AP Images

Panthers open training camp, with Bill Torrey still in mind

2 Comments

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — The first day of Florida Panthers training camp is always roughly the same: Plenty of players on the ice, plenty of hope for the new season, a bit of organized chaos.

Day 1, this year, was different.

This time, Bill Torrey wasn’t there.

The Panthers opened camp Friday, and in general manager Dale Tallon’s mind, there was a void – off the ice. Torrey, the Panthers’ president in their inaugural season 25 years ago and part of the team’s fabric ever since, died in May at the age of 83. He worked for the team up until his death and was still considered an advisor to everyone in the organization, Tallon in particular.

”He’s here every day in my mind,” Tallon said. ”I’m not getting as many butt dials on the phone, but every day, I miss him. He’s the reason I’m here, basically. He brought me here. He was like a father to me. I miss him, every day.”

Torrey was the first person that the Panthers ever honored with a retired number – 93, to commemorate 1993, the year Florida took the ice for the first time.

Torrey – or Mr. Torrey, as most Panthers employees still refer to him as – spent more than a half-century in the NHL. He was the first person hired by the New York Islanders in 1972, and wound up leading that franchise to four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 until 1983.

When the Islanders play at Florida on Nov. 10, the teams will honor Torrey’s memory.

”It really hit me when we had our first Board of Governors meeting this summer,” Panthers President and CEO Matthew Caldwell said. ”You send in an attendance sheet and it was the first one we’ve ever done without sending in Bill Torrey’s name. He never missed one. He was such a great representative of the team.”

Teams sit in alphabetical order at the Board of Governors sessions; the Panthers are between the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings. Caldwell said Torrey’s absence was noted not just by the Panthers’ group this offseason, but by those representing the Oilers and Kings as well.

”All of a sudden, this icon’s not sitting there at the table,” Caldwell said. ”That was really tough, tough for the whole franchise. … It was just troubling to go through that, but doesn’t compare to what I’m sure his family is going through.”

Florida reached the Stanley Cup final in 1996 under Torrey, falling to Colorado. Earlier that season, Torrey went into the Hall of Fame as a builder who specialized in taking expansion teams and turning them into quick winners.

The Panthers never won a Cup in Torrey’s lifetime. But Tallon believes the team is on the brink of contending, and decisions Torrey helped make are part of the reason why the club believes they’re on the cusp of turning the corner.

”He’s still there. He’s always there for me,” Tallon said. ”He was the motivating factor for a lot of the stuff that we’ve done here. We can follow in his footsteps, all of us. His class, his passion, he was just a wonderful guy.”

MORE PHT PANTHERS COVERAGE:
Three questions facing the Panthers
Panthers do one thing about as well as anyone in the NHL
Will Hoffman, Panthers get last laugh?

Caps give Trotz, coaching staff classy tribute in return to Washington

Getty Images
2 Comments

They helped build a team that would eventually win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup last June, so when Barry Trotz, Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn returned to Washington to face their former team on Friday, it was only fitting that the Capitals made sure to give the trio a classy salute.

And classy it was.

A 1:35-long video played on the jumbotron at Capital One Arena, while a packed house stood and showed their admiration for the coaching staff that led the Capitals to four consecutive 100-point seasons, 205 wins, a .677 points percentage and back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies.

Trotz was named the winner of the Jack Adams Award for the best coach in 2016 and, of course, led the Capitals past the Vegas Golden Knights in five games last season to capture hockey’s greatest prize.

Here’s the video tribute:

Trotz is now the head coach with the New York Islanders, with Korn and Lambert also by his side once again, and they have already put their stamp on that team, helping them get past the loss of John Tavares over the summer and still be a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference.

That’s just the Trotz way.

You can read more about Trotz, his return, why he left and what he’s done on Long Island in this story from PHT’s Sean Leahy.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Matt Dumba’s ‘anger’ led to indefinite stint on sidelines

Getty Images
1 Comment

Chalk one up for those who are staunch supporters of their star players not engaging in fisticuffs.

Fans of the Minnesota Wild would have wished that Matt Dumba wouldn’t have thrown a “wild punch” at Matthew Tkachuk in a game against the Calgary Flames on Dec. 15.

The fight happened just 40 seconds into the first period. The result? A torn pectoral muscle, surgery, and an indefinite timeline for return.

