When the Florida Panthers take the ice at the United Center on Friday night, it will feel like home for more than one of the visitors.
Florida General Manager Dale Tallon, the architect of the Hawks’ Stanley Cup championship in 2010, is building a roster using not only the same model he employed in Chicago, but many of the same faces as well.
Indeed, high school homecomings don’t have as many faces returning as this Hawks game will feature.
The most recent addition to the Panthers lineup, veteran center John Madden, is just one of five former Blackhawks players making an impact for the Panthers. Four of the five were member of Cup team, and the fifth was one of Tallon’s highest draft picks.
Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky were both dealt to Florida in separate transactions this past summer. Kopecky was traded before entering free agency, while Campbell’s move was a cost-cutting deal that opened up financial flexibility for the Hawks to add a player before the upcoming deadline.
But Campbell, an All-Star for Florida this year, has been outstanding. He has 34 points (three goals, 31 assists), featuring 19 points on the power play. He’s also skating one of the highest ice time totals per game in the NHL.
Kopecky, meanwhile, has 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) and has struggled to a minus-11 rating so far this year. For as great as Campbell has been for the Panthers, Kopecky has certainly come back to earth.
However, another member of the Cup team that has bounced back to solid form in Florida has been Kris Versteeg. The Panthers’ leader in points (39) and goals (17), Versteeg is also plus-eight this year in 44 games.
The final former Blackhawk forward on the Panthers’ roster is Jack Skille, arguably the worst draft pick in Tallon’s tenure. To Skille’s credit, he has remained consistent with the same worthlessness he displayed in Chicago last year before being dealt to Florida, giving the Panthers only two goals and four assists in 31 games.
While fans in Chicago will certainly not miss the contributions of Madden, Kopecky and Skille relative to their replacements on the current roster, one of the players that has received the most “what if” questions this year has been Campbell. He has 61 blocked shots and has earned every bit of his All-Star invitation.