SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 9: Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers defends the net against the Boston Bruins at the BB&T Center on March 9, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 5-2.(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Luongo won’t ‘fade into the sunset’ in Florida


With the Canucks’ jaw dropping third-period collapse on Monday still fresh in everyone’s minds, is it crazy to think that 34-year-old goaltender Roberto Luongo’s new team, the Florida Panthers, has a better chance of winning the Cup over the next four or five years than Vancouver?

There’s no question that Florida has had a bad season and frankly hasn’t done much since they made it to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, but they got plenty of promising youngsters from Aleksander Barkov to Jonathan Huberdeau to Nick Bjugstad. That’s not enough, but it’s a start.

“It’s all about making a commitment to bringing some people in and trying to build a winner,” Luongo said, according to the Canadian Press. “That’s what it’s all about for me. I’m not here to fade into the sunset. I want to be part of something special coming here.”

Luongo added that he believes the pieces are in Florida to make a serious run in the not too distant future, although the roster still needs to be rounded out with solid complimentary players. Getting them will be doable given that the Panthers have just $45.4 million committed to 13 players for the 2014-15 campaign, per Cap Geek. They still have restricted free agents to sign, but there’s no question that they have plenty of cap flexibility going forward.

Of course, having money to burn is only useful if there are guys on the market willing to play for you. Getting Luongo might help in that regard too.

“It’s hard to recruit anybody if they don’t think you’re doing the right thing,” Panthers GM Dale Tallon said. “I think the commitment of making that deal and the commitment that Vinny Viola’s going to make … will really influence a lot of decisions as far as players wanting to come here, seeing that we’re really committed to winning.”

What happens with the Canucks remains to be seen. From their perspective, trading Luongo was part of a larger effort to start getting younger, which suggests that they’re in the early stages of a rebuilding process that Florida has long since embraced. Either way though, that chapter of Luongo’s career is over.


Gillis pleads his case: ‘We are enduring a challenging period’

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”