September 19, 2008

Center of Attention -- With Tons of Quotes

NatehortonAs we speculated this summer, it appears Nathan Horton will be moving to center at least on a tryout basis on Saturday.

That means those Sunrise Express (should have been Sawgrass Express IMHO) T-shirts you all bought last season will be collector's items.

Peter DeBoer floated the idea of moving Horton back to his natural position this summer when I met up with him in Kitchener, and at media day on Friday, said he was willing to try a number of different things. Horton moving from right wing to the pivot is one of them.

"We're going to look at all kinds of different options to try and get the best out of our team,'' DeBoer said. "I'm not married to any combinations or guys set at any positions.

"I wanted to come into this training camp with a clean slate for all the players. I don't want anyone to be dragging any baggage from the past into this camp. I don't want to be tainted by 'this guy only plays here.' We want to make sure we're a tough team to play against every night. To me, that means four lines playing with energy and competing and chipping in points every night. If that means moving some guys around, well, we're going to do that.''

Said Horton: "I haven't played [center] since junior, but it's a lot more fun when you can move around and go anywhere on the ice. You can help out more, have more responsibility. I think it'll be fun, but who knows what will happen. We'll see tomorrow, I guess.''

When asked if he welcomed the move, Horton sounded like he was cool with it. "Anyone would be,'' he said. "It's more responsibility and it gets you into the game a little more. You can go different places than you can at the wing.''

Added DeBoer: "I've had conversations with Nathan about it. He was a dominant centerman in junior, went head-to-head with [Eric] Staal night in and night out in junior. He usually came out on top. I've had that conversation with him. All the guys have the attitude that they're going to do what they have to do to find some success here as a team.''

Said JM: "You need a big center, and he fits the bill.''

Added Stephen Weiss: "He's such a good player, he can play anywhere you need him to. He's played center before, so it might take him a few games to get used to it, but he'll be fine.''

Said David Booth: "He's a great player and can play anywhere. Just a great athlete. Things change during the course of a year and you never know what's going to happen. We have a lot of good players, players who can play anywhere.''

Other notes from Friday's meet and greet:


-- On playing well from the start : "The starts here the past couple of years have been a concern. We all know how important it is to get off to a good start and get headed in the right direction.''

-- On his vision: "My concern is making us the hardest working team in the league. We want to play the right way, be a tough team to play against. If we play that way, success is going to come.''

-- On meeting his new players: "I think I have a feel for all the guys. I haven't had a chance to sit down and meet with everyone, but we're going on the road for quite a while here so I can sit with everyone through that span. The feedback is excitement. These guys are excited to be back. Anytime you miss the playoffs it's a long summer. As much as hockey players enjoy their summer, four or five months is too long. I think everyone would be happy with just two or three.

"They're excited about our direction, excited about the new players in the room. And so are we.''

-- Bringing in his style: "Players want honest and they want straightforwardness. They'll see early what I expect, what we want. They're going to get to buy into that early. There won't be an issue.''

-- Expectations: "We have a captive audience here. There isn't one guy who has been here in this organization who has played in the playoffs in seven years. .-.-. These guys want to be playing playoff hockey, want the direction that's going to take them to success at that time of year. We have to lay that foundation in training camp.''

-- On the new captain: "It's a topic of conversation, although it hasn't been that big a topic with the coaching staff that people out there may believe. We have so many other things to focus on right now. I now there is leadership in that room, I know there's depth of leadership in that room. If anything, there's going to be a group of guys not wearing a letter that probably could be.

"As far as the 'C' and 'As' go, we haven't had that conversation in any detail. I really wanted to come into camp with an open mind and let the chips sort themselves out. Usually those things become pretty clear pretty quickly. If they don't, well, I'm not in any rush. This is important decision for this franchise and we want to make sure we get the right guy.''

-- Younger players fitting in: "That's up to them. I've never been a coach who cut or kept players because of their age or experience. We want to win every night and if I feel Frolik or Matthias or any of the young guys can step in and help us win on night one of the season, they'll be in the lineup night one. If I don't think they can, they won't be.

