VANCOUVER — The Florida Panthers haven’t made the playoffs in more than a decade, but they’ll certainly have a strong presence at this Stanley Cup Final.
Plenty of former Panthers have found success after leaving Florida, including no fewer than eight players currently with the Bruins and Canucks as they prepare for the start of this year’s Cup Final on Wednesday in Vancouver.
“I actually took note of that,” Bruins center Gregory Campbell said. “It is strange to see that a club hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years and now there’s at least eight of us in the Stanley Cup Finals. It goes to show that we had a lot of good players down there and unfortunately it didn’t work out down there, but fortunately for me it worked out in Boston, so I’m happy.”
Campbell and Nathan Horton came to Boston together in a deal with Florida last June. They joined defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, acquired from the Panthers at the trade deadline the previous season.
On Vancouver, forwards Tanner Glass, Chris Higgins and Victor Oreskovich, defenseman Keith Ballard and goalie Roberto Luongo all spent part of their career in Florida.
“There’s a few guys,” Ballard said. “There’s been a lot of changes in that organization year to year and there’s been a lot of good players. I don’t think it’s anything against Florida, but it’s funny how it’s worked out with these two teams and so many former Panthers. There’s a few guys over there that I played with that are good guys and up to this point it was nice to see them do well and have a shot in the playoffs. But now I hope we win.”
Glass, who played his college hockey at Dartmouth, also sees the constant changes atop the Panthers’ organization as the reason for so many ex-Panthers finding homes elsewhere.
“They had such turnover there for a few years,” Glass said. “I think there was four different GMs there from the time I was drafted to the time I was finished with my time in Florida, so it’s naturally going to happen. Guys will go through the organization when you have different guys coming in, bringing their own players in, different coaches. I think it’s just a product of the turnover there. Guys are spread out all over the league from that organization, so I think that’s what it is.”
The time spent together in Florida has created plenty of mutual respect and admiration heading into this Cup Final.
“I played on a line with Campbell, so he’s the one I know most,” Glass said. “He’s a real competitive guy. He battles. That’s probably his best asset, his tenacity and his work ethic and the way he battles.
“With Nathan, he’s just a natural scorer,” Glass added. “He’s got that great shot and he has a knack for getting open and shooting the puck. Both guys were great guys. I really enjoyed them as teammates and as people.”
Campbell was equally impressed with Glass.
“I keep in touch with him and I’m very happy to see him an opportunity here,” Campbell said. “I know in Florida he was up and down [from the minors]. He didn’t really get that much of an opportunity, so to see a guy like that who works extremely hard every day and is a tough player, a role player much like myself, to see someone like that thrive in a market like Vancouver and on a team this good is a good story. I’m happy for Glasser. He’s worked extremely hard to get here and plays a valuable role for them.”
Most of the former Panthers have stayed in touch after parting ways, but any friendships are put on hold with a Cup at stake.
“It’s a little funny, what are there eight guys I think?” Horton said. “So I know a few guys. I guess right now it doesn’t really matter.
“They’re the enemy now,” Horton added.