Panthers Captivating Local And National Scene


In the wee days of 2016, who would have thought the Florida Panthers would be the toast of South Florida and the NHL? A franchise that has been on the negative side of the pendulum for the better part of the last decade and a half is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. A twelve game winning streak has everyone from Don Cherry to the regular casual fan on the outskirts of Miami on high alert.

A successful sports franchise does wonders for a city. It makes everything that much livelier and people are filled with renewed hope for what lies ahead. For many years, the Panthers have been a team that has struggled to be a consistently good team on and off the ice. The real key to a successful franchise in sports or in any function is ownership. Many years passed and the Cats lacked a backbone that could raise them up when they needed it the most. Finally, Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu came in a few years ago and instantly gave the team a much needed sense of credibility that they were severely lacking for most of the franchise’s existence. Ultimately, the players and coaching staff bear the majority of the responsibility when it comes to propping the franchise up to a new level – that being said, ownership should receive a huge thank you from fans and supporters for their underlying belief in the franchise. Without their vision, the Panthers may have very well been packing up to reside somewhere other than Sunrise.

People think bandwagon fans are a bad thing, but is that always the case? For a franchise that could only benefit by having a deeper fan base, it is a beautiful sight to see people jump on and watch a team that deserves unlimited support for their effervescent play on the ice. When the regular season began, the crowds at BB&T Center were a work in progress but it was evident that if the team could begin stringing together some wins, things would change. Boy, did it ever. When the Panthers went on their first extended win streak at the end of November, eyes opened and ears perked up. By Christmas, the Cats were five games into their near month-long winning streak and they started to receive attention from not just the local media, but even the national media. More often than not, games against Original Six mainstays during the holidays such as the Canadiens and Rangers would result in more fans making the trek down to South Florida. That changed when the Panthers extended their streak to seven and eight games respectively. While there were still the typical smattering of Habs red and Rangers blue in the crowd, the fans of the home team had every reason to be loud and proud and they were a key component in the Panthers engineering their current streak.

As of right now, it is most likely that a whole new batch of Florida Panthers fans have originated due to the winning streak that has lasted almost a full month to this point. Every fan has to start some place. Think of the aforementioned Canadiens and Rangers; when those teams first originated in the early 19th century, new fans began to follow those now historic franchises. In all the family trees, the fandom was handed down from family member to family member and that is one of the reasons why those teams are ever-so-popular in today’s age. By the way, winning does not hurt either. The Panthers have only originated for just over two decades and in those two decades, they have not been synonymous with winning. At the end of the day, fans want winners and if the team gives them that, then the fans will give the team all the unconditional love they deserve.

A key aspect to the Panthers fan base growing due to the success of the team would also stem from the young kids who play hockey in South Florida. More kids are encapsulated in the game of hockey in South Florida and decades from now, they have the opportunity to share those memories with the younger population so that it can keep the fan base strong. In the not-so-distant future, there will most likely be a handful of hockey players who end up being drafted in the NHL because of their love for the game that was sparked by the success story that is the Florida Panthers. It is a chilling, but heartfelt thought and it goes to show you the impact that a sports franchise can have on the community and the future that it holds. In a world where politics can become antiquated and played out, sports is an amazing, yet necessary escape in order for a community to survive and thrive. So far, it looks as if the Panthers are becoming the talk of the town and they’re okay with that.

Hottest storylines heading into the 2015-16 NHL season

Hockey offseason might feel long and arduous to fans all around the world, but finally the NHL is back in session. There’s no surprise that during the course of a long offseason, teams do their fair share of tinkering with their roster and coaching staff. Here are ten of the top storylines heading into the 2015-16 campaign.

Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel taking the league by storm

In Sunrise, Florida the NHL had one of the most hyped-up drafts in the last decade. Two of the biggest young stars were drafted number one and two respectively by the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are tasked with turning around their lackluster franchises and these could be two players that change the league for years to come. That being said, these two young mega-stars have been insulated with talent around them in order to make the transition much smoother. Edmonton acquired former Rangers backup goaltender Cam Talbot along with veterans Andrej Sekera and Mark Letestu. Buffalo acquired Ryan O’Reilly, Jamie McGinn, Robin Lehner and David Legwand in trades while Evander Kane will finally make his debut for the Sabres.

Phil Kessel takes his talents to the Steel City

After six successful, yet eventful seasons in Toronto, Phil Kessel moves onto Pittsburgh. Kessel was traded to the Penguins from Toronto on July 1st in a trade that the Pens hope will revitalize a forward group in need of an offensive injection. Kessel will finally have a chance to play with top level players such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are great fits for the elite-goal scorer.

Chicago Blackhawks roster overhaul takes shape

Winning a Stanley Cup pays off in many different ways but it can also take a toll on the roster as elite players get paid the big bucks and little money is left for the rest of the team. Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp were the two biggest casualties in Chi-Town as they were dealt in seperate trades to Columbus and Dallas, respectively. The likes of Artem Anisimov and Trevor Daley look to fit into their new clubs as they were a part of the Saad and Sharp deals. Teuvo Teravainen is looking at an elevated role as veterans have left and younger players are being thrust into the spotlight. As long as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and coach Joel Quenneville are still around, the Blackhawks shouldn’t have very much to worry about in the grand scheme of things.

New coaches in new area codes

The 2015 offseason was filled with not just player movement, but endless coaching swaps. Longtime Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock wanted a new challenge as he is now looking to turn around the Toronto Maple Leafs. Young protege Jeff Blashill will take Babcock’s place in Detroit as the Wings are looking to freshen their approach in order to stay ahead of the game. After taking a year off, Dan Bylsma is now the coach in Buffalo as he will have a chance to coach a revamped roster that includes 2nd overall pick Jack Eichel. Other notable coaches in new places include Todd McClellan in Edmonton, Peter DeBoer in San Jose, former University of North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol in Philadelphia and John Hynes in New Jersey.

T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams the missing pieces in DC?

In an effort to get out of the second round of the playoffs for the first time since going to the Stanley Cup Final in 1998, the Capitals have bolstered their roster even more. T.J. Oshie was acquired in a trade from St. Louis while playoff star Justin Williams was signed in free agency after a successful run with the Kings. These two additions have the potential to be game breakers as they possess the natural scoring touch that Washington lacks after Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Under Barry Trotz, the Caps are a much improved defensive team and if the offense is there consistently, it could be a fruitful run for DC’s team.

3 on 3 overtime the newest tweak in the NHL

Since the shootout was installed into the league after the 2004-05 lockout, there were fans who were vehemently against it. Over time, some of those people have warmed up to it but as a whole, there was a more preferred way to preventing as many shootouts as possible. 3 on 3 overtime is the newest idea the league has come up with in an attempt to finish the game in overtime. This new format has the potential to change teams’ approach as they could become more offensive in overtime instead of sitting back and waiting for the shootout. Teams may not be able to build the bottom parts of their roster based on shootout success as was the case in the past.

Dougie Hamilton joins stacked Flames defense

When the Calgary Flames acquired budding star defenseman Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins just before the draft, many people couldn’t believe that the Flames got him for so little. Boston did not have much of an appetite to sign Hamilton to a long-term extension and they traded him for what value they could get. This young and steadily improving Flames club will reap the benefits as Hamilton joins Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman on a team that made a pleasant run to the second round of the playoffs last season.

