit, MI 6/27/1990 Rochester (AHL)
C Knight, Corban 6'1'' 180 Right High River, AB 9/10/1990 North Dakota
D LaPoint, Derrick 6'2'' 175 Left Eau Claire, WI 5/13/1988 North Dakota
D Lee, John 6'1'' 180 Right Moorhead, MN 1/16/1989 Denver (WCHA)
RW Luciani, Anthony 5'8'' 190 Right Maple, ON 5/13/1990 Erie (OHL)
D *Lyles, Malcolm 5'10'' 180 Right Miami Gardens, FL 7/20/1990 Vernon
C McFarland, John 6'0" 192 Right Richmond Hill, ON 4/2/1992 Sudbury
C Pacan, David 6'3'' 205 Right Ottawa, ON 3/31/1991 Niagara (OHL)
D Petrovic, Alexander 6'4" 193 Right Edmonton, AB 3/3/1992 Red Deer
D Racine, Jonathan 6'1'' 182 Left Montreal, PQ 5/28/1993 Shawinigan
D Robak, Colby 6'3" 207 Left Dauphin, MB 4/24/1990 Rochester (AHL)
LW Selleck, Eric 6'2" 195 Left Shanley, ON 10/20/1987 Rochester
RW Shaw, Logan 6'3'' 190 Right Glace Bay, NS 10/5/1992 Cape Breton
C Shore, Drew 6'3'' 190 Right Denver, CO 1/29/1991 Denver (WCHA)
C Timmins, Scott 5'11" 191 Left Hamilton, ON 9/11/1989 Rochester
C Trocheck, Vincent 5'11'' 180 Right Pittsburgh, PA 7/11/1993 Saginaw
LW Wilson, Garrett 6'3" 206 Left Elmvale, ONT 3/16/1991 Owen
G Cheverie, Marc 6'3" 183 Left Cole Harbour, NS 2/22/1987 Cin/Roch
G Foster, Brian 6'1" 175 Left Pembroke, NH 2/4/1987 Shreveport
G Gayduchenko, Sergei 6'5'' 222 Left Yaroslavl, Russia 6/6/1989 Moskow
G Markstrom, Jacob 6'3" 178 Left Gavle, Sweden 1/31/1990 Rochester
*-Indicates player is in training camp on a tryout
Ice hockey is definitely growing in South Florida, with quality youth programs thriving from Kendall to the Palm Beaches.
When the Florida Panthers first arrived on the local scene in 1993, this definitely was not the case. Less than 20 years later, youngsters who started playing the game here have moved on to bigger and better things. In the past two years, three who began playing for the Junior Panthers in Coral Springs as little kids have been drafted by National Hockey League teams.
Although the youth leagues are growing and the high school club programs in Broward are popular, the best players are leaving to find opportunity to reach the highest level elsewhere. Hockey players have become South Florida's newest export.
“It wasn't easy but it was better hockey, better exposure for him to play division I college hockey,'' said Joe Casacci, whose son Nick moved to play hockey at a prep school in Kent, Connecticut, after his sophomore year at St. Thomas Aquinas High.
“It is a very difficult decision. My wife and I evaluated the education – [Kent School] is very prestigious academically – and the athletics are very good. It was very tough. These are the years you don't get back. These are great years, the high school experience. But, it was up to him. At the end of the day, this is what he wanted to do.''
The Panthers host a development camp for their top prospects at their training facility in Coral Springs this week. Looking at the roster, one will find players from the usual hockey hotbeds of Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, even Sweden.
And then there is defenseman Malcolm Lyles.
Lyles grew up in Miami Gardens and would have attended Carol City or American high schools had he stayed in South Florida. “Neither of those schools even have a hockey team,'' he said. Lyles and his brother Milton both played for the Junior Wolves travel hockey team out of Pembroke Pines but left to attend school in the Boston area.
Malcolm Lyles left for Massachusetts when he was 13, rooming with his brother. Malcolm ended up spending two seasons at Boston College after prep school, but left there because of a lack of playing time and development. He moved even further from home, spending last season with the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League. He'll finish his collegiate career at UMass-Lowell.
