Florida Panthers

The Chicago Blackhawks remain the role model for the Florida Panthers

Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell — who left the Panthers to return to the Blackhawks after five seasons this past summer — works the puck around Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou earlier this month.
Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell — who left the Panthers to return to the Blackhawks after five seasons this past summer — works the puck around Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou earlier this month. AP

Dale Tallon’s work in turning around the Chicago Blackhawks was a driving force in his being hired to do the same with the Panthers.

When Tallon was hired in 2010, Chicago was weeks away from winning the first of what would become three Stanley Cup championships in this decade of dominance for the Hawks.

On Saturday night, Florida fans once again get to see what the Panthers hoped to be when they grew up when the Blackhawks visit the BB&T Center.

“Dale did a good job putting the blueprint in place there and Stan [Bowman] has done an unbelievable job of making their roster work with the cap issues and replacing the guys they have lost,” said Shawn Thornton, who played in the Chicago organization before winning his first Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007.

“Both Dale and Stan were there when I was and both are very intelligent guys. Tip your cap to Stan for finding a way to keep his core guys and finding complementary guys while staying under the cap.”

Chicago, which is a contender to win another Cup this spring as it enters Saturday night with 102 points, was formed by Tallon drafting big, talented players and surrounding them with veterans to help along the way.

After being pushed to the side in Chicago, Tallon came south to try to do a similar job with the Panthers.

And while the Florida organization appears light years ahead of where it was in 2010, the success Tallon and the Panthers hoped for hasn’t transpired for various reasons.

One of those is instability not only within ownership — Tallon is on his second group in South Florida — but in coaching and management. The Panthers changed their on-ice philosophy following last season, too.

Pete DeBoer was Florida’s first coach under Tallon but was fired after one season and replaced with Kevin Dineen — who was fired not long after guiding the Panthers to their first playoff appearance in over a decade. Dineen is now an assistant with the Blackhawks.

Tom Rowe, Florida’s interim coach, is the fifth to work the Florida bench since 2010 after replacing Gerard Gallant this season.

Joel Quenneville, by contrast, has guided the Blackhawks since replacing Denis Savard four games into the 2008-09 season.

“There’s excitement for playing on an Original Six team, and Chicago is one which develops its players the right way,” said Panthers defenseman Jakub Kindl, who spent parts of eight seasons with a Detroit organization which will see its 25-year playoff streak end in a few weeks.

“Chicago always seems to add the right pieces, sign top players from Europe and good free agents. Younger guys in the KHL, if they’re being scouted by all 31 teams and Chicago wants you, they’re going to go there. It’s hard to say no to them.”

Barring a miracle, the Panthers will again miss the playoffs this season. So a team they can perhaps look at for positives is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Last year, the Jackets were expected to do big things and took a nosedive.

This season, under coach John Tortorella, who was hired last season, Columbus is in the playoffs and fighting with Washington and Pittsburgh for most points in the Eastern Conference.

So, despite the depressing nature of Florida’s disappointing campaign, there remains hope the Panthers are close to being the team they had been building toward.

THIS AND THAT

▪ A few members of the Blackhawks organization have ties to the Panthers, including assistants Mike Kitchen and Dineen, who won his first Cup with the Hawks in 2015.

Former Florida defenseman Brian Campbell left the Panthers to return to Chicago during the offseason.

▪ Aaron Ekblad missed practice again with what Rowe described as a stiff neck with “some headaches,” which Rowe said is unrelated to the concussion Ekblad sustained earlier this month in Tampa.

“He has the headaches because of the neck injury,” Rowe said. “There’s no reason to rush him back.”

Ekblad said he had headaches stemming from a case of whiplash suffered at the World Cup of Hockey in September, which originally had been thought to be a concussion.

Saturday: Blackhawks at Panthers

When/where: 7 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.

Series: Chicago leads 21-10-3.

Scouting report: The Blackhawks won the first meeting 2-1 in a shootout in the debut of Tom Rowe behind the Panthers bench on Nov. 29 in Chicago. … Chicago leads the West with 102 points and has won six of its past seven.

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