New territory for Milan Lucic in Los Angeles

Milan Lucic was drafted in 2007 by the Boston Bruins and spent the first eight seasons of his professional career in Boston. However, after a disappointing 2014-15 season, the Bruins had to make changes and Lucic was one of many popular Bruins to be sent packing. The British Columbia native joins another team who had a disappointing season in the Los Angeles Kings. Los Angeles is hoping that he can spark a team that is need of fresh blood after petering out at the end of last season. Lucic will likely be on a line with Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, which has the potential to be one of the best top lines in hockey. In a contract year, that very well could be the perfect combination for Lucic and the Kings.

Mike Green and Brad Richards newest Wings in Detroit

For Mike Green, he will continue to don a red sweater in his NHL career. However it will not be Capitals red as he leaves Washington DC after a successful stint to join the Red Wings. He is the right-handed shot that Detroit had been looking to acquire for many years, but they finally get their prized possession after Mike Babcock left for Toronto. If healthy and consistent, Green can be the offensive dynamo that the Wings need on their blueline as they have steady defenders such as Niklas Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser. Brad Richards also joins the Winged Wheel after capturing his second career Stanley Cup as a member of the Blackhawks.

New Ducks in a row in Anaheim

There are two new members of the Anaheim Ducks that are on different teams for the first time in their careers. After spending their entire careers with one team, Kevin Bieksa and Carl Hagelin will be suiting up for new teams this season. Bieksa was a fan favorite in Vancouver but with the Canucks looking to infuse their roster with more youth, Bieksa was sent down the West Coast to Anaheim. He will try to fill in for the free agency loss of Francois Beauchemin. Hagelin was acquired from the Rangers and can be a great fit on a Ducks team that is predicated on youth and speed. For a team that is looking to finally get over the hump with Bruce Boudreau as the coach, Anaheim hopes that these two newest additions are exactly what the doctor ordered.

The Road To Being A Hockey Fan

Every person has their story of how they became a fan of a specific sport, whether it would be hockey, baseball, basketball, football or any other sport. There are different avenues in which people’s love and appreciation for the game began to pique. It can be the smallest of things that trigger a new-found respect for that interest. At the beginning, you can imagine and dream about what the interest could do for you on an emotional and physical level but until it peaks, you don’t honestly know what roads it will take you on.

For me, that interest was the game of hockey. I began to watch this game played in indoor frozen ponds when I became a teenager. That time was in 2006-ish when the National Hockey League was just getting unlocked out of a year-long work stoppage. Lots of fans lost interest for what I know now as a beautiful, wonderful game and I was the one who decided to just start watching the game for the heck of it. I got all the Philadelphia Flyers games on TV and I found it very ironic that once I started watching the games, I had to watch a team that wasn’t used to getting their heads pounded in sand and the appreciation level for not just the team, but the game itself made my decision a positive one. It wasn’t about wins and losses at that point when I watched the Flyers because the most important aspect was to learn the game, the players and let my growing knowledge of the game turn it into something fun. I didn’t latch onto a team that was winning at that moment because the winning would have overshadowed what was most important and that was the love for the game.

After that 2006-07 season, my love for the game really took off. The Flyers made a lot of great hockey moves that helped them turn the corner and it really enlivened me for not just them, but the NHL in general. I started following what every team in the league did because not only would I be watching the Flyers, but I would keep close tabs on all teams in the league. It was important to me to not just know the players on my favorite team but every player who laced up the skates. If I love the game of hockey like I truly do, it’s not all about one team, it’s about appreciating the talents of everyone playing the sport because it takes a collective effort to make the sport as fun and exciting as it is.

Sometimes on social media and on other sites, I get some brushback for being a fan of multiple teams. Diehard fans are great because they truly appreciate their team and they know their players better than anyone else. That being said, I enjoy admiring multiple teams and players because it keeps my knowledge and love of the game from becoming cloudy and dark. The Flyers will always be one of my favorite teams no matter what and I hold them in a special spot. I have watched them achieve some special feats, including being the third team in NHL history to win a playoff series after trailing three games to none and going to the Stanley Cup Final. Winning a Stanley Cup in that city would be an incredible feat. That being said, I appreciate the game more because it’s not just the Flyers that make my fondness for the game even deeper. The Los Angeles Kings were and still are a team that I appreciate because some former Flyers have come and gone there and I wanted to start watching them to see how they fared. When they won their first Stanley Cup, you could tell how excited the diehard fans were because they started following the game not because of how good or bad the team was but because they enjoyed the game itself. I had fun staying up late at night watching LA’s games and watching late night hockey in general is real enjoyable. It is comforting because you feel like not everyone is watching and that can be a calming influence from time to time. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to watch the late night games but if you are able to, it is one of the best ways to really broaden your knowledge of the game.

Lately, I’ve also started to keep tabs on the Florida Panthers more and more. This is where every person reading this right now is probably considering how weird and twisted I am on a scale from 1 to about, well, 100. The Panthers aren’t a household name around the NHL. They’ve only been in the league for just over 20 years now and their success rate isn’t where they have hoped it would be. Many people mock the team for their lack of fan support at BB&T Center and it does get tiresome after a while when that is the only comeback that people have. When I started watching them a year or two ago, there was a compelling connection that began to take place. Some of the young players, including Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov and now Aaron Ekblad, were under-appreciated because of the small market that they played in.

I don’t want to sound as if I’ve been a Panthers diehard since the beginning of time because I clearly haven’t. I also would prefer not to wave my proverbial flag towards everyone because it’s not about being a front runner, a homer or a fair-weathered fan. Every fan base has people who wouldn’t be confused for being Albert Einstein and that’s okay. However, it’s not fair to paint all fans in the same light. Every fan has and will continue to have a reason for beginning their liaison with the game they so choose. If you appreciate a player or a team, you should root them on in whatever capacity you choose. It’s a short life we all live in and if we have a chance to love and appreciate anything that we feel will make us happy, then you should go for it every darn time you have the opportunity to do so.

I enjoy watching the Panthers because my interest in them rose when they were bottom barreler’s and I appreciate organizations who can build from the bottom and rise to the top and see how it can really galvanize a city and the people who are fans of that team. Their future looks bright and if you are someone who wants to get into the game of hockey, they would be a real nice choice as a team to follow closely. Don’t let the smaller crowds freeze your brain and assume that they aren’t a true hockey team just because of attendance numbers. When people call out each other for rooting for multiple teams, I find it rather sanctimonious. The team you root for might have a new fan who used to be a fan of a different team and you wouldn’t want to treat that fan the way you treat other fans for jumping off and on other teams. At the end of the day, it’s only a game and it shouldn’t be taken seriously to the point where people feel affected by how others root for their teams.

As a hockey fan in general, I appreciate greatness when I see it. I am not a Chicago Blackhawks fan in any way shape or form, but there was that part inside of me that was hoping they would win the most recent Stanley Cup(which they did). It turned out to be their third Stanley Cup in six seasons and some people consider that a dynasty. When I get older, it will be fun to look back and say to myself “Hey remember that team?! They were SO good and great for the league. I wish everyone would have been able to see what they achieved.” When teams and players achieve great moments, it makes me appreciate the game to a whole new level because at the end of the day, hockey players more than just about any professional athlete, are just regular people who play the game because it was their first love. Fans are in the same mold. We watch because we love and we care and we want good people to achieve great things.

