CORAL SPRINGS — For many of the Florida Panthers, Paul Maurice’s system is completely new to them.
Of all of the players returning from last year’s team, none of them previously played under Maurice at any point of their career.
General manager Bill Zito did bring in two veterans who had played under Maurice in the past: Tony Bitetto and Eric Staal.
Bitetto played 51 games with Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets in 2019–20, getting a taste of what his system was like before he signed with the New York Rangers the following offseason.
“He is straight up, you’re going to know exactly what your system is from day one, Bitetto said
“He is pretty clear with that message. I think for a lot of guys, it’s easy to buy in to his type of role. He makes it fun. There is nothing better than when you’re competing and everyone is chasing the same goal.”
Staal and Maurice go back a bit further.
Quite a bit, actually.
Maurice coached the veteran forward during his rookie season in 2003-04 with the Hurricanes. He later returned to Carolina from 2008 to 2012 to coach Staal after he developed into a star.
”I felt he got the most out of the guys on our team when I was with him,” Staal said.
”I think this is a great opportunity for him and for these guys. He is experienced, he is demanding, he knows what he wants out of guys and it’s going to be a good two-way street for this group.”
Through the first three days of camp, Panthers players have gotten a good handle of what Maurice wants out of the group.
A large portion of Maurice’s drills have featured high-intensity puck battles and a lot of hard skating.
“He is a guy that demands work,” Bitetto said.
”It is something that he takes pride in and that has kind of been his M.O. He wants you to compete and things are going to happen throughout the season, some tough bounces, but as long as you are competing, that’s what he strives for and it brings the team together.”
And, although it is early, Maurice likes the intensity he has seen from this Florida group.
“We have pushed them to the level that we’ve hoped and we’re probably more pleased at what we saw at the level they play at,” Maurice said.
”The details? It’s every day, all day for the rest of the season. You’re constantly going to work on your game, but there are some good veteran guys that jump on that stuff real quickly.”
Maurice said Eric Staal has a “legitimate chance” at making the team through the first few days of training camp. The 37-year-old forward signed a professional try-out offer with the Panthers on the first day of free agency.
Staal has been skating on a line with Ryan Lomberg and Patric Hornqvist during drills.
”Through three days, that has been a fearsome line,” Maurice said.
“They are on the puck heavy and he competes, he is in good shape and he pushed himself this summer for this chance. He is a legitimate contender.”
Justin Sourdif was out for the second day in a row with a lingering injury.
Maurice said that the 2020 third-round pick was day-to-day and his status for Florida’s preseason-opening doubleheader in Nashville is in jeopardy.
Zac Dalpe (day-to-day) was back to skating on his own after returning to the main group on Wednesday.