“I could have stayed here and stayed in travel hockey, but it became more impossible to play good hockey and get a good education,'' Malcolm said. “In Florida, there's not a lot of opportunity for someone to get a good education and play a high level of hockey at the same time. If you play travel hockey, you're away every weekend.
"Yes, you go against good players and good competition, but you miss so much school. Moving away to boarding school worked out for me and it's paying dividends to this day.''
Some Florida born hockey players are skipping the university route and joining Canadian junior teams.
Andrew Yogan became the first Florida born-and-raised player to be drafted by the NHL last summer, taken in the fourth round by the New York Rangers. Yogan moved from South Florida to be noticed by scouts and he was, drafted by the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. From there, all of his games were watched by NHL scouts.
At last month's draft, 18-year-old Colin Suellentrop was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the fourth round. Suellentrop, from Plantation, started playing hockey at Incredible Ice in Coral Springs, starring for different successful Junior Panthers teams. Suellentrop could have followed his friends to Aquinas, yet left home to follow his dream of being a big-time hockey player.
Suellentrop went to Detroit where he played Tier 1 hockey for the powerhouse Compuware program. Like Yogan, Suellentrop ended up in the OHL. Yogan and Suellentrop may have been the rare Florida kid on a Canadian junior team, but there are more coming.
Nathan Glass, who left Aquinas last year, was recently drafted by the Otters and is draft-eligible next summer. Cody Payne, a former member of the Florida Junior Panthers from Weston, plays for the Oshawa Generals. Goalie Matt Greenfield of Parkland has been drafted by the Kitchener Rangers.
“You are seeing more and more Florida-born players,'' said Scott Luce, the Panthers director of amateur scouting. “It really is a thrill to see all these kids from Florida playing at this level. I may not live in Florida, but I've worked for the Panthers for 10 years now. I love seeing guys from Plantation, Coral Gables on rosters. And I watch those guys. I have a vested interest in them. They grew up as fans of our team.''
Despite the obvious drawbacks of playing hockey in South Florida – lots of travel, lack of ice facilities – Luce says local players do have one big thing going in their favor: Coaching. With so many former NHL players working at local rinks, South Florida players are getting top-end coaching from the very start.
Former Panthers Ray Sheppard, Chris Wells and Peter Worrell are all involved in coaching youth hockey as is current goalie coach Robb Tallas. Craig Anderson, who once played for the Panthers but is now with Ottawa, will host a goalie camp for kids next month in Pembroke Pines.
“These guys are really good athletes, but they are getting quality coaching in Florida during their younger years,'' Luce said. “When they go up to a higher level of competition, they aren't just OK players. These native Floridians are dominating. It's because of the coaching they are getting when they are just starting from NHL guys who are passing that along. The kids in Florida are getting quality coaching, perhaps more so in some traditional markets.''
While Glass and Payne are expected to be drafted next summer, South Florida's biggest splash on the amateur hockey scene could come in 2013 when Gabe Guertler is eligible for the NHL draft.
Guertler was recently the second overall pick in the USHL draft and was named to the U.S. Under-17 Select Team. He'll play in Fargo, N.D., for the USHL's Force next season.
“At first it was tough when I left, but after the first couple of months I saw my parents a few times and I came home a few times so it wasn't that bad,'' Guertler said of leaving home. “Everything about last year was great. Travel hockey helped me out. The competition here was better, but it wasn't a big jump up. We just played a lot more games, better competition each weekend. We only had to fly twice the whole season.''
Blake Geoffrion, Nashville Predators
The grandson of Hall of Famer Bernie 'Boom-Boom' Geoffrion, Blake was born in Plantation and moved to Tennessee when he was 1. He was a second round selection by the Preds in 2006 and made his NHL debut last season.
Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers
The son of former NHLer Dave, Sam started playing in Coral Springs when Dave played for the Panthers. Sam honed his game in Canada and was a first round pick by the Oilers in 2007. He made his NHL debut later that year.