Andrea Ocampo: The Pulse Of This Sensational Florida Panthers Arena Host

If you are a Florida Panthers fan and you regularly attend Cats games, you will see plenty of Panthers in-game arena host, Andrea Ocampo. The highly talented Panthers host has received effusive praise for her combination of hard-work, talent and graciousness and it has taken her to great heights as she continues to rise up the ladder. Andrea chats about the Panthers, her outside interests and how she continues to improve on a daily basis.

1) A few weeks ago you hosted the NHL Draft at BB&T, how special was that for you on a personal level?

It was very exciting to host the NHL Draft. Professionally speaking it was something I could cross of my bucket list. It was incredible to work with the Florida Panthers crew and the NHL production team to bring the show together. So much goes on behind the scenes and to be an integral part of the NHL made me very grateful for being given an opportunity to be the public address announcer.

2) There are fans around the world who believe hockey and specifically the Panthers, don’t have it in them to thrive in South Florida – why should people change their tune?

Everyone is going to have their opinion about hockey in South Florida and that’s the beauty of it. This upcoming season will be my 4th with the team and it’s one thing to talk from afar and another to be a part of a franchise that works to no end to make hockey happen in South Florida. I’ve seen the inner workings of a team that go through their ups and downs. There are emotional moments and incredibly awesome moments. I get to interview the players and see the raw emotion that comes from the ice. I’ve seen the young players come into their own and the veterans show leadership in ways that I wish people can experience in person. Behind the scenes I watch management work tireless hours to revamp and enhance the fan experience and make sure they’re an integral part of our growth. The fans become family each season and without them I wouldn’t have the passion I have for this team. It’s a collective effort and wouldn’t want to be part of any other franchise because the Florida Panthers and fans have become my family and the passion behind us is tireless and genuine. This upcoming season is going to be an exciting one!

3) As an in-arena host, do you think you have a responsibility or a part in creating a larger following of the team based on your role of making the experience better for the fans when they show up every night?

I’m a firm believer that if you’re a part of a company you play an important role regardless of what your position may be. In being the arena host and team reporter I do have a responsibility to be an extension of the brand. I represent the Florida Panthers any time I can and have the privilege of being up close and personal with the fans. Growing the fan base comes with the territory and is an authentic aspect of what I do and why I love about being the arena host & reporter. Like I mentioned before the fans become my friends and are one of the reasons why I love my job. Being able to connect with them and new fans makes my job a privilege and the reason why I wanted to be a part of this industry.


4) You have a wide array of gigs that span from hockey to traveling and everything in between, how have you learned to have more balance in your life?

That’s a great question and something I continue to try to improve in my life. When I’m not hosting hockey, I’m hosting football games, then I’m zooming off to host a travel show and the list goes on. At the moment I’ve been doing many speaking engagements and working on really cool projects with talented people. The key to balancing it all is prioritization, organization and time off. My goal lately has been to find, “me time” that doesn’t have to do with work. It’s hard to shift from work to relaxation but I’m working on it and sleeping in on Sunday’s which do wonders!

5) What would be your favorite place to travel to and what makes that place fun?

I love to travel and it’s challenging because of all the work I have on my plate but I would say Greece is my favorite place to travel. I went to Mykonos a year ago and it was the most amazing experience of my life. The people, food and scenery were breath taking. I’m all about adventure and Greece has it all. The next place on my list is London and Paris but of course after hockey season.

You can follow Andrea on twitter(@AndreaOcampo) and check her business website(….and maybe you will find her at a Panthers game one of these days….:)

Coaches, Not League Are Main Culprits of Discouraging Offense In NHL

In the National Hockey League, it is arguably filled with the most humble players of any sport. They put their team above themselves. The whole “logo on the front, not the name on the back” thing is especially true in the land of pucks and sticks. This is one of the main reasons why we love the NHL and the players that are in the sport. Unfortunately, this is also one of the main reasons why we take issue with some aspects of the sport.

Remember the type of hockey that was played before the lockout? Clutching, grabbing and offense drying up like water in the Sahara Desert. The 2004-05 lockout saved offense for at least a period of time. Post-lockout, offense got higher and higher each year and the league became more popular by the day. However in the last year or so, the trend has shifted back to what was the norm a decade ago but for different reasons.

Hockey fans are as opinionated and passionate as can be. It is one of the reasons why they are the best fans in the world. It is also one of the reasons why they can be some of the most pushy fans in the world. Everyone likes to panic when one negative situation takes place in which fans want the league to overhaul the rule book. You’ve probably heard it all – making the rink sizes bigger, making the nets bigger, changing the point systems and on and on and on. The league is obligated to think of new possibilities for the league because there are times when changes have to be made for the better of the sport. That being said, changing every last rule in the book will not make the league any more or less exciting. There is a bigger problem in this sport than the rulebook, right now.

Head coaches have a tendency to be on the clock during their tenures with teams. How many bench bosses usually stay for long periods of time with one team? Eventually the message gets stale whether it is due to players not buying in and being mentally and or physically fatigued or just a simple matter of a team displaying a lack of talent and the coach getting the brunt of the blame. They are always thinking of the best way to win hockey games because they’re only thinking about their current state and not what might be in the future. More and more head coaches are playing a simpler, more boring game in order to win. In some cases, it is due to a lack of talent on their team and relying on one or two players to shoulder the load. In these Stanley Cup Playoffs, the teams that are playing boring hockey are the teams that are having failures. Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Detroit and Vancouver have had their fates already sealed and eventually teams like Montreal, Minnesota and even the Rangers could be sitting at home soon due to their boring, “let’s clamp down on defense and hope we can win 1-0 or 2-1” brand of hockey. It all starts with the head coaches.

The creativity in this game is going down the drain because head coaches only care about the bottom line and not what is good for the game. Yes, hockey purists enjoy seeing a team execute good solid defensive fundamentals and that is a necessity in order to be a championship caliber team but why let the offensive creativity get sucked into the sink hole? It’s understandable that some teams might not have as much talent as others but is that really an excuse? The Chicago Blackhawks are insanely talented with the likes of Kane, Toews, Keith, Hossa and a rich group of offensive minded players who realize that in order to win, they have to put the biscuit in the basket. When it’s time to win the big game, Chicago finds a way to put up a smart, efficient defensive effort. They let their talents to go to work and when the situation and experience calls for it, they know when to clamp down. They don’t have to rely on stifling defense every single game because eventually, it puts a world of pressure on the goaltender and the defense to be perfect every night. Teams like Montreal and the Rangers need to take note and stop relying on their world class goaltenders to get them to the promised land. Isn’t this a team sport? By playing a clamp down style of defense, isn’t it putting all the pressure on the goaltender? That’s not what you call a team effort nor is it a team game.

I love hockey just as much as the next fan and I still watch the games. There is a difference between watching the games and being emotionally involved in the games. A lot of games in the playoffs have not been exciting enough to where you can say, “That’s a game I will remember for the rest of my life!”. Not many people will remember a random 1-0 or 2-1 game in the second round of the playoffs. The head coaches owe it to the fans to at least play an exciting brand of offensive hockey because in today’s game, offense is the new defense and the teams who sit back and try to play defense for 60 minutes will always come out as losers. Is Chicago known as one of the best defensive teams ever to win a Stanley Cup? No. That being said, they are so smooth offensively that they are one of the few teams that let their talented players be talented players. Too many head coaches waste the talent of their top players just because they choose to play a defensive style of hockey. Nothing is wrong with the rules of the game. What is wrong with the league starts with the head coaches who like to put some of their fans to sleep on a nightly basis.

