When you talk about the Florida Panthers, it begins and ends with the team’s ‘future’. This season has obviously gone from bad to worse, with the Panthers currently on pace for the second overall pick for the second consecutive season.
Erik Gudbranson might be one of the biggest case studies for this cause, as continually throughout the year we have seen ups and downs with the young future. Never lost though was the remainder of just how much he means to the team, to the future and now.
During the first intermission, Gudbranson gave an interview that sent chills down the backs of those watching. Dale Tallon had said earlier in the year on Gudbranson’s pending restricted free agent status that he wasn’t ‘going anywhere’ and that he sees the young defender as the ‘future captain of the Florida Panthers’.
Inadvertently he made his case. When asked what the team is looking to get out of the last few games Gudbranson answered,
Play the best hockey we have all year… it’s no secret this hasn’t been our year, we haven’t played well. We still got these games left, we got to play hard, got to play right’.
Perfect answer in this situation, especially when some (including myself) have pointed out that some players have given on the appearance that they have packed things in already.
He was then asked on how this team turns things around, after commenting on a previous quote by Gudbranson on having to ‘change the environment’ of the locker room.
‘We really got to change our mentality. I don’t think we pushed ourselves as hard as we needed to this year… we weren’t as accountable in the dressing room as we needed to be.’
We really got to become a team that way, we need to become a tight knit group, we need to be that group that pushes each other for everything.
Winning is more than a result at an end of the game, it’s an attitude – a way of approaching things. Winning takes place in more spots than on-the-ice. It happens in the locker room, at practice, off the ice. With the influence of players like Gudbranson you can feel that a winning attitude could be had.
I have always been a Gudbranson fan, since the day they drafted him when I had nothing to do with the Panthers. The more I get to consistently watch the Panthers play, and listening to that interview I am convinced that he can and will be the future of this team.
Alexsander Barkov may be the talent but Gudbranson will be the leader. In the last stretch of games he missed you could see just how valuable he is becoming for this team. They lacked a physical presence in front of the net, and teams were setting up in front of the net without repercussion.
Last night against the Dallas Stars we saw Gudbranson clearing space in front of the net – even by using an intense stare down with a Stars’ player. Playing one of the best games of his career, offensively and defensively – Gudbranson helped lead his team to the vicory.
Get use to that saying, his team.