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Super Joe

NieuwyBUFFALO -- Greetings from western New York, the birthplace of the low-fat Chicken Caesar Salad as well as the home of Super Bowl championship football.

OK, made up the the part about being in western New York.

One thing you can say about this place is there is no thought of a drought. Good clean water everywhere. And the people are nice. I used to make fun of Buffalo, but it's grown on me. One of my favorite trips. I always have fun here.

Anyway, today's topic seems to be Joe Nieuwendyk's role on the Florida Panthers hockey team. If you haven't read my story from last night yet, you can visit it here WIN ONE FOR THE NIEUWSTER

At first, I didn't think much of seeing Joe talk to the team during the second intermission. Especially when Zednik was called for an early penalty giving the Canes a chance to break the game open. But then things started to go Florida's way, and lo and behold, the Cats took advantage. Haven't seen much of that.

A lot of the guys were praising Joe's speech, the captain of the team saying it really inspired them.

Now, why would Joe's voice hold more credence than that of coach/GM Jacques Martin? Or Olli himself?

I don't know that it did. I think it was good to get someone in that room that these guys obviously respect. And although Joe apparently repeated things JM and the rest of the coaches have said in the past, maybe this time is sounded different coming from someone different. Either way, things clicked. Now, I'm not trying to undermine Joe and his affect on this team. Absolutely not.

But I think some fans are ready to toss JM as coach and Olli as captain because Joe -- a three time Cup champ who is as nice a fellow one would ever want to meet -- was able to come in and provide a spark.

Guess what? Just getting Joe in that room showed that JM realized that's what they needed. That was a good coaching move. And Olli knows he's the leader of this team, but Joe might be able to articulate things a little differently. Credit Olli for not being jealous, for knowing his responsibilities to this team are bigger than perhaps saying 'that should be me up there.' Sometimes, you have to step to the side for the betterment of the team.

What's best for the team is what happened Wednesday night, and both Olli and Jacques realized that. For some who are calling for Joe to become the new coach of this team based on one intermission pep talk need to realize that if it wasn't for some surprising help from the refs, the Panthers may just have lost that game Wednesday. What would people have been saying about Joe's talk then? Probably nothing, because it would have simply been a footnote.

I do think Joe is going to make an outstanding hockey coach if that's what he wants to do. Right now, I don't think that's the case. Here's a guy who, truthfully, knew his priorities Wednesday. And that was taking his kids out on Halloween.

Family is way too important for Joe to jump back into hockey full-time right now. Do you know how many hours a day JM puts into this team and organization? How about Guy Charron and Pierre Groulx? These guys don't just stop working when practice and games are over. They live this sport and this team. I don't think Joe is ready to dedicate himself to that life right now, and good for him. He's done enough in this game that he can decide when and where he's going to go in hockey. If anywhere.

He has a good gig with the Panthers, and talking him into joining the organization has proved from the start to be a very wise move by JM.

Nothing but good comes from having a guy like Joe Nieuwendyk around the Panthers. And JM and Olli aren't looking over their shoulder because he's around. They are all part of the same team, all with the same goal in mind.

That said, if JM was ready to turn the coaching responsibilities over to someone else, he might have a candidate for the job living not too far from the arena in Parkland.

Anyway, off to dinner. Going to order one of those famous Buffalo-style Chicken salads. Please note the celery and the dressing. That's a salad to me.