"I'm not going to make those decisions based on age or experience. It's because I've found in the past that there are young guys who are ahead of the curve and can step right in. Some guys you think could, really couldn't. We'll see how it shakes out.''


-- On setting the right tempo: "It all starts tomorrow. Everyone is going come in and work hard. I think that's the main thing, getting it right from the start. Whatever happens in practice carries over into the games. We've talked about [digging a hole] a lot. We definitely need a good start. It's not easy when you fall behind from the beginning. It's a long season, but those wins count just as much as the ones at the end of the season.''

-- On not having Olli around: "Obviously he was my friend. He was a team leader and it'll be different. But the guys we brought in have leadership, guys like Stillman and McCabe and the list goes on. It''s exciting for me, I think it'll be exciting for everyone.''

-- Doing more: "I need to do more. The big thing is not taking nights off, and that comes from working. Practice means a lot and I'm going to do my best there. That should carry over. The nights we take off are the points we need at the end.''

-- Did leadership need to change?: "I think something needed to change. We have great guys here who are older guys and leaders. We have a good mix. We're all getting along, have been skating together for  a month. It's been fun, and tomorrow is where it all starts.''

-- Fresh start with Pete: "I'm excited to play for him, and I think if you talk to a lot of guys, they are too. He knows a lot about the game and he'll be good for the Panthers and for everyone's career. He knows a lot and has a lot to teach.''


-- On cleaning house: "No matter where you're at, you're going to have ups and downs. I think we improved the character of our club so we can deal with situations, deal with times of frustrations and adversity better than we have in the past.''

-- On goals: "We have a nucleus of players who can take us to the playoffs. .-.-. Our goaltending is strong enough to make us a playoff team. Our defense now, I really believe it's good enough to make us a playoff team. Up front, we're still very young, but I think we have people who will produce. When I look at our roster, I see seven guys who could be 20 goal scorers if they stay healthy. We could get more production from the backend. It's going to take a lot of work, but we have better depth than we've had before and we still may need to add some dimension.''

-- Training camp: "We're going to have some great battles between the young kids. Matthias, Frolik, Repik for instance. Then you have another wave of guys like Stewart, Sprukts, Meyer, Glass. those could be players who earn a spot on our team. We have more compition within the team.'' 

-- On lines: "The good thing is, that's not my decision anymore.''

-- Expectations: "Don't single out Nathan. We're expecting more from a lot of people. People like Stephen Weiss, Rostislav Olesz, David Booth, Brett McLean. We signed Cory Stillman, Richard Zednik. There's probably seven individuals who could score 20 goals or more. I think it's time for those players to take a step forward.

-- Zednik moving forward: "Richard handled it very well. He had a lot of time to recover, and I think he's anxious to come back and start competing. When he got hurt, he was at the best -- with us, anyway. Hopefully he can regain that form quickly and help us win hockey games.''

-- How tough to make Panthers: "As a player, there's injuries and there are trades. If someone steps up and shows he deserves to play at this level, I'm sure we'll find the room.''

-- Jassen Cullimore coming back: "If you remember last year, we had eight defensemen at training camp, and by November, we had to reach out and sign Jassen. Sometime you don't have enough defensemen. We like Jassen, felt he performed well for us last year. Who knows what can happen in training camp. He's going to get a chance to prove to the new coach where he fits in. Hopefully after camp we have a contract for him.''


-- On returning from injury: "It's tough when you can't shoot the puck, that's one of your bread-and-butter things. There are other aspects you can work on, and I hope to contribute offensively. That's why they brought me out here. I'm going to put the puck in the net this year.''

-- Getting started: "I'm really excited, I get a fresh start here. New coach, lot of new teammates. I'm looking forward to helping out this club.''


-- On skating with his new teammates the past few weeks: "It's good to get guys in here early, that way you can feel comfortable together before camp starts. I think it's important to start building some chemistry. Look at Cory Stillman. We've been together a few weeks already. I haven't played in a game with him, but I feel like I know him a little bit. There's a comfort level there.

"When we're all sucking wind and bent over in the first practice, it'll help to know one another. It helps you learn one another.''