Andrew Yogan, New York Rangers
Born and raised in Boca Raton, Yogan took up the game at Glacier Ice in Pompano Beach as a youngster. He moved north at 15 and eventually played for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He made his professional debut last year in the AHL.
Colin Suellentrop, Philadelphia Flyers
A fourth round selection last month, Suellentrop grew up in Plantation and played for the Junior Panthers before moving north to play in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League for Detroit Compuware.
Brody Sutter, Carolina Hurricanes
A seventh round pick last month, the 19-year-old is the son of former NHLer Duane and played for the Junior Panthers when his dad was with the Panthers in various capacities including director of player development, assistant coach as well as interim head coach. Brody plays in the Western Hockey League.
Compliments of David J. Neal...
Compliments of David J. Neal...
Florida sent Kenndal McArdle to the Jets for Esposito; Mike Duco went to the Canucks for Shirokov.
The Panthers also picked up defenseman Keith Seabrook -- the younger brother of Chicago's Brent -- for Jordan Henry.
Center Ryan Carter, whom Florida acquired in the Cory Stillman trade with Carolina last February, signed a one-year/two-way deal with the team. Carter had two goals and an assist in 12 games with Florida last season.
On the surface, neither of these deals are blockbusters. But Shirokov could turn into a nice player for the Panthers -- if given he decides to play here. Shirokov never found a spot with the Canucks, playing in six games in 2009-10 and just two last season.
And the Panthers don't know when they'll see him.
Shirokov recently left the Canucks to return to his KHL team in Moscow. According to Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo.com, Shirokov has a three-year deal. Florida now holds his NHL rights although Chesnokov says Shirokov's contract doesn't have an out clause.
“He'll probably stay there this year and play. It's going to be hard to have the team release him after they just signed him,'' said assistant GM Mike Santos, adding he believed Shirokov's deal to be for two years.
“We'll watch his progress. If we think he can play for us next year, we'll try and work something out with his team. He's a talented guy. He's committed this year so we'll work toward something for next year. He's a real good player. We moved Duco for him because we think he's a good skilled player for the future.''
Chesnokov scored 22 goals in each of the past two seasons with the Mannitoba Moose of the AHL and was a two-time AHL all-star. He had 17 goals in 56 games in his final season with CSKA Moskow of the KHL before heading west.
Some may remember Esposito from the 2007 NHL draft. At one time considered one of the top picks of that draft, Esposito fell to the Penguins at No. 20. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from that draft day:
[GM Ray] Shero said "we're not sure" and that "we don't really care" why Esposito's stock plummeted, although more than a few scouts questioned his commitment and apparent lack of passion at times.
Esposito said he also does not know why scouts soured on him, but insisted he does not plan to dwell on it.
"It's over now, and I'm looking forward to the future," he said.
Esposito was traded from the Penguins to Atlanta in the Marian Hossa/Pascal Dupuis deal and has yet to play in an NHL game. In 57 games for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, Esposito -- no relation to Phil or Tony -- scored just three goals with 10 assists.
"Hey, he's 20 years old and has only played two years professionally,'' Santos said. "We're going to see what he's got. This was a trade for two first round picks. Perhaps the change of scenery will be good for both of them.''
After helping the Vancouver Giants win the Memorial Cup, McArdle joined the Panthers organization and never really found his way. He bounced between Rochester and Sunrise for a time, playing in 33 games over the past three seasons. McArdle scored a goal with two assists.
-- Mike Duco is a tough customer who was loved by the fans in Rochester and was always a favorite of the fans here during training camp. Duco ends his Florida career with just 12 games played (only two last year) in two seasons.
-- Mike Santos says a deal with Erik Gudbranson will get done eventually and he's not worried about it coming together.
He says both the Panthers and Gudbranson's agent have been busy with other things.
Gudbranson will be here for next week's development camp.
-- The Panthers will have different looking road jerseys next season, although it sounds like they will look a lot like their old ones. They will be white with red on the shoulders. The yellow piping down the front is gone though.
-- I had a post yesterday regarding Saturday's benefit for longtime Panthers fan/season ticket holder Sarah Silva which is being held at the Pompano Beach Bru's Room.