So here’s a sweet, simple note to head coaches: Go big or go home. Even if you’re eventually going to be kicked to the curb, at least rip it up offensively and make it fun for everyone involved. Hockey and fun should ALWAYS be in the same sentence.

In The Nick Of Time: Bjugstad Roaring Into Stardom For Cats

Nick Bjugstad just recently signed a new six-year, $24.6 million extension with the Florida Panthers.

The NHL loves to market their star players: the Crosby’s, Ovechkin’s, Toews’, Kane’s, Giroux’s, Lundqvist’s, Stamkos’ and Datsyuk’s of the world, just to name a few. Besides their all-world talent, what is the one striking similarity between all these players? They all play in big, eye-catching markets. Past and present success along with fan bases who have helped prop these teams up and sustain the marketability that they possess are critical reasons for their uber-popular status. Does it take time for star players to gain credibility and marketability? In some cases, not very long as the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane all won Stanley Cups within their first four seasons in the league. Players such as Alexander Ovechkin, Claude Giroux, Henrik Lundqvist and Steven Stamkos are big names because they play in heavily populated cities in which hockey is very popular and their instant success has captivated those in the cities they play in. However, there are special cases in which players have to earn and work their way towards stardom for reasons not just in their control, but out of their control.

Take a look at Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad. The 6’6 power forward from Minneapolis, Minnesota was the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. At that point, the Panthers had still been a non-playoff team for many years and languishing near the bottom of the league. The 2010 draft for the Panthers was the start of good things to come, even if there were expected growing pains in the middle of the process. Bjugstad made his NHL debut during the lockout-shortened season on April 6th, 2013. 21 months to the day, he has burst onto the scene to become the Panthers go-to offensive trigger man and possibly a candidate for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game in Columbus on January 25th.

Just last week, Bjugstad earned himself a six year extension with the Cats that will entrench him into the spotlight in South Florida for years to come. Hockey has usually been on the back-burner in Sunrise in previous years, but with other teams in the area going through periods of downward spirals, these Cardiac Cats are taking full advantage and have slowly but surely become the best and most likable team in the city.

There are certain cities in which the way for teams to become popular and marketable are very simple: winning. For many years, the Panthers have been a shoo-in for one of the worst teams in the league and fans did not care to show up to games. After years of rebuilding, the Cats are turning the corner and Bjugstad is one of those crucial cornerstones to their future success. If the Panthers continue to win as they have recently, Bjugstad’s name and game will be recognized throughout not just South Florida, but the entire NHL. Winning does a lot for a player’s popularity and reputation. Unless you are a heralded superstar that gets followed at one’s every move, it takes hard work, dedication and most importantly – success in order to be a shining star. Bjugstad has all the tools and character to be a marketable star in the league for years to come. He is also one of the nicest, most humble players in the league and fans all around the league will warm up to him as one of the easiest players to root for because of his skill level and where he and his team have come from.

Why You Should Be Watching The Florida Panthers

Aaron Ekblad, the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, is one of the reasons for the Panthers up-swing in the early part of this season.

There might not be many fans flocking BB&T Center for Florida Panthers hockey during the early stages of the 2014-15 NHL season, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t have their eyes fixated on this team filled with young talent and a potential that is beyond fruitful.

Through eight games this season, the Panthers are 3-2-3 and have only allowed 17 goals. While they’ve only managed to light the lamp on 12 different occasions, the potential that this young squad has should excite long lines of people. First overall pick from the 2014 draft in Aaron Ekblad has been a calming influence and he’s at the very young age of 18 years old. When watching the former Barrie Colts standout do his thing for the Cats, you would think he is a decade-long veteran who has already won multiple Norris Trophy awards. He makes smart, effective plays and having veterans like Willie Mitchell and Brian Campbell, along with a terrific, young leader in Erik Gudbranson on his side, certainly makes the transition less and less bumpy.

The Cats have been offensively challenged through the first month of the season, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the group of players who have potential to become offensive standouts. With a collection of young players on this team, the most important factor is learning how to play the game the right way. The defensive principles that first year head coach Gerard Gallant has engraved into the minds of his hockey players has helped them gain confidence on a nightly basis. In years past, Panthers teams have not played with the winning ingredients that are necessary in order to be a competent team. That all starts with the head coach. A head coach has to instill the values that are important to winning in order for the players to realize their full potential and for the former assistant coach of the Montreal Canadiens, he is getting that through to his group of young and hungry players.

Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. As the saying “location, location, location” goes, the same applies for netminding in the NHL. If you have it, the chances of success are much greater. If you don’t have it, then you will be stuck as a bottom feeder for years and years. The trade for Roberto Luongo in March of 2014 was the start of good things to come for the Panthers. Luongo played in the pressure packed city of Vancouver and while he had his critics there, he played about as well as any goalie could ever play in a hockey-crazed city. His calm demeanor has made a huge difference in the brand of hockey the Panthers have displayed. His teammates appreciate and respect him for who he is and what he’s dealt with in his career. The confidence the team has in front of him to this point in the season shows in the standings and when you have a goalie who will bail his team out at any point, you know you have something special. People forget that all this guy did was win the GOLD MEDAL for Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics. How many goalies in the history of the NHL can say that they’ve done that? Not only that, but Luongo was one win away from winning the first ever Stanley Cup for the city of Vancouver. At the end of his career, the accolades that this goalie will have in his back pocket will far exceed what most other goaltenders can say they’ve achieved. This Panthers team is lucky to have him and they should be taken seriously with him in net. He always gives this team a chance to win no matter what and good goaltending gives a hockey team an ample amount of confidence from top to bottom.

Think about hockey in South Florida – it might not be the hockey hotbed that everyone wants it to be, but at the end of the day it comes down to winning. When a franchise like the Panthers lack on-ice success, it can certainly be a challenge for fans on many different levels. Who wants to watch a losing team year after year? This Panthers team in 2014-15 is much different than what you have witnessed in the past. They have a head coach who is as intelligent as can be, a group of young players who care to the core when it comes to winning, a new group of veterans who have actually achieved the truest of success(Stanley Cup Final victories ala Willie Mitchell, Dave Bolland and Shawn Thornton) and a goaltender who loves the city and is at his most comfortable stage of his terrific career. The fans might not be showing up in droves as of right now, but without any doubt and any stone left unturned, they should be. Grow with these players and this franchise. They need your support and appreciation. The effort that these kids and vets are displaying should be appreciated by as many people as possible. Knowing that you have a group of players who care about putting a winning product on the ice should make you happy because you could always have a worse group. Be proud of your team and what they can do for hockey in the state of Florida. Two Stanley Cups in three years out in Los Angeles have done wonders for that city and how much appreciation that team gets today. Panthers won’t be too far behind if they keep up with their current philosophy, which is on a nice trajectory as of right now.

