For some NHL franchises, a Cinderella run to a Stanley Cup finals sweep would be a prelude of better things to come. For the great ones, it would possibly be a little bit embarrassing. For the mediocre ones, it might be a vibrant memory in a montage of occasional playoff appearances.
Yet for a moribund franchise such as the Florida Panthers, the 1996 out-of-nowhere run was almost a mirage. Fueled by great goaltending by John Vanbiesbrouck, scrappy players such as Rob Niedermayer and the sparse bit of starpower from a young Ed Jovanovski, the Panthers shocked the likes of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr on their way to a brick wall in the form of the Colorado Avalanche. In the mean time, fans would serenade opposing goalies with those infamous, time-sapping plastic rats.
It was a strange anomaly of a summer, but it seems like new GM Dale Tallon isn’t afraid to echo that isolated bit of history. George Richards of On Frozen Pond reports that the team is bringing back Brian Skrudland and Gord Murphy – a couple of the most popular players from that era – to work in Florida’s front office.
The Panthers are going back to their roots and bringing back two of their former players back into the fold as Brian Skrudland and Gord Murphy are on their way back to South Florida.
GM Dale Tallon officially announced Tuesday than Skrudland will become the Panthers director of player development, with Murphy replacing Mike Kitchen behind the Florida bench as an assistant coach.
Both were part of the Florida’s 1996 Eastern Conference championship team, Skrudland being the team’s first captain.
It’s been a busy summer for the normally dormant Florida hockey franchise. Can they make good on Tallon’s changes or are they really just running in place? A few years might go by before those questions can truly be answered, but we’ll start to see if some progress has been made next season.