The Panthers generously donated a team signed jersey as well as a red draft cap signed by all nine of the new free agents who were there today. Come on by tomorrow to get a chance to win.
Steve Goldstein and Bill Lindsay of Fox Florida got the highest marks offered.
Here's what Zona wrote about our boys Goldie and Billy:
It's a shame that less than 4,000 households per night watch the Panthers. Their television pairing is top-notch, hidden by the weakest television market in the NHL and a team that hasn't made the playoffs in ten years.
Goldstein is the prototypical television play-by-play voice -- engaging and fast-moving, introducing segments and reading ad copy quickly but in a relaxed manner. He calls a steady game without bias in his voice or tone and identifies line changes, blocks, tips and hits without fail.
Bill Lindsay was a plugger during his playing days, totaling 224 points in 777 games as a checking wing. His days on the penalty kill paid off as he, along with Andy Brickley, is among the very best at explaining special teams and individual breakdowns as they occur. He also understands coaching and systems like few other men on television. It's a treat to listen to him explain the tactics and strategies used by the Panthers and their opponents.
Anyway, onto this morning's press conference. Nice time. It was good to get to meet some of the new players on the team as well as reacquaint myself with some I have previously met.
Here's my story on the event:
The Florida Panthers unveiled many members of their new-look team on Friday morning, introducing nine new players acquired over the past two weeks at a press conference at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
It wasn’t as dramatic or flashy as the celebration the Heat around this time a year ago. But based on the comments from the new players, the Panthers are just as ready to start this coming season as their basketball counterparts were last July.
“The one thing that kept coming up was ‘you’re really going to love this guy’,’’ assistant general manager Mike Santos. “All I want to say to the fans in South Florida is, you’re going to love these guys.’’
Of Florida’s newest players, only center Marcel Goc and winger Sean Bergenheim were missing. The nine players, wearing their new custom red home jerseys, joined general manager Dale Tallon and Santos on a large stage on the arena’s suite level. The players then moved to the 100 level to speak with the large amount of media members in the team’s Den of Honor.
Ed Jovanovski spent over an hour conducting interviews with his old Panthers jersey on display a few feet away. Jovanovski was the first overall pick of the 1994 draft by the Panthers and played here from 1995-99. The 35-year-old defenseman signed a four-year deal with the team just after the free agency period opened on July 1.
“You ask yourself where the time has gone,’’ said Jovanovski, who will once again wear No. 55. “It was tough when I left. The trade was unexpected, had to move across the country to a team that struggled a bit that first year. But it doesn't feel like it wasn't that long ago.’’
Jovanovski was obviously the most popular player at Friday’s function, although Kris Versteeg had those in attendance laughing when he joked about being traded from Philadelphia. “Based on my track record, you should expect anything to happen. But with Dale, I knew if I was going anywhere, it would be here.’’
Versteeg played for the Blackhawks when Tallon was Chicago’s general manager, telling a story of Tallon telling the last place team they soon would be holding a Stanley Cup parade “down Michigan Avenue. I thought the guy was nuts.’’ The Blackhawks did win the Cup, only Tallon had already left for Florida by then. Versteeg made sure he kept his word and shared in the celebration.
Tallon says he had not had a drink in 16 years before “I fell off the wagon with him.’’ Tallon joined Versteeg as well as a number of other Blackhawks including Campbell to swig Jack Daniels from the silver chalice following the parade Tallon predicted would come.
“I don’t know what it was, but it was pretty bad,’’ Tallon said with a grin. “But we’ll do it again.’’
Make no doubt, Tallon’s goal is not just to get the Panthers back in the playoffs – Florida has missed the postseason an NHL record 10 straight seasons – but to get to the highest level. Last February, Tallon tore apart the Panthers roster with this summer in mind. Going into last month’s draft, the Panthers had around $20 million committed to the 2011-12 season, almost $30 million under the league-mandated salary cap floor.
After Tallon’s spending spree, the Panthers payroll is over $50 million.