-- On the new Panthers: "I think we do need a fresh start around here. We haven't made the playoffs in eight years, and that's something we need to do down here. If we do it, we can get the fan base going. And we can do it. We can make a charge for the Stanley Cup. We have to keep talking about the Stanley Cup. That has to be a goal. That's why you play the game, to win. We have to talk about that every day.''

-- Quick start: "Come March and April, you find yourself looking back at games lost saying 'we had a two-goal lead.' We have to do that starting Oct. 10. We have to get going right now. We've seen how hard the guys have worked in the offseason, we just have to be ready to go from the start. We have to finish off teams, and when we're down, we have to fight to the finish.''

-- More on the new look: "I think we have a good team. The changes we made were good. There's definitely going to be a good vibe in the locker room, and everyone is on the same page right now. No one is better than anyone else. You have to prove yourself in training camp.''

-- Chemistry on the Sunrise Express: "It takes time to develop. That was fun. But those guys are great players and they're going to find success with whomever they play. They make the other players better. If we can get two or three lines going every night, producing -- even four lines -- that will help our team.''

August 27, 2008

Look Who's Back?

JmThe Panthers announced their roster for rookie camp in Kitchener, Ontario, and it appears the team has a new coach.

According to the press release, Jacques Martin is back as both the team's coach and general manager.

“We are excited to be participating again in our annual Rookie Camp in a great city like Kitchener,” said Panthers General Manager and Head Coach Jacques Martin (they put this in bold, not me). “We have a lot of great young talent this year and this camp gives all four teams a great opportunity to assess their younger players.”

Of course this was just a typo, as everyone knows. And the goof was caught and corrected very quickly.

All kidding aside, new Rochester coach Benoit Groulx is going to run the rookie camp, with JM and Peter DeBoer close by. Should be a fun couple of days up in Kitch, a town I found to be pretty cool in my travels up there this summer.

For those fans up north who want to see some of the Panthers top prospects practice and play other teams, this is a good opportunity to do so. All workouts and games are going to be at the Kitchener Auditorium, home of the Rangers. Here's the sked. Have fun!

Sept. 12 – Practice, 2-4 p.m.

Sept. 13 – Florida vs. Ottawa, 2 p.m.

Sept. 14 – Florida vs. Pittsburgh, 2 p.m.

Sept. 15 – Florida vs. Toronto, 7 p.m.

-- Thanks to all of those who have voted on the Top Panthers thread (which is below). Quite a few votes are in already (and we are less than 12 hours into the deal). Lot of votes for Roberto Luongo, John Vanbiesbrouck and Pavel Bure.

Plenty of time left to vote. As I wrote below, you have a month to vote on this group before I add and subtract a few names and we figure this whole thing out. But vote when you want; vote when you can.

June 08, 2008

Done With This Guy

VinnyTSN in Canada is reporting that former Sharks coach Ron Wilson is indeed going to take the Maple Leafs gig, agreeing to a four-year deal to coach in the Centre of the Hockey Universe.

Don't know how much interest the Panthers had in Wilson -- or, more importantly, Wilson's interest in the Panthers -- but that is certainly moot now.

According to the TSN report, interim GM Cliff Fletcher said the two sides are close and had reached a verbal agreement, although "it is not on paper.''

JM told me, and other members of the South Florida media, that the Panthers' search was going to intensify this coming week.

Could be interesting, especially if something leaks out this week.

We shall see.

JM said he has narrowed his coaching candidates to four, and while he wouldn't confirm any of them -- other than saying he has spoken to Paul Maurice and has permission to speak with Perry Pearn -- I'm going to speculate who the four are.

Today's Frozen Poll asks who you would like to see coach the Panthers out of this bunch. Even though JM questioned where we all got Andre Savard as a candidate, I think where there's some smoke, there's fire and am putting him down as Candidate No. 5.

As always, comments are welcomed.

PS: On our last Frozen Poll, the question was whether the Panthers should hire the recently fired John Tortorella. A whopping 70 percent of you said yes. Was a little surprised with that one. But I don't see it happening for various -- and many obvious -- reasons.

Also, with Torts perhaps going to San Jose, that would leave Joel Quenneville available for the Panthers. So he's still in play.

May 12, 2008

Savard's Job to Lose?

