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The FHN Florida Panthers Mailbag: #AskColby

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With the Florida Panthers taking an off-day on Monday following their Super Bowl party, we decided to open up the mailbag here at FHN.

Usually, it is George who fields your questions, but we’re doing things a little bit differently today.

With this being the first time you guys have heard from me in this capacity, I fielded a wide variety of questions, from my beginnings to my thoughts on this current Panthers teams, and yes, even George.

I’m not gonna hold you guys any longer, let’s get right into it:

Who was your favourite team and player growing up? What’s the best game you’ve witnessed/watched? Who’s your pick to make the finals and why is it the Avs and the Cats? Gut feeling on deadline addition(s)? -@mr_twopercent22

  1. I grew up a New York Islanders fan, had season tickets in the early-mid 2000s when that team was bad. My favorite Islander was Rick DiPietro, but I eventually started modeling my game after Alex Ovechkin after I started playing.
  2. I have a couple that are up there — the infamous Islanders-Penguins brawl on Feb. 11, 2011, that resulted in a 9-3 Isles win and a combined 346 penalty minutes. I was also at Game 1 of the second-round series between Colorado and Vegas that ended in a 7-1 Avalanche win — that crowd was nuts. Florida’s 9-3 win over the Lightning on Dec. 30 was probably the best game I’ve covered and will always be up there as well.
  3. Colorado vs Florida would be very exciting, but I honestly have Nashville making it out of the Western Conference. Goaltending is really important in the playoffs and I do not think Darcy Kuemper has what it takes to carry that load in the playoffs. If Colorado makes a trade at the deadline for a goalie, maybe it’ll be a different story. It’s an unorthodox pick, but Nashville has a well-rounded team and I think Juuse Saros has what it takes to take them to the next level. As for Florida, if any group can do it, it’s this one. The East is deep as well, with Carolina and Tampa figuring to be contenders, but if the Panthers keep playing the way they are, why not?
  4. My gut is telling me that John Klingberg would be a great fit as a rental. Florida’s power play could really use smoother movement and Klingberg is no stranger to quarterbacking a power play. He would likely be the best move the Panthers can make for a cheaper price than the one Arizona is asking for in exchange for Jakob Chychrun.

Hey Colby, how close do you think we are to securing a d-man, and with this acquisition what do you think our chances are of winning the cup? -@thiccXflair

Similar to my last question, I think it is highly likely they get one, and I think it’ll happen closer to the March 21 trade deadline. It is just a matter of who it is. If it is Klingberg, as I mentioned, it patches up one of the few holes on the team and it definitely can push them to a Stanley Cup. If it is a guy like Ben Chiarot, it is less likely, but I think even the group as it is has a great shot at winning the Cup.

Hello there from another former LawnGuylander!

What opponents in the East do you think might be the biggest threats to stand in the Panthers’ way for the journey to the Cup? -@FlaPnthrsPunk

Hello, Adam!

With the Eastern Conference being very deep, there are a lot of teams that can threaten the Panthers. I touched on Carolina and Tampa in a previous answer, both teams are very deep and do not have a lot of holes.

Another team that is up there is the New York Rangers — a team the Panthers struggled to beat head-to-head this season. Goaltending is something that is really important during the playoffs, and New York has a guy that can take over games at times in Igor Shesterkin. We saw what he could do in Florida’s two losses to the Rangers, and with a balanced group in front of him, they could be dangerous as well.

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If the Panthers get to the Cup Final, Colorado, Nashville and Vegas are three teams that could really challenge them.

How did you get into journalism? -@miamiguydylan

It was always something I wanted to do. I grew up imitating ESPN with my own little video camera in the early 2000s and reading the sports section of Newsday. Once I got to high school, I started writing articles about the New York Islanders (some pretty bad ones) and just kept working from there.

40 games into Brunette’s HC term, what grade would you give him? And why? -@mhanson9296

A+ — For a rookie head coach walking in on a team with damaged morale from their ex-head coach being exposed as someone who allows sexual assault, I think he handled it better than the majority of other options. He brought them all together and coached them to a 25-10-5 record. His .688 points percentage is the best out of all active coaches right now, albeit with a smaller sample size, but there is not much more you can ask for.

Now, let’s see how the team plays down the stretch.

Who’s your favorite player to interview? -@PatrickL561

There are a lot of good ones on this team for sure, but Anthony Duclair gets the nod for me. He is a smart guy, I can always count on him for a good answer about his linemates, he brings a lot of positive energy and a great demeanor to the room and it also shows on the ice as well.

Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar also give very good answers as well — and clearly, we saw that with Ekblad when the team entrusted him to face questions multiple times after the Jenner and Block report came out prior to Joel Quenneville resigning.

Which Panther is most likely to use a spork? -@nickdivz

I would put a lot of money on Sam Bennett.

Quite the interesting question, but I’m just guessing off of gut instinct here.

What has been your favorite moment so far this season? And how cool is George? -@AndrewLevine5

Honestly, just getting up to the press box and taking everything in for the first time was probably my favorite moment. As someone who dreamed of being around the NHL and having that moment of everything coming to fruition felt perfect. The Kodak Black night is up there too, of course.

And yes, George is cool…

Most important thing you’ve learned from George Richards? -@MarkWeber1

George has given me a lot of ‘Tip of the Days’ throughout the first few months here, but the most important are the stories he tells me of the times before Covid. Stuff like what to ask in the locker room and when to ask it, if and when they finally open them back up, and stories from road trips, which are very few and far in between in the times of Covid.

Being prepared for when things get back to normal after already having at least a season under my belt is very helpful.

Have loved your articles and so glad you are on board. I even mistakenly gave George credit on some of the ones I liked most! I appreciate all the coverage and it appears that the occasional deep dive stories on some of the players and the behind the scenes ones tend to strike a chord with readers.

Some questions. How much access do you have to players and how much more attention are you seeing by local and other media now that the Panthers are doing well? -Cats and Leafs

Thank you, I really appreciate the support! Mistaking my work for George’s is a pretty big compliment too, so I appreciate that.

With the Covid-19 restrictions, we do not get to go in the locker rooms, but we get everything else. After the break, we were able to go back to the interview room in person for all post-practice, and eventually postgame, interviews. We also get 1-on-1s whenever we need them, so we get a lot — and definitely more access than I had when I was covering college sports.

Personally, I’ve seen a lot of growth in who has interacted with me and given me a nod for my work with the Panthers doing well, but I definitely could do more.

What are your plans after graduating in the sports media world? -Kyle Campbell

I’m hoping I can stick around and cover the Panthers for you guys for as long as I can. We’ll see what happens…

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