Dumba, who led the NHL in defenseman scoring prior to the injury, told the Star Tribune’s Sarah McLellan that he was “angry.”

“I was angry and threw a wild punch that didn’t connect,” Dumba said Friday. “I had a bunch of stitches in my face and I think he rubbed those, had hit those a couple times, and it made me pretty angry.”

Dumba, wearing a brace around his right arm, told reporters that he didn’t feel the pain of the injury until he had a chance to calm down in the penalty box.

Dumba’s surgery came on Dec. 26 and along with it, a three-month timetable to return. On Friday, Dumba didn’t have a firm return date.

“It’s pretty slow to start here,” he told NHL.com. “Everything is just letting it heal, letting it get the rest that it needs. That’s our focus right now. I’ve been doing that and making sure this repairs the right way.”

Dumba will be stuck in that brace for a few more weeks before he can start rehabilitating the injury.

The Wild could sure use their best defenseman in the fight for a playoff spot. They could use that scoring — the Wild are 25th in goals-for this season. It appears that if he’s to play again this season, it might not be until the playoffs begin in early April.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Plunging Panthers get a break: Trocheck is back

Leave a comment

About two months since fracturing his ankle in a frightening on-ice accident, Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck is back. He’s suiting up against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday.

Panthers coach Bob Boughner makes it sound like Trocheck essentially kicked down the door to get back in the lineup, as Jameson Olive of the team website reports.

“He came in pounding the table. You know Troch, he wants to be back in so bad,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “The doctors reaffirmed he’s back to 100 percent, so now it’s just our decision … we’ll see.”

Getting the 25-year-old back is a big deal, so it’s not surprising to see the Panthers celebrate this positive development.

You can firmly plant this under the heading “hockey players are tough.” It was perfectly reasonable to expect Trocheck to miss the remainder of the season. Instead, Friday’s game against Toronto is merely the Panthers’ 46th game of 2018-19.

Uncomfortably enough, it’s fair to wonder if Trocheck’s return will still be a matter of “too little, too late.”

The Panthers are carrying a bruising seven-game losing streak into Friday’s action, and it’s not as though the Toronto Maple Leafs will make things particularly easy on them.

Just about all the prognostications look dour. Money Puck gives them a 3.05-percent chance to make the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, less than their odds for the Los Angeles Kings. Corsica’s projections put Florida at 2.6-percent, this time tying the lowly Kings, but lower than the Devils and Flyers. Woof.

Now, let there be no doubt that the Panthers could be a highly formidable opponent if Trocheck returns at anywhere near “100 percent.”

Even the Trocheck boost likely won’t be enough for Florida to earn just its third postseason trip since 1999-2000, yet with plenty of questions swirling about Boughner’s job security, perhaps a more fully-formed effort could earn the current Panthers regime another swing in 2019-20? However you feel about Boughner and GM Dale Tallon, this franchise’s history is littered with more reboots than “The Fantastic Four” and “Spiderman” movies combined (and with box office receipts that lean more toward The Invisible Woman than webslingers). A little stability could be good for the Panthers.

The worst-case scenario is scary, mind you. What if the Panthers end up hitting the reset button and it’s shown that Trocheck rushed back from injury too soon, possibly aggravating issues?

Such worries hover in the background, but regardless, it’s impressive that Trocheck has been able to return so soon.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Johansen suspended two games for high-sticking Scheifele

via NHL
5 Comments

Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen received a two-game suspension for high-sticking Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets.

Johansen was whistled for a two-minute minor during the game itself, which ended with the Jets beating the Predators 5-1 on Thursday.

The NHL demands that players be in control of their sticks at all times, and in this case, the Department of Player Safety asserts “that this is not a case where a player is so off balance or otherwise out of control of his stick, that a play can be sufficiently penalized by the on-ice officials.” Ultimately, the league determined that Johansen handled his stick in a “reckless and irresponsible manner,” prompting the two-game suspension:

As the above video notes, Johansen doesn’t have a prior history of supplemental discipline. There’s no mention of a (lack of) injury factor for Scheifele, who was able to continue playing on Thursday.

The Predators face the Panthers in Nashville on Saturday and the Avalanche in Colorado on Monday, Jan. 21. Johansen is eligible to return to Nashville’s final game before the All-Star break (Jan. 23 at the Vegas Golden Knights).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.