Andresavard Old pal Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun threw out another rumor related to the Panthers coaching search, offering up Pittsburgh assistant Andre Savard. This isn't out of left field either, folks. I heard his name offered up a few weeks ago in conversations with someone within the organization. That person basically told me "look at guys who have been close to Jacques.''

Andre Savard has been close to Jacques.

As coach of the Quebec Nordiques, Savard hired Martin as his assistant coach when Martin was relieved of his first coaching job with the St. Louis Blues in 1988. Savard also worked in Ottawa as a scout and was an assistant coach under JM with the Sens.

Are they pals? Don't know. Would guess the two have kept close ties over the years as Savard has definitely been around.

A former player, Savard was general manager of the Canadiens earlier this decade, and has been an assistant coach with the Pens the past two seasons. The Pens are doing pretty well. JM may be waiting for this Pittsburgh season to end before he really begins the coaching search.

Savard spent 12 seasons in the NHL, splitting time with Boston, Buffalo and Quebec. He retired in 1985 after scoring 211 goals in close to 800 career games.

Is Savard the favorite right now? I'm not jumping through that hoop. But, I would think he's one of the top candidates because of his past with Jacques and because of the good work he's done with Pitt.

May 10, 2008

JM with Goldie

Goldie_2 Steve Goldstein had JM the GM on his radio show Saturday morning, talking about signing the prospects ("we'll have it done by June 1") to what he's looking for in a new coach.

Goldie also presses JM on whether he plans to trade Olli Jokinen this offseason. While JM didn't give him anything new, he was a little more staunch than he's been in the past.

"Right now, Olli is at the World Championships, but he's no different than any other player,'' JM said. "As a general manager, you're mandated to try and improve your hockey club. I don't think after missing the playoffs for seven years, we don't have any untouchables.''

Kind of repeating what Alan Cohen said earlier this offseason, that he couldn't "protect players anymore.''

Could get interesting.

If you want to hear the whole interview Goldie did on 790 The Ticket click here: It's two parts..
Download JMwithGoldie1.mp3
Download jmwithgoldie2.mp3

April 29, 2008

Rock the Vote -- Now, New Candidates!

Jacques JM the GM said last week that he would begin formulating his criteria for selecting a new coach of the Florida Panthers this week. Since today is Tuesday, I'm assuming JM has his thoughts in order and is about ready to start looking at good, quality candidates to coach the Panthers for the foreseeable future.

Of course, the new coach will be the 10th coach in the relatively short history of the Florida Panthers. That, kids, is a lot of instability. Consider this: Jacques Martin is the only coach in the history of the Panthers franchise to last three full seasons. Yes, the only one. Not coincidentally, JM is the franchise coaching leader in wins, losses and games.

We'll see if the new guy sticks around long enough to challenge those records.

Flick Anyway, a new feature at On Frozen Pond (stolen from old pal Gregory Cote down the street at is what I like to call the Frozen Poll.

Today's poll surrounds Martin's search for a new coach and who you, the loyal reader of On Frozen Pond, wants to see behind the Panthers bench. With the Sharks teetering on the brink of elimination, I figure Ron Wilson may be available sooner than later so I'm throwing him into the mix.

Vote early, and if you're from Miami-Dade County, feel free to vote often.

This Frozen Poll stays open for an entire month!

-- Folks have been emailing me wondering why they had not heard that Denis Potvin was a coaching candidate. As far as I know, he isn't. I just threw his name out there thinking if he was interested in the gig, the Panthers have to talk to him. But truthfully, I don't know if Denis is interested. He has a pretty good deal going now, and I know he enjoys his way of life.

-- After one full day of voting, here's what we got: Denis Potvin 24 percent; Randy Cunneyworth 22 percent; The Dancing Banana 22 percent; Bob Hartley 11 percent; Doug MacLean 9 percent; Ron Wilson 7 percent; Perry Pearn 6 percent.

April 24, 2008

News of the Day

MichelinmanSpent part of the morning at the BAC meeting with JM the GM. OK?

Got a little bit of news out of our meeting, some of which has been reported. But, I'm giving it to you anyways.

Sue me.