NHL 2014-15 Season Refresher

NHL season is back, boys and girls. The sweet sound of pucks shot off composite sticks, skaters gliding on the frozen pond and goal horns blasting with regularity – that is a sign of hockey coming back. If you’ve missed what has transpired this offseason, here is a refresher of what all 30 NHL teams have done from season’s end and what you will see on their respective opening nights.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins

Opening Night Roster: Forwards: Patrice Bergeron, Craig Cunningham, Loui Eriksson, Brian Ferlin, Matt Fraser, Chris Kelly, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille, Bobby Robins, Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg, Ryan Spooner; Defensemen: Matt Bartkowski, Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Dennis Seidenberg; Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Malcolm Subban, Niklas Svedberg

Additions: None

Subtractions: Johnny Boychuk, Jarome Iginla, Andrej Meszaros, Corey Potter, Shawn Thornton

Buffalo Sabres

Opening Night Roster: Goalies: Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth; Defensemen: Andre Benoit, Josh Gorges, Andrej Meszaros, Tyler Myers, Rasmus Ristolainen, Tyson Strachan, Mike Weber, Nikita Zadorov; Forwards: Nicolas Deslauriers, Tyler Ennis, Brian Flynn, Marcus Foligno, Brian Gionta, Zemgus Girgensons, Cody Hodgson, Cody McCormick, Torrey Mitchell, Matt Moulson, Sam Reinhart, Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart

Additions: Zac Dalpe, Brian Gionta, Matt Moulson, Andre Benoit, Josh Gorges, Andrej Meszaros

Subtractions: Cory Conacher, Christian Ehrhoff, John Scott

Carolina Hurricanes

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Anton Khudobin, Cam Ward; Defensemen: Brett Bellemore, Justin Faulk, Tim Gleason, Ron Hainsey, Jay Harrison, John-Michael Liles, Ryan Murphy, Andrej Sekera; Forwards: Patrick Brown, Patrick Dwyer, Nathan Gerbe, Elias Lindholm, Brad Malone, Jay McClement, Riley Nash, Victor Rask, Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal(IR), Chris Terry, Jiri Tlusty

Additions: Jay McClement, Brad Malone, Tim Gleason

Subtractions: Manny Malhotra, Justin Peters

Columbus Blue Jackets

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Sergei Bobrovsky, Curtis McElhinney; Defensemen: Tim Erixon, Cody Goloubef, Jack Johnson, Dalton Prout, David Savard, Fedor Tyutin, James Wisniewski; Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Cam Atkinson, Jared Boll, Matt Calvert, Michael Chaput, Adam Cracknell, Marko Dano, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Ryan Johansen(Pending), Mark Letestu, Jack Skille, Corey Tropp, Alexander Wennberg

Additions: Scott Hartnell, Brian Gibbons

Subtractions: R.J. Umberger, Matt Frattin, Blake Comeau, Jack Skille, Nick Schultz

Detroit Red Wings

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Jonas Gustavsson, Jimmy Howard; Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Niklas Kronwall, Brian Lashoff, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith; Forwards: Justin Abdelkader, Joakim Andersson, Dan Cleary, Pavel Datsyuk(IR), Johan Franzen, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Tomas Jurco, Drew Miller, Andrej Nestrasil, Gustav Nyqvist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Stephen Weiss, Henrik Zetterberg

Additions: NONE

Subtractions: David Legwand, Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Jordin Tootoo

Florida Panthers

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Roberto Luongo, Al Montoya; Defensemen: Brian Campbell, Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov, Willie Mitchell, Dylan Olsen, Colby Robak; Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Sean Bergenheim, Nick Bjugstad, Dave Bolland, Brad Boyes, Tomas Fleischmann, Jimmy Hayes, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jussi Jokinen, Tomas Kopecky, Derek MacKenzie, Brandon Pirri, Shawn Thornton, Scottie Upshall

Additions: Willie Mitchell, Dave Bolland, Jussi Jokinen, Shawn Thornton, Derek MacKenzie, Al Montoya, Aaron Ekblad, Shane O’Brien

Subtractions: Tom Gilbert, Jesse Winchester

Montreal Canadiens

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Carey Price, Dustin Tokarski; Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin, Tom Gilbert, Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Jarred Tinordi, Mike Weaver; Forwards: Michael Bournival, Rene Bourque, David Desharnais, Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Manny Malhotra, Travis Moen, Max Pacioretty, P.A. Parenteau, Tomas Plekanec, Brandon Prust, Jiri Sekac, Dale Weise

Additions: P.A. Parenteau, Manny Malhotra, Tom Gilbert, Drayson Bowman

Subtractions: Danny Briere, Josh Gorges, Thomas Vanek, Brian Gionta, Ryan White, George Parros, Francis Bouillion, Douglas Murray

New Jersey Devils

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Scott Clemmensen, Cory Schneider; Defensemen: Eric Gelinas, Andy Greene, Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill, Bryce Salvador, Damon Severson, Marek Zidlicky; Forwards: Damien Brunner, Mike Cammalieri, Ryane Clowe, Patrik Elias, Stephen Gionta, Martin Havlat, Adam Henrique, Jaromir Jagr, Jacob Josefson, Tuomo Ruutu, Michael Ryder, Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus

Additions: Mike Cammalieri, Martin Havlat, Scott Clemmensen

Subtractions: Martin Brodeur, Anton Volchenkov, Ryan Carter, Mark Fayne

New York Islanders

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Chad Johnson; Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Matt Carkner(IR), Calvin de Haan(IR), Matt Donovan, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey, Nick Leddy, Griffin Reinhart, Brian Strait, Lubomir Visnovsky(IR); Forwards: Josh Bailey, Eric Boulton, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Cory Conacher, Michael Grabner(IR), Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Matt Martin, Colin McDonald, Brock Nelson, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome, John Tavares

Additions: Jaroslav Halak, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Cory Conacher, Chad Johnson, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy

Subtractions: Evgeni Nabokov

New York Rangers

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Henrik Lundqvist, Cam Talbot; Defensemen: Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, Matt Hunwick, Kevin Klein, Ryan McDonagh, John Moore, Marc Staal; Forwards: Derick Brassard, Anthony Duclair, Jesper Fast, Tanner Glass, Carl Hagelin, Kevin Hayes(IR), Chris Kreider, Ryan Malone, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan(IR), Martin St. Louis, Lee Stempniak, Mats Zuccarello

Additions: Dan Boyle, Mike Kostka, Lee Stempniak, Tanner Glass, Ryan Malone, Kevin Hayes

Subtractions: Derek Dorsett, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, Justin Falk

Ottawa Senators

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner; Defensemen: Mark Borowiecki, Cody Ceci, Jared Cowen, Eric Gryba, Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot(IR), Chris Phillips, Patrick Wiercioch; Forwards: Alex Chiasson, Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Mike Hoffman, Curtis Lazar, David Legwand, Clarke MacArthur, Milan Michalek, Chris Neil, Bobby Ryan, Zack Smith, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Mika Zibanejad

Additions: Alex Chiasson, Curtis Lazar, David Legwand

Subtractions: Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky

Philadelphia Flyers

Opening Night Roster: Forwards: Jason Akeson, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Blair Jones, Vincent Lecavalier, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, R.J. Umberger, Jakub Voracek; Defensemen: Braydon Coburn, Michael Del Zotto, Nicklas Grossmann, Andrew MacDonald, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Mark Streit; Goaltenders: Steve Mason, Ray Emery

Additions: R.J. Umberger, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz, Ryan White, Blair Jones

Subtractions: Scott Hartnell, Tye McGinn, Steve Downie, Adam Hall, Erik Gustafsson, Hal Gill

Pittsburgh Penguins

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury, Thomas Greiss; Defensemen: Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres, Christian Ehrhoff, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Paul Martin, Derrick Pouliot(IR), Rob Scuderi; Forwards: Craig Adams, Beau Bennett, Blake Comeau, Sidney Crosby, Steve Downie, Pascal Dupuis, Marcel Goc, Patric Hornqvist, Kasperi Kapanen, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Spaling, Brandon Sutter

