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Bill Zito Q&A: Panthers GM talks first season, Barkov and more

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Florida Panthers president Matt Caldwell introduces Bill Zito as the team’s new general manager in September. // Photo courtesy of @FlaPanthers

When asked if he thought his Florida Panthers would be as good as they have shown this season, general manager Bill Zito bristled a bit.

Knowing that the Panthers had a Hall of Fame coach behind the bench and some pretty talented players Zito said he thought Florida could have a successful season.

But this good? Really?

“When we came here, there were some pretty good players here,’’ said Zito, who is expected to be a finalist for NHL GM of the Year.

“Realistically, it’s not crazy to think we would play pretty well with good players and a really good coach. You would bristle a little bit in the preseason when a lot of people — the so-called experts — counted us out.

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“People didn’t have a lot of time for the Panthers. But I thought we could have a successful season because we had quality people here. I don’t think the people in our room are surprised at all with what has happened. They have done their jobs. People didn’t give them a lot of respect. I am really proud of these guys.”

He should be.

The Panthers will open the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs on Sunday night (NBCSN, BS-FLA) against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Not only did the Panthers surprise folks by making the playoffs, but doing it so easily. At least it appeared that way.

On Monday, Zito spoke with Florida Hockey Now on a variety of subjects from the toughness this team now appears to have to the spectacular play of center Sasha Barkov.

Here is what Bill Zito had to say about the state of the Panthers heading into the postseason:

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