“This has really exceeded expectations. We thought if we got three or four guys, we would be happy on that first day,’’ Tallon said. “Things just kept flowing. It turned into quite a few days for us. We made a lot of hard decisions in February. But we had a plan and we're sticking to it. We made room, made ourselves flexible so we could do this.’’
Tallon got things rolling at the draft, making a late night trade to acquire defenseman Brian Campbell from Chicago in exchange for the disappointing Rostislav Olesz. Tallon then picked up forward Tomas Kopecky in another trade with the Blackhawks before the free agent frenzy began.
“I like it. I've known Dale for a couple of years now. This is going to be special,’’ said Kopecky, who flew in from Slovakia for Friday’s event. He’ll return to Europe on Sunday. “When he wants to do something, nothing is going to stop him. I knew he was going to change things around and I wanted to be part of it. This is good for Florida. This is going to be a good place to play.''
On July 1, the Panthers signed four players – including Jovanovski, goalie Jose Theodore and winger Scottie Upshall – just a few hours in. By the end of the day, Florida had signed eight new players. The following day, Matt Bradley came over from division rival Washington.
Tallon’s work over the past few weeks is unprecedented in franchise history and rarely have professional teams turned over such a large chunk of their organization in such a short period of time. Some have compared it to the job Heat president Pat Riley did to clear cap space in order to tie up Miami’s Big 3. The Panthers may not have a super star like Dwyane Wade or LeBron James, but there’s no doubt the Panthers are better now than they were before Tallon came to town in May of last year.
One member of the media even asked what Tallon thought of being compared to Riley.
“Well, I don’t have his taste in clothes,’’ Tallon joked. “That’s an honor. I’ve admired him for many years. He’s a champion and that’s what we want to be. We want to be champions. That’s the goal. That’s why these players came here. They know we’re committed and want to win. And we’re going to have fun doing it.’’
Craig Ramsay was born in Ontario, spent much of his young life playing hockey in Buffalo and has coached in a number of places including Ottawa, Philadelphia, Tampa, Boston and Atlanta.
Yet upon officially being re-hired by the Panthers on Thursday, the 60-year-old sent a simple text message out: “Looking forward to coming home.''
Ramsay jokes that he always told people the only way he would leave Buffalo was “when they put a team in Florida” and after a few years away, he's back in the Sunshine State.
The Panthers announced Thursday that Ramsay – an original member of the Panthers back in 1993 – would be returning as an assistant under new head coach Kevin Dineen. Ramsay was an assistant coach for the first two Florida teams, leaving in 1995 when then-general manager Bryan Murray fired original coach (and Hall of Famer) Roger Neilson.
“I'm coming home and I feel real good about coming back to Florida,'' said Ramsay, who spent seven seasons with the cross-state Lightning, winning his only Stanley Cup there in 2004. “There are some good people and my son lives there. It's a pretty good opportunity for me. We became a Florida group after we had that first adventure with the Panthers. .-.-. This is where I want to be. I want to go home, I like the way [the Panthers] are heading. I like the ideas they have.''
Ramsay spent last season with the Atlanta Thrashers, the only head coaching job he got that didn't start with the interim tag attached to it.
The cancer survivor, who had a major health scare during his first run with the Panthers, was left hanging when the Thrashers were sold and moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Despite seeing the Thrashers experiment fail first hand, Ramsay says he believes the NHL can work in the Sun Belt. His early years with the Panthers – and successful run with the Lightning – fuel that confidence.
“I've seen it work in Tampa and I'd love to be part of that again,'' said Ramsay, who still had time left on his contract with the Atlanta/Winnipeg organization. “The fans come out to see an exciting team on the ice and win. In the south, you can do it. I know it.''
One thing Ramsay will help the Panthers in is their power play. Gord Murphy, whom Ramsay coached when Murphy was a defenseman for the original Panthers, is Florida's other assistant coach under Dineen.
As Murphy's penalty kill units ranked sixth in the league last season, the Panthers power play was in a state of perpetual blackout. Florida set a franchise record (in a non-shortened season) for fewest power play goals (35) in a season.
Ramsay hopes the influx of new players will help get Florida's last-place power play a lift.