Video: Florida Panthers' Brian Campbell discusses upcoming game against Sharks
Brian Campbell had seen enough.
Before the 2013-14 season started, the financially-strapped Panthers were sold to New York businessmen Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu. A few weeks later, in the midst of a long losing streak, they fired coach Kevin Dineen.
After finishing in last place during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the Panthers were at the bottom of the standings once again and things didn't appear to be getting any better.
Campbell, Florida's highest-paid player at $7.1 million per season, went to general manager Dale Tallon and told him if he could swing a deal -- one that got Campbell out of hockey purgatory and, in turn, helped the Panthers get better -- he was willing to move on.
"You never know how many years you have left and I didn't want to be sitting there on a team like that -- and I don't think any player would want to be in that situation,'' Campbell said.
"I wasn't happy where we were. We had coaching changes, interim coaches. We weren't just maintaining; we were declining, not moving forward. It wasn't a glorious time to be a Panther. I just wanted to win.''
Tallon didn't trade Campbell.
Today both are happy a deal never got made.
"He was ticked off. We weren't winning and things definitely didn't look too good,'' Tallon said. "I don't blame him. I didn't want to deal him and didn't shop him. I only would have done it if it was an excellent deal. I can understand his frustration. I wasn't upset with him. A deal didn't come to fruition and I'm glad it didn't."
When the Panthers play host to San Jose on Thursday, it will mark the 352nd game Campbell has played with the Panthers -- not counting seven postseason games in 2012.
Since waiving his no-trade clause to come to Florida in 2011 from Chicago, Campbell hasn't missed a single game.
Campbell's run tops the 344 played by Jay Bouwmeester before he left (he was similarly fed up with the direction of the team) in 2009 and is second to Olli Jokinen's franchise record (2002-08) of 373 consecutive games.
Overall, Florida's 'Iron Defenseman' will play in his 362nd consecutive game Thursday. Campbell hasn't missed a start since March 20, 2011, as a member of the Blackhawks.
Campbell, who leads Florida in average ice time of almost 22 minutes per game, started his streak against the Panthers at Chicago's United Center on March 23, 2011 and could eclipse Jokinen to set the franchise mark April 5 in Montreal.
"It has been a pleasure watching him play and be able to sit next to him in the locker room, to talk about the game,'' fellow defenseman Steven Kampfer said. "He's a quiet leader, a guy who does things the right way and is always prepared. He shows up every night and competes. You know what you're getting from him every game. He has this streak for a reason. He's here early, stays late.''
Campbell, 36, has seen a lot of bad hockey during his tenure in Florida but things haven't always been bleak.
Campbell was the first to join Tallon in 2011, kicking off a signing frenzy and roster overhaul which lead to the Panthers winning their lone Southeast Division title in 2012 and a spot in the playoffs.
Florida then had two rough years but turned things around last season, staying in the playoff hunt until the final weeks.
This year, the Panthers are atop the Atlantic Division and heading toward only their second postseason appearance since 2000.
It has been a dramatic change from the doldrums of 2013 and 2014.
"We had some pretty tough years,'' Campbell said. "We had a lot of success my first year, had a lot of fun. Then a lot of guys got hurt and there was a lot of movement. It was rough, a real change from Year 1.''
In 2008, after eight seasons in Buffalo, Campbell was traded to San Jose at the trade deadline.
After 20 regular season games (and two playoff rounds) with the Sharks, he left as a free agent to sign an eight-year deal worth just north of $57 million with Tallon and the Blackhawks.
That monster contract is almost up, making Campbell -- who turns 37 in May and is in his 15th NHL season -- a free agent for the first time since his short stint with San Jose.
"It does feel like a while ago now," Campbell said with a smile. "I don't get booed [in San Jose] anymore really, so that's a little boring now. It's funny to think of. I sometimes forget I even played there."
Instead of wanting to escape South Florida and the Panthers, Campbell says he would welcome a return and help finish what he started here back in 2011.
"I'm enjoying what we're doing, I'm having fun playing hockey right now,'' Campbell said.
"We're thriving and I'm enjoying coming to the rink every day. I feel great and having fun climbing the standings with this team. I want to see what we can do.''
Although the two sides haven't started serious talks on a new contract, that may be forthcoming.
Matt Oates, Campbell's agent, is scheduled to be in town next week and Tallon expects conversation to center around Campbell coming back.
"He's played well, his performance has been great," Tallon said. "We obviously have a great relationship. He just loves hockey, is a real pro."
▪ Sasha Barkov and Erik Gudbranson, both thought to be dealing with the effects of a concussion, skated Wednesday before the team's practice but will miss Thursday's game against the Sharks.
Both players could also miss Saturday's game against Winnipeg allowing another week of rest before Florida plays host to Arizona on Feb. 25.
▪ Backup goalie Al Montoya (9-4-1) is expected to get his second consecutive start after beating the Penguins 2-1 in a shootout Monday.
Montoya has given up two goals or fewer in 11 of his 14 starts this season.
Thursday: Sharks at Panthers
When, where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WNMA 1210
The series: Tied 11-11-7
Scouting report: Former Florida coach Pete DeBoer (2008-11) has won 10 of 16 games — counting the 2012 playoffs — against the Panthers as coach of the Devils and Sharks since being fired in 2011. The Sharks, who beat the Panthers 5-2 in San Jose on Nov. 5, have won three of four including a 4-2 win in Tampa on Tuesday.