Additions: Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling, Christian Ehrhoff, Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Thomas Greiss

Subtractions: James Neal, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Lee Stempniak, Tanner Glass, Jussi Jokinen, Brian Gibbons, Deryk Engelland

Tampa Bay Lightning

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Ben Bishop, Evgeni Nabokov, Andrei Vasilevskiy; Defensemen: Mark Barberio, Eric Brewer, Matt Carle, Jason Garrison, Radko Gudas, Victor Hedman, Slater Koekkoek, Anton Stralman; Forwards: Brian Boyle, J.T. Brown, Ryan Callahan, Brett Connolly, Jonathan Drouin, Valtteri Filppula, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Brenden Morrow(IR), Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik, Steven Stamkos

Additions: Jason Garrison, Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Brenden Morrow, Evgeni Nabokov

Subtractions: Teddy Purcell, Anders Lindback, Keith Aulie, Ryan Malone, Mike Kostka, Tom Pyatt, Brian Lee

Toronto Maple Leafs

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer; Defensemen: Cody Franson(IR), Jake Gardiner, Stuart Percy, Dion Phaneuf, Roman Polak, Morgan Rielly, Stephane Robidas; Forwards: Carter Ashton, Troy Bodie, David Booth(IR), Tyler Bozak, David Clarkson, Matt Frattin, Peter Holland, Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel, Leo Komarov, Brandon Kozun, Josh Leivo, Joffrey Lupul, Mike Santorelli, James van Riemsdyk, Daniel Winnik

Additions: Roman Polak, Matt Frattin, Stephane Robidas, David Booth, Daniel Winnik, Mike Santorelli, Leo Komarov, Petri Kontiola

Subtractions: Carl Gunnarsson, Dave Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin, Mason Raymond, Jay McClement, Tim Gleason, Paul Ranger

Washington Capitals

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Braden Holtby, Justin Peters; Defensemen: Karl Alzner, John Carlson, John Erskine, Mike Green, Jack Hillen, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Dmitry Orlov(IR), Nate Schmidt; Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle(IR), Troy Brouwer, Chris Brown, Andre Burakovsky, Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Brooks Laich, Michael Latta, Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, Aaron Volpatti(IR), Joel Ward, Tom Wilson(IR)

Additions: Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Justin Peters

Subtractions: Mikhail Grabovski, Dustin Penner

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Frederik Anderson, John Gibson; Defensemen: Bryan Allen, Francois Beauchemin, Mark Fistric, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Ben Lovejoy, Sheldon Souray(IR), Clayton Stoner, Shea Theodore(IR), Sami Vatanen; Forwards: Matt Beleskey, Andrew Cogliano, Emerson Etem, Ryan Getzlaf, Dany Heatley(IR), Tim Jackman, William Karlsson, Ryan Kesler, Patrick Maroon, Kyle Palmieri(IR), Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Devante Smith-Pelly, Nate Thompson

Additions: Dany Heatley, Ryan Kesler, Nate Thompson, Clayton Stoner, Jason LaBarbera

Subtractions: Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, Jonas Hiller, Saku Koivu, Mathieu Perreault, Stephane Robidas, Daniel Winnik, Teemu Selanne

Arizona Coyotes

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Devan Dubnyk, Mike Smith; Defensemen: Oliver-Ekman Larsson, Zbynek Michalek, Connor Murphy, David Schlemko, Michael Stone, Chris Summers, Keith Yandle; Forwards: Mikkel Boedker, Kyle Chipchura, B.J. Crombeen, Shane Doan, Martin Erat, Sam Gagner, Martin Hanzal, Justin Hodgman, Rob Klinkhammer, Lauri Korpikoski, Brandon McMillan, David Moss, Antoine Vermette, Joe Vitale

Additions: B.J. Crombeen, Sam Gagner, Joe Vitale, Devan Dubnyk

Subtractions: Paul Bissonnette, Thomas Greiss, Andy Miele, Mike Ribeiro, Radim Vrbata, Derek Morris, Jeff Halpern

Calgary Flames

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Jonas Hiller, Kari Ramo; Defensemen: T.J. Brodie, Raphael Diaz, Deryk Engelland, Mark Giordano, Kris Russell, Ladislav Smid, Dennis Wideman; Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Brandon Bollig, Lance Bouma, Paul Byron, Joe Colborne, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Glencross, Jiri Hudler, David Jones, Brian McGrattan, Sean Monahan, Mason Raymond, Matt Stajan, Devin Setoguchi

Additions: Brandon Bollig, Mason Raymond, Devin Setoguchi, Deryk Engelland, Corey Potter, Jonas Hiller, Raphael Diaz

Subtractions: Mike Cammalieri, T.J. Galiardi, Chris Butler, Joey MacDonald, Kevin Westgarth

Chicago Blackhawks

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Corey Crawford, Antti Raanta; Defensemen: Kyle Cumiskey, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival, David Rundblad, Brent Seabrook, Trevor van Riemsdyk; Forwards: Bryan Bickell, Daniel Carcillo, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Marcus Kruger, Jeremy Morin, Brad Richards, Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith, Jonathan Toews, Kris Versteeg

Additions: Brad Richards, Kyle Cumiskey, Daniel Carcillo

Subtractions: Michal Handzus, Nikolai Khabibulin

Colorado Avalanche

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Reto Berra, Semyon Varlamov; Defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Nate Guenin, Jan Hejda, Nick Holden, Erik Johnson, Zach Redmond, Brad Stuart, Ryan Wilson; Forwards: Patrick Bordeleau(IR), Daniel Briere, Marc-Andre Cliche, Matt Duchene, Dennis Everberg, Jarome Iginla, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Jamie McGinn(IR), Cody McLeod, John Mitchell(IR), Ryan O’Reilly, Ben Street(IR), Maxime Talbot, Alex Tanguay, Tomas Vincour(IR), Jesse Winchester

Additions: Danny Briere, Brad Stuart, Jarome Iginla, Jesse Winchester, Zach Redmond

Subtractions: P.A. Parenteau, Paul Stastny, Brad Malone, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Cory Sarich

Dallas Stars

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Kari Lehtonen, Anders Lindback; Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Kevin Connauton, Trevor Daley, Brenden Dillon, Alex Goligoski, Sergei Gonchar(IR), Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak; Forwards: Jamie Benn, Erik Cole, Cody Eakin, Patrick Eaves, Vernon Fiddler, Ryan Garbutt, Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Valeri Nichushkin, Rich Peverley(IR), Antoine Roussel, Colton Sceviour, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza

Additions: Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, Anders Lindback

Subtractions: Alex Chiasson, Dustin Jeffrey, Chris Mueller, Tim Thomas

Edmonton Oilers

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Viktor Fasth, Ben Scrivens; Defensemen: Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference, Brad Hunt, Oscar Klefbom, Nikita Nikitin, Darnell Nurse, Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz; Forwards: Will Acton, Mark Arcobello, Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Luke Gazdic(IR), Boyd Gordon, Taylor Hall, Matt Hendricks, Jesse Joensuu, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, David Perron, Benoit Pouliot, Teddy Purcell, Nail Yakupov

Additions: Teddy Purcell, Benoit Pouliot, Nikita Nikitin, Mark Fayne, Keith Aulie, Leon Draisaitl

