Welcome to another edition of The Ex-Panther Factor, where I talk about former members of the Florida Panthers. As Josh put it a few weeks back during one of our podcasts, I seem to be able to change the lives and destinations of players since I began this weekly feature. In the past I’ve written about Niklas Hagman, Jay Bouwmeester, Olli Jokinen, Rostislav Olesz and Keith Ballard. Hagman and Olesz were each promptly put on waivers and cleared. Hagman was ultimately picked up by the Anaheim Ducks and Olesz is in Rockford of the AHL. Keith Ballard missed a few games with a back injury and is now potential trade with the Vancouver Canucks. Anthony Stewart was my most recent subject and he’s been stuck on four goals ever since. I’ve really impressed myself!
Today we take a look at a former Florida Panther who now plays coincidentally for tonight’s opponent, the Boston Bruins. When looking at the Bruins, I obviously had three distinct choices but for today’s rant, I decided to go with forward Gregory Campbell. Gregory, the son of former NHL defenceman and former NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell was drafted by the Florida Panthers in the third round at number 7 in 2002. The London, Ontario native spent nine seasons in the organEYEzation filling mostly fourth line duty.
Gregory was a hard worker no doubt. He gave 100 percent effort every single night, and every single shift. I don’t recall many nights when Gregory “mailed it in”. His junior career saw him play in Plymouth and Kitchener, where he had some modest success as a left wing. His best junior season was in 2002-2003 when he scored 23 goals, had 33 assists for 56 points with 12 power play goals while playing for the Kitchener Rangers. Coached there by Peter DeBoer, Gregory surely felt good about DeBoer coming into Florida as a head coach. He was most likely pegged as a third line player for the NHL when he was drafted which in actuality is probably the correct place for him, depending on the talent that he was playing with.
His first full season with the Panthers was 2005-2006 when he played in 64 games. He had three goals and six assists for nine points playing in that stifling Jacques Martin defensive system. Gregory that year spent an enormous amount of time on the fourth line, but found a specialty….killing penalties. And thus he became our favourite fourth line grinder, and penalty killing specialist, which seemed to suit him just fine. Not to say he didn’t have many offensive skills, but honestly he was a perfect candidate for that role, and has seemed to grow into it nicely. Each team needs role players like Campbell and for Gregory his aggressiveness on the penalty kill, and his hard work as a bottom six forward was right up his alley. Sometimes players are born for certain roles, and Gregory is one of those players.
In 2008-2009 when the Panthers just missed the playoffs Campbell had his best NHL season to date. Ironically that was Pete DeBoer’s first season as head coach with the Cats, and Campbell saw a ton of time playing in the third line. And if memory serves me right, he even saw a few precious minutes on the power play which must be right since he had one power play goal and one power play assist. He scored 13 times that season and had 19 assists finishing with 32 points which for him was a tremendous season. He also had 202 hits, which was a big part of his game, as Gregory did a few things very well, but finishing checks was definitely one of them. That was the same season the Panthers missed the playoffs by one point as well. Campbell would play two more seasons for the Panthers until he was dealt along with Nathan Horton to the Boston Bruins for Dennis Wideman and Boston’s first round pick in the 2010 draft and a third round pick in 2011. Campbell was/is also good for the occasional fight. While never afraid to drop the mitts, there were nights I remember that he wanted to, and when the officials prevented it from happening. Have to love that in a player who really wasn’t meant for fisticuffs, but sometimes you do what you have to for your team, and to stay in the league. I wouldn’t classify Gregory as tough, but gritty is an accurate assessment. As for the fighting, most of Campbell’s fight’s look a lot like this:
Last season which was his first with the Bruins, Gregory had a pretty decent year playing with better talent on then he had seen here in Florida, and had 13 goals and 19 assists for 29 points and was a +11. Campbell is in the last year of a contract that pays him $1.1 million dollars, and it will be curious where the Stanley Cup winning forward ends up. Will he stay with Boston? It’s possible, as he’s fit in well, but for his role and the way he plays, he can fit in on any team. He gives you your money’s worth that’s for sure. He’ll be 28 later this month, so his career still has a way to go, but he’s probably not making much more than he’s currently earning.
He’s a good kid, and one Ex-Panther that I hope does well. Except tonight.
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