Brian Campbell has felt the sting of critics. He was called overpaid then traded away – in what was essentially a salary dump - by the team he helped win the Stanley Cup.
All of that makes what is happening now even sweeter for the Panthers defenseman.
Campbell, tied for third in the league with 30 assists, became an NHL All-Star again on Thursday.
It is his fourth invitation, but he left little doubt this is the biggest validation he has received.
“The first [All-Star Game] was really special, but this one is probably the best for myself,” said the 32-year-old Campbell. “I feel I’ve been written off a bit by some people.”
This year’s All-Star Weekend, set for the last weekend of the month, will be held in Ottawa for the first time. That adds meaning to Campbell as well since he played his junior hockey there.
Campbell, though, said he enjoys the All-Star experience no matter the location. He goes as a hockey player – and also as a fan.
“My first time, I raided the store and spent a lot of money on jerseys,” he said of his initial All-Star appearance in 2007. “I brought my own camera and took pictures with [NHL stars Sidney] Crosby and [Martin] Brodeur.
“I like to collect stuff. Sometimes you use different sticks each period. That way, you have a few sticks you’ve used in an All-Star Game.”
Campbell, who is fifth in the NHL this season in average minutes per game with 26.17, has played in all 42 of the Panthers’ games. He’s become an indispensable part of the team since arriving in Florida just prior to the 2011 NHL Draft.
Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon, who signed Campbell in Chicago in 2008 to an eight-year, $56.8 million free-agent contract, brought him to Florida as the Blackhawks needed to shed salary this past summer.
The move has worked out for both. Florida got Campbell and Chicago moved salary.
“Dale has shown a lot of confidence in me,” said Campbell, who is tied for the league lead with 19 power-play points. “That translates into that I need to have a lot of confidence in myself.
“Dale is an honest person. He told me what it was going to be like here, and everything has been true. You want to work hard for your teammates and your coaches, but we all want to work extremely hard for Dale to show him the reason why we’re here.”
Tallon said he believes Campbell would be an asset to any team.
“I know how much he cares,” Tallon said. “We brought him in to Chicago, and they won, and we want to do the same thing here.”
Panthers Coach Kevin Dineen said Campbell has “lived up to expectations” as the team’s first All-Star since Jay Bouwmeester in 2009.The Panthers haven’t had more than one All-Star in a season since 2000, and some felt that streak might end this year.
Brian Stubits of CBS Sports mentioned Panthers winger Kris Versteeg as among the biggest snubs, and Tallon also praised center Stephen Weiss, winger Tomas Fleischmann and defenseman Jason Garrison as players deserving of consideration. Garrison leads all defensemen with 11 goals.
“We had a lot of candidates,” Tallon said.
Speaking specifically of Weiss, Tallon expressed confidence he will make future All-Star Games.
“He hasn’t reached his prime yet,” Tallon said of the 28-year-old Weiss. “He has been our glue here all year. We will keep surrounding him with better players as we move forward.”