-- On the coaching search: No rush. None. JM was talking about August today. Says there are candidates who are still in the playoffs (thinking the Rangers' Perry Pearn) and says he'll put his list of qualifications together next week. Adds Mike Kitchen and Guy Charron have indicated they are interested in the job and will get their chance. Other than that, not much.

-- On his contract status: Nothing yet, although he says they are close to getting the deal done. He didn't seem all to worried about it.

-- On Michael Frolik: Nothing new to report here either. JM says the Panthers have made another offer and they are working toward a deal. Clock is ticking on this one. If Frolik isn't signed by June 1, he can re-enter the draft. Florida needs this deal to get done.

-- On Wade Belak: Had shoulder surgery ("something similar to Noah Welch") and will spend the summer rehabbing. That said, Martin wants Belak back and says a deal is in the works. Rostislav Olesz is also a deal the Panthers think will get done sooner than later.

-- On Steve Montador: I get the feeling we may have seen the last of Monty in a Florida sweater. Dude is going to get paid this year after having a career year, and I don't know that the Panthers are going to want to pony up the cash. JM says they want Monty back, but added that Monty probably is going to want to test the free agent waters. And, the Panthers "have a budget to think about.''

-- On Jay Bouwmeester: Nothing new to report here either. JM says the two sides have begun speaking.

-- On the Rochester Americans: The mess continues to grow. JM says the league is meeting with the team on May 5-6 "because they have some issues they have to deal with.'' JM says the Panthers are going to need a new deal with the Americans since the Panthers are going to be the lone parent team and will stock the team with players and coaches.

"We still feel strongly that it's a great market, a great fit for us,'' Martin said. "At the same time, we need the ownership issues resolved by the league. We'll work with the league on that. He needs to rectify his issues with the league and the city.''

Martin said both he and Randy Sexton will probably handle the Rochester hirings and signings, adding that the assistant GM usually handles the AHL operations but the Panthers haven't hammered that out yet.

A rumor floating out of Rochester was that the Panthers were interested in buying the Americans outright. False. The Panthers lost a bundle when they owned the San Antonio Rampage and don't want to go that route again.

-- Martin says all three of his assistants are under contracts, and "whoever becomes the head coach, those will be issues we'll have to work out.'' Martin wouldn't say whether any of the three would be back next year, but that would be up to the new coach. "We have things we need to consider,'' he said.

April 23, 2008

Hockey Talk

HarrydoyleBefore this site turns into 'On Frozen Diamond*' thought I would dedicate today's post to the second round of the NHL playoffs.

Looks like we have some fun matchups. Feel bad for the Capitals (they had plenty of chances to win that one), but good for the Flyers. Think that's going to be a decent series one in which I think the Habs win in 6. Carey Price shutting out the Bs on Monday night was huge. Huuuuuge.

Can't wait to watch the Pens and the Rangers, though, and I'm picking the Blueshirts to win that one in 7. Could go either way, obviously. I love the Pens, you all know this, but I also am a big fan of Henrik Lundqvist. I think he's a money maker and a difference maker. Goalies like him are built for the playoffs. Rangers just have too much going for them right now in my opinion.

Out west, what hockey fan doesn't love a Detroit-Avalanche matchup? That's just good, old fashioned hatred right there. Sure, a lot of the names have changed, but a few haven't. Bad blood always boils the best. I like Detroit there, and I think they need to stick with Osgood for the foreseeable future. Colorado may be the sixth seed, but they are a darned good sixth seed. I could see them winning here as well. Again, another fun series.

Good win for the Sharks on Tuesday, J.R. really coming to play by getting four points in Game 7. Not bad for a guy who text messaged a reporter in Philly this summer to tell him he was retiring, only to come back and sign a one-year deal with the Sharks. Did you see JR after the game last night? You could see him savoring every moment of that deal. That said, I like Dallas to win that one in 7.

-- PS: A total of seven Panthers will be representing their respective countries at the upcoming World Championships starting next week in Canada. David Booth and Craig Anderson will represent the U-S-of-A and Jay Bouwmeester will play for the homestanding Canadians. Others: Olli Jokinen (Finland), Ville Peltonen (Finland), Magnus 'Magnum' Johansson (Sweden), Branislav Mezei (Russia).

