During the 2011 NHL Draft, the Chicago Blackhawks dealt defender Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Rostislav Olesz. The deal turned out to be great for the Panthers as they were able to acquire not only a great hockey player but also a fantastic leader on and off the ice. With expectations for the Panthers being higher than normal the veteran players had to step up and prove they were worthy of making a run for the playoffs. In the beginning of the season, the team was looking for an experienced player who can take over and control the team. They got that role out of former Stanley Cup Winner, Brian Campbell.
With an up and down professional career that started in Buffalo, Campbell quickly had to show that he could play. However after an unimpressive start, Campbell was traded. After playing for four different teams, Campbell was traded the Florida. Campbell quickly turned into a leader as he became not only the top defensemen for the Panthers, but also one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League. With the season underway, Campbell started of the season the season on fire as he came out and earned seven assist in first five games in a Panther uniform.
Campbell not only showed throughout the season that his play on the ice increased, but that he could be a vocal locker room leader for the team. In an interview soon after his addition to the team, Campbell was asked if the team would be able to make the playoffs this season. Campbell responded with “this team is ready” and “that’s our goal”. With his confidence in the team, the players took the confidence feeding off of Campbell and translated it into great play which had the Panthers sitting atop of the Southeast Division for a majority of the year.
Below is a interview with Brian Campbell prior to the start of the season.
As a result of his great play and leadership throughout the season, Brian Campbell along with, right winger Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers, and Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders were all nominated for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. The trophy is awarded annually to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” Since being created in 1925 the award has gone out 86 different times to 51 different players. With great names such Wayne Gretzky, Joe Mullen, and Pavel Datsyuk, Campbell has the opportunity of a life time to put his name on a trophy that futures multiple hall of famers and other great players of the past and present.
Campbell was the face of the much improved Florida Panthers defense as the defense improved by scoring a 22 point increase from last season. Campbell’s statistics and role improved greatly this year and he has adapted to the new role perfectly. Campbell also showed that he could be a tough and durable defender as he did not miss a single game appearing in all 82 games this season. Not only did Campbell not miss a game, he also led the NHL in total ice time, playing for more than an astonishing 2,200 minutes. Out of all the minutes that he had accumulated during the season, Campbell was only in the penalty box for six minutes. This type of play certainly will take a toll on a player’s body, but for Campbell, all he sees is an improvement of the team, and that’s all that matters to him. Campbell established himself early as the “quarterback” of the team as he continued to pile on assist after assist. When the regular season came to an end, Campbell has racked up a total of 49 assist. With all the assist, Campbell finished second in the league for assist for defensemen, finishing behind all-star defender Erik Karlsson. Campbell not only finished second in the league for defensive assist, he also ended up tying the single season franchise records for assist by a defenseman in a season.
After a stellar year, Campbell has become known as a franchise player that will be key for the Panthers to continue to be successful not only now in the playoffs but for years to come. If he can keep his play up and his confidence at a high level, Campbell will have a nice successful career as a Panther.
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