Subtractions: Sam Gagner, Ryan Jones, Anton Belov, Mark Fraser

Los Angeles Kings

Opening Night Roster: Forwards: Andy Andreoff, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Kyle Clifford, Marian Gaborik, Dwight King, Anze Kopitar, Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan, Tanner Pearson, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll, Tyler Toffoli, Justin Williams; Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, Jake Muzzin, Robyn Regehr, Slava Voynov; Goaltenders: Martin Jones, Jonathan Quick

Additions: NONE

Subtractions: Willie Mitchell, Colin Fraser

Minnesota Wild

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper; Defensemen: Keith Ballard, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Christian Folin, Nate Prosser, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter; Forwards: Stu Bickel, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Charlie Coyle, Justin Fontaine(IR), Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Jason Zucker

Additions: Thomas Vanek, Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Carter, Nate Prosser

Subtractions: Matt Moulson, Cody McCormick, Clayton Stoner, Dany Heatley, Mike Rupp

Nashville Predators

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Carter Hutton, Pekka Rinne; Defensemen: Victor Bartley, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Seth Jones, Roman Josi, Anton Volchenkov, Shea Weber; Forwards: Taylor Beck, Gabriel Bourque, Rich Clune, Matt Cullen(IR), Mike Fisher(IR), Filip Forsberg, Paul Gaustad, Calle Jarnkrok, Olli Jokinen, James Neal, Eric Nystrom, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, Craig Smith, Viktor Stalberg(IR), Colin Wilson

Additions: Mike Ribeiro, Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy, Anton Volchenkov, James Neal

Subtractions: Patrick Eaves, Michael Del Zotto

St. Louis Blues

Opening Night Roster: Forwards: David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Max Lapierre, Jori Lehtera, Joakim Lindstrom, T.J. Oshie, Steve Ott, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris Porter, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko; Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Ian Cole, Carl Gunnarsson(IR), Barret Jackman, Jordan Leopold, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk; Goaltenders: Jake Allen, Brian Elliott

Additions: Paul Stastny, Carl Gunnarsson, Jori Lehtera, Chris Butler

Subtractions: Roman Polak, Ryan Miller, Vladimir Sobotka, Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy

San Jose Sharks

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Mike Brown, Adam Burish, Logan Couture, Andrew Desjardins, Eriah Hayes, Tomas Hertl, Patrick Marleau, Tye McGinn, Matt Nieto, John Scott, Joe Thornton, Chris Tierney, Tommy Wingels; Defensemen: Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Jason Demers, Scott Hannan, Matt Irwin, Mirco Mueller, Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Goaltenders: Antti Niemi, Alex Stalock

Additions: Tye McGinn, John Scott

Subtractions: Brad Stuart, Dan Boyle, Martin Havlat, Bracken Kearns

Vancouver Canucks

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Eddie Lack, Ryan Miller; Defensemen: Kevin Bieksa, Frank Corrado(IR), Alexander Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Luca Sbisa, Ryan Stanton, Chris Tanev, Yannick Weber; Forwards: Nick Bonino, Alex Burrows, Derek Dorsett, Jannik Hansen, Chris Higgins, Bo Horvat(IR), Zack Kassian, Shawn Matthias, Brad Richardson, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Tom Sestito, Linden Vey, Radim Vrbata

Additions: Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, Ryan Miller, Radim Vrbata, Dustin Jeffrey, Derek Dorsett, Linden Vey

Subtractions: Ryan Kesler, Jason Garrison, David Booth, Zac Dalpe, Jordan Schroeder

Winnipeg Jets

Opening Night Roster: Goaltenders: Michael Hutchinson, Ondrej Pavelec; Defensemen: Zach Bogosian, Grant Clitsome, Tobias Enstrom, Adam Pardy, Paul Postma, Mark Stuart, Jacob Trouba; Forwards: Dustin Byfuglien, Patrice Cormier(IR), Michael Frolik, T.J. Galiardi, Matt Halischuk, Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Eric O’Dell(IR), Anthony Peluso, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Schiefele, Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn, Blake Wheeler

Additions: Mathieu Perreault, T.J. Galiardi, Peter Budaj

Subtractions: Ollie Jokinen, Al Montoya, Devin Setoguchi

Los Angeles Kings In-Arena Host’s Dream Becomes A Reality

The NHL season begins in just over a week with the Los Angeles Kings opening up on home ice at Staples Center to celebrate their Stanley Cup title of 2013-14. Anyone who is a part of a championship winning organization realizes how special it is to see a banner raising in person, understanding the hard work and dedication that it took in order to be the best. One of those people who is a part of the organization and has seen the Kings success in person is none other than Carrlyn Bathe(@CarrlynBathe on twitter).

If the name sounds familiar then that is because it most definitely is. Her father, Frank Bathe was a former NHL defenseman from 1972 to 1984 – most known for being a part of the Philadelphia Flyers. He was a tough customer who was known for his rough and tumble brand of hockey. In Los Angeles, the Kings have come full circle and they resemble very similar traits – traits that have helped them raise the cup twice in the previous three seasons.

Bathe is currently the in-arena host at Staples Center during Los Angeles Kings home games. Her personality fits the Kings fan base perfectly and she is a key cog to keeping the fans happy and upbeat during the course of a hockey game. The fans adore her for the wonderful and bubbly personality that she brings to the table and the success she’s earned to this point in her career surprises nobody.

If you follow the Kings, you’ll find her on a wide array of media platforms. Bathe also holds down the fort as the feature reporter on Kings Vision, which you can find on She has interviewed many of the Kings players and star celebrities, including the rock band named “Kiss” at the NHL Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium in January of 2014. If you are familiar with the Kings Ice Crew, then you will have noticed that Bathe got her start in the Kings organization as a member of the Ice Crew in 2008. Her hard work has paid off and she has never looked back.

In this interview, she talks about how the game of hockey has shaped her into the person that she is today plus how privileged and thankful she is to have the opportunity of a lifetime of working for the Kings. Also, you will find some non-hockey hobbies of her that resemble the game of hockey very well.

Q: What is the experience like of being the arena host for the Kings and the avenues that it has opened up in your career?

A: Wow, that’s a great question. Being a part of the Kings Ice Crew for five seasons is what created my foundation with the team. While I was on the Ice Crew, I was shooting my own video blog for Fox Sports West; just a fun behind-the-scenes about my life with the crew and what I do off the ice. During my last season, while the blog was taking off, I took interest in in-arena hosting and asked my bosses if I could jump on the microphone for a game that Jay Flats had to miss. From there, I was hooked and finished out the season still rocking the Ice Crew uniform but joining Jay on the mic for pre-game announcements. During that summer, I began hosting special features for Kings Vision and fully made the transition of Ice Crew member to in-arena host. My first full season as a host had the best possible outcome…we won our second Stanley Cup!! Once one door opened, there were many more doors that began opening beyond that. I’ve met some pretty amazing people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise in the hockey world and beyond. Outside of the sports world, the hosting door that I’ve opened has led me to lots of great guest hosting opportunities where I’ve gotten to chat about my other interests…like WWE Wrestling and music:) I’ve guest hosted for AfterBuzz, BiteSize TV, and Wrestling Compadres on the Nerdist Network to name a few. I really feel like I found my career path all because of hockey.

Q: Did you think the Kings would ever have this much success when you started in this organization years ago?

