The start of the 2009 Florida Panthers Development Camp earlier in the week was essentially the start of a new season for a lot of players that will play for the Rochester Americans in the fall.
Just about every player had taken time off since the season ended in mid April by either going on vacation or heading home to visit family and friends. The week leading up to the camp was the first time some had put ice skates back on since taking them off when the season ended.
For players like Shawn Matthias and Michael Caruso they are not denying how bad the season was at times, but from talking to both of them and many others they all agree that it’s time now to look ahead. “It probably made us mentally tougher more than anything,” Caruso said. The two players will also be spending the remainder of the summer training together.
Kenndal McArdle said that he’s playing for a roster spot with the Panthers (a no brainer) but he’ll be just as happy if he’s in Rochester again and said that consistency will be the key.
The Amerks played competitive hockey against the Hershey Bears and Manitoba Moose, two teams currently playing for the Calder Cup. “They were consistent,” is how McArdle summed up the season of those two teams compared to the Amerks.
Getting the chance to hang out at the camp was a completely different environment than the one I left at Blue Cross Arena when the players cleaned out their lockers and met with the coaches and management in April.
No one is physically or mentally drained like they were two months ago.
Everyone is refreshed and optimistic about the summer and season ahead.
The coaches are there to help the players learn and develop, not lecture them on what they’re doing wrong or how badly they performed the night before.
A number of issues still loom large such as how well the Florida Panthers and Rochester Americans do when free agency starts on July 1st. The recent departure of Jacques Martin has not helped the situation and neither has the pending sale of the Florida Panthers.
Amerks President Lewis Staats was in Orangeville on Wednesday morning for meetings working to get everyone on the same page. Who will be in charge of the Panthers is anyones guess at this point, but Staats is not just sitting back and waiting to see what happens. Amerks Owner Curt Styres and Staats have always said that the Panthers are a great business partner, this summer will be the chance to prove that by helping to build a successful team.
After two of the worst seasons in franchise history it does not matter how much positive press is given about the potential of the team, a winning season is the only way that Blue Cross Arena will be consistently filled by fans night after night.
It may sound cheesy but if they win people will come.
July 1st is less than a month away, stay tuned.