After blowing up the roster at the end of the 2010-11 season, general manager Dale Tallon went shopping on July 1 and brought in almost a whole new team.
Of the 30 players who have a realistic shot at the opening night roster, 16 are new to the organization.
With so many new faces, the Panthers biggest concern is how quickly the team gels. Few teams have transformed themselves as quickly as the Panthers did this offseason, with Tallon and assistant general manager Mike Santos even trading away some prospects – like Kenndal McArdle in exchange for Angelo Esposito – to other teams for new prospects.
“There's going to be a lot of energy and enthusiasm,'' assistant general manager Mike Santos said. “Probably a lot more than people in South Florida are used to with the Panthers.''
Since a majority of the players have been working out in Coral Springs the past few weeks, introductions were not necessarily in order as the team gathered at the training facility on Friday for physicals and photos. But knowing a teammate's face is much different than knowing his instincts, the style he likes to play.
“There will be a learning curve, and that just comes from an overhaul,'' said defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who played for the Panthers from 1994-1999 but has spent the past five seasons in Phoenix.
“All the changes really puts an importance on training camp. We have to have great attention to detail and have to be ready to work every day. I know in hockey, when you have new guys come in, everyone makes sure they are welcome. It's been great.''
How long, then, will it take the Panthers to come together as a team?
“That's the great unknown,'' Tallon said. “It could take three weeks, it could take five games, it could take 10. We're hoping it comes together quick and I'm confident it will.''
Unlike past seasons, the Panthers won't be spending a lot of time on the road during training camp and preseason. Florida will play four exhibition games in Sunrise – including Monday's double-header against Nashville – and only leave the state once.
When the Panthers travel to Dallas for an exhibition game, it won't be for long. The team will practice in Coral Springs that morning, board a plane for Texas and play the game. The team will head home almost immediately.
Of all years, this may have been the one in which the Panthers did a little preseason road work. Nothing beats being away from home to bring a team together.
“With this group not being together, ever, it might be nice to get on the road and get to know each other better,'' center Stephen Weiss said. “But, I'm not complaining. It's nice to be home. I've done my share of traveling before a season during my time here. It'll be nice to be here. Guys can settle in, get comfortable.''
-- The Panthers will split into two teams for the start of training camp, with one team named after original team president and current alternate governor Bill Torrey. The other team is named after original goalie John Vanbiesbrouck.
The two teams will be on the ice for the first time on Saturday morning after Friday was spent doing physicals and taking photos and videos. Both teams will practice from 10:30 a.m. until 12:40 p.m. on separate ice sheets within the Coral Springs IcePlex.
Players will be on the ice at 9 a.m. for physical testing.
Admission is free.
-- The Panthers have brought back their original look by wearing predominately red jerseys at most home games this season. Florida has a contractual obligation to the league to wear its alternate light/dark blue jersey for 13 games this season.
It's apparent this will be the final year the Panthers wear that jersey. Santos is obviously not a fan of the look. He hopes to burn off some of the mandatory dates by wearing the third jersey in select road games. “As soon as we can rid ourselves of those things,'' Santos said, “we'll be a happier bunch.''
The Panthers are going all out when it comes to bringing back the red color scheme. Seats in the lower bowl of the BankAtlantic Center are being reupholstered in red.
“We're connecting to a time when this organization was successful,'' Santos said. “A big part of that success is the color red. Red is our color, is a Panthers color. It's not light blue, baby blue or all these other silly colors. They have nothing to do with us. We were successful in red and will be again.''
PANTHERS 2011 TRAINING CAMP
At Saveology.com IcePlex, Coral Springs
Saturday -- On-ice training, 9-10:15 a.m.; Practice (two sheets), 10:30-12:40 p.m.