(*) Going to be doing a live report from tonight's Miami-FIU baseball game, and will also be doing some Florida Marlins reports when I cover them in May. Gives me something to do. Would have stopped in when I covered horse racing last weekend, but I was too engrossed in my Daily Racing Form to log on. Thanks to Mike and Michele at Gulfstream and Calder for all their help.

-- Bonus stuff on Detroit-Colorado: Colorado's Adam Foote and Joe Sakic have played in all 30 playoff games between the Avs and Wings, Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Darren McCarty have also played in all 30. Peter Forsberg, Kris Draper and Chris Chelios have played in 29 of the games.

-- Our good friends at have forwarded me their current Stanley Cup odds. Use these as you will. Odds to win the Stanley Cup: Detroit Red Wings 5/2; Pittsburgh Penguins 7/2; San Jose Sharks 9/2; Montreal Canadiens 6/1; New York Rangers 13/2; Dallas Stars 7/1; Colorado Avalanche 14/1; Philadelphia Flyers 16/1

-- Also, here is the complete schedule for Round 2. Clip and paste!
SERIES I TIME (ET) #1 Montreal vs. #6 Philadelphia Network

Thursday, April 24, 2008 7 p.m. Philadelphia at Montreal CBC, RDS
Saturday, April 26, 2008 7 p.m. Philadelphia at Montreal CBC, VERSUS, RDS
Monday, April 28, 2008 7 p.m. Montreal at Philadelphia VERSUS, CBC, RDS
Wednesday, April 30, 2008 7 p.m. Montreal at Philadelphia VERSUS, CBC, RDS
*Saturday, May 3, 2008 7 p.m. Philadelphia at Montreal CBC, VERSUS, RDS
*Sunday, May 4, 2008 7 p.m. Montreal at Philadelphia VERSUS, CBC, RDS
*Tuesday, May 6, 2008 7 p.m. Philadelphia at Montreal CBC, RDS

SERIES J TIME (ET) #2 Pittsburgh vs. #5 NY Rangers Network
Friday, April 25, 2008 7 p.m. NY Rangers at Pittsburgh VERSUS, CBC
Sunday, April 27, 2008 2 p.m. NY Rangers at Pittsburgh NBC, CBC
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 7 p.m. Pittsburgh at NY Rangers VERSUS, CBC
Thursday, May 1, 2008 7 p.m. Pittsburgh at NY Rangers VERSUS, CBC
*Sunday, May 4, 2008 2 p.m. NY Rangers at Pittsburgh NBC, CBC
*Monday, May 5, 2008 7 p.m. Pittsburgh at NY Rangers VERSUS, CBC
*Wednesday, May 7, 2008 TBD NY Rangers at Pittsburgh CBC

SERIES K TIME (ET) #1 Detroit vs. #6 Colorado Network
Thursday, April 24, 2008 7:30 p.m. Colorado at Detroit VERSUS, TSN
Saturday, April 26, 2008 3 p.m. Colorado at Detroit NBC, TSN
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 10 p.m. Detroit at Colorado VERSUS, TSN
Thursday, May 1, 2008 10 p.m. Detroit at Colorado VERSUS, TSN
*Saturday, May 3, 2008 1 p.m. Colorado at Detroit NBC, TSN
*Monday, May 5, 2008 10 p.m. Detroit at Colorado VERSUS, TSN
*Wednesday, May 7, 2008 TBD Colorado at Detroit TSN

SERIES L TIME (ET) #2 San Jose vs. #5 Dallas Network
Friday, April 25, 2008 10 p.m. Dallas at San Jose VERSUS, TSN
Sunday, April 27, 2008 9 p.m. Dallas at San Jose VERSUS, TSN
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 7:30 p.m. San Jose at Dallas TSN
Wednesday, April 30, 2008 9 p.m. San Jose at Dallas VERSUS, TSN (JIP)
*Friday, May 2, 2008 10 p.m. Dallas at San Jose VERSUS, TSN
*Sunday, May 4, 2008 9 p.m. San Jose at Dallas VERSUS, TSN
*Tuesday May 6, 2008 10 p.m. Dallas at San Jose TSN