A: To be honest, yes. I grew up a Flyers fan (my dad used to play for them back in the day) and also a Bruins fan (that was the team closest to where I was raised in Maine). I moved here in 2007 and went to a Kings vs. Bruins game at Staples Center. The Kings lost….BIG time, but the team was full of so many young guys, you almost didn’t want to hold it against them. Then when I auditioned for the Ice Crew in 2008, I learned everything there was to know about this team. That year seemed like the turning of a new leaf, like a new era of hockey was starting for the organization as a whole. Players developed and grew up before all of our eyes and you just felt like we had it going on. Can’t really describe the feeling. And then 2012 happened, and then 2014, and then, you get the picture:)

Q: How excited are you for the banner raising ceremony on Opening Night?

A: Very, very, very, very, excited. 2012’s ceremony was perfect and I know this years will be just as incredible. It’s one moment where you know every single Kings player, employee, and fan, all share that same feeling of happiness.

Q: How did your love of the game as a child help shape you into who you are today?

A: If it weren’t for hockey, I wouldn’t be alive, literally. If my dad wasn’t traveling and playing with his team, my parents would’ve never met each other  It really shaped every member of my family in different ways. I grew up with four brothers who all played, including myself. It teaches you what it’s like to be hardworking, how to lead, how to stand up for yourself, the importance of fitness, and how dedicating your time to a craft can produce results. I apply each of those traits in my every day life. Anyone who has been a part of a team can say the same. Something I’ve learned from the sport, and mainly from my dad, is the importance of networking. We have a saying in our family that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” so I always speak up, try and meet new people, learn as much as I can, and make relationships with as many others in the hockey industry as possible. From hockey I’ve built an entire support system that I cherish and value immensely.

Q: If you could have advice for anyone, what would that advice be specifically?

A: Find a mentor. If there is something that you want to do in this world, find someone else who is already doing it and pick their brain. Find out how they got there, what they had to do, ask for advice, sit down and listen to their story. Never be afraid. No one, and I repeat, NO ONE was born being the best at whatever it is they are doing now. Everyone started somewhere. If you see someone doing something you want to do, just think about how even they had to start somewhere with no experience. All you need in this world is a good work ethic, a friendly attitude, and the willingness to learn and try new things. And BE NICE! I say hi and talk to everyone: the parking lot attendant, my camera crews, the fans, the aisle ushers, security guards, zamboni drivers, the broadcasters, our team, ticket reps, everyone. A friendly hello, high five, or a smile can really go a long way.

Kings Need To Start Evolving With Their Depth Forwards

When a team wins a Stanley Cup, people automatically assume that the way a team wins a championship is the way they should continue to play for however longer it may be. In the 21st century, all phases of life involve having to evolve, in some way shape or form. How many organizations in this world have success by continuing to be stale and not evolving? It’s way too difficult to replicate the same type of success without making changes. It is especially true for the Los Angeles Kings, a team that is looking to get back to the top after falling in the Western Conference Finals last season.

Take a look at some of the contenders that the Kings have to deal with in the loaded Western Conference: Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks. All these teams are very tough and while not all of them have won a Stanley Cup as of late, they are certainly making every effort possible to dethrone the Kings and teams ahead of them. When the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 2010, the core of that team was evident. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were all the big pieces that helped them raise the cup. When they won it again last year, those same six guys were the core of the title team. However, there was a glaring difference between the two cup winning clubs – their depth on the third and fourth lines. Gone were the likes of Ladd, Big Buff, Versteeg and entered were the likes of Saad, Bickell and Shaw. While Chicago had a lapse for a couple of seasons post-2010 cup season, they re-stocked the cupboard and they supplemented their core very well.

In the salary cap era of the NHL, there are a few factors that teams have to ponder – loyalty and money. It is hard to not waiver from those two situations without having to make changes in order to continue to have the necessary success needed in order to contend for the championship year after year. The Blackhawks paid for it the next two years after their first title, but they realized they needed to grow their system and make sure that not only are they competing for that one specific year, but for years following that.

In the case of the Los Angeles Kings, they are one of the few Stnaley Cup winning teams as of late to be really competitive in years following. Usually, after a team wins a title, a few key guys end up leaving due to out-playing their contracts and so on. Penguins dealt with that, Blackhawks and Bruins as well; but the one team that didn’t have that issue was the Kings. They retained their entire roster for the following season after winning the Stanley Cup, albeit it was a shortened season to follow. That being said, is it possible that the loyalty and the continuity of the entire roster could be catching up to them?

The core of the Kings, like any other great team, is evident. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick are the main core of this team. They won’t be going anywhere, anytime soon. However, in order to continue making deep runs towards the Stanley Cup, the Kings will need to start evolving with their roster and bringing in the necessary players in order to help supplement the core and take some of the pressure off of them. In 2013-14, out of the 23 skaters that have appeared in games for the Los Angeles Kings, 13 of the 23 skaters have scored three goals or less on the season(Eight of the 13 have appeared in 30 or more games). That is not a very good stat for a team that is trying to compete with offensive powerhouses like the Blackhawks and Ducks. Compare the Kings to the Blackhawks, who only have 10 of their 25 skaters so far this season score three goals or less(Only three of the 10 have played 30 or more games) and the Ducks who have had 24 different players score goals this season.

In order for Los Angeles to make the next step, it may be time to cut bait with some of the depth players they currently have. As much as fans like Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan and Colin Fraser for their contributions on the Stanley Cup winning squad in 2012, they’re not worth sticking around for a long time to come if they can’t score at all. Those four guys have combined for just eight goals this season and two of the four have not scored a single goal on the season. The new NHL is made up of teams that rely on skill to win instead of bigger, tougher guys who try to intimidate the opposition. Players have gotten younger, faster and better in the last few years. The Kings, like the other 29 teams in the league, need to make modifications to appease to that – with one caveat – they can’t rip apart the system and quite frankly, they don’t need to rip apart the system just to bring in younger, more skilled players for the third and fourth lines. The saying goes, it is easier to teach skilled players how to play in specific roles than it is for role players to score. Either you have skill or you don’t and in the case of some of the bottom tier players in LA, the skill just isn’t there to be able to provide the necessary offense needed to continue to make deep playoff runs.

Who may the solutions be for the Kings third and fourth line scoring woes? Look no further than Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey. The duo, along with Tyler Toffoli made a spark in mid-November after the injury to Jonathan Quick. Those young kids single-handedly kept the Kings going for the first week after Quick’s injury. Did you see Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan and Colin Fraser make that type of impact? No, because they simply aren’t skilled enough to carry a team, even if it’s just for a week. Great teams have three lines minimum that can carry a team for periods of time throughout the season and the duo of Toffoli, Vey and Pearson paid huge dividends for a Kings team longing for some depth scoring. There’s nothing wrong with young kids making mistakes on the third and fourth lines because they can learn from those mistakes and usually the offense will outweigh whatever other issues they may have at any given point. Are these young kids the end-all, be-all to the Kings scoring woes? It is hard to say that they are considering the best teams in the league don’t rely on two or three players to win, but it would sure help if those kids were inserted into the lineup. Having an infusion of young, cheap talent that can give you skill and energy is always an added bonus in this league. The Kings young kids will not take away from their strong defensive system in which they have the best goals-against average in the NHL. If anything, it will help them ease pressure off the big boys and it will make them a much stronger and fresher team when the games really matter.

Evolving is important in all forms of life. The Kings might be hitting this wall very soon and don’t be surprised if and when it does happen.