Its been a whirlwind year for Brian Campbell.
The former Blackhawks defenseman became a former Blackhawk around this time in 2011, when he was traded to the Florida Panthers. Since then Campbell set career-best numbers in assists (49) and points (53) and helped the Panthers get to their first postseason since the 1999-2000 season.
Oh, and things have gone well off the ice, too. Campbell got married three weeks ago and still calls Chicago his summer home.
Its been busy but its been a good summer, said Campbell, who was playing in Denis Savards charity golf event on Monday. Its always nice to get back, enjoy the summer here.
And Campbell enjoyed his first season with the Panthers. Reunited with former Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon, Campbell was part of Floridas hockey rejuvenation that almost got them to the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
We havent made the playoffs in so long, so it was tough before that to be a proud Panther fan. But its coming now, Campbell said. Its something to be proud of. Hockey is fun there. Dales made it a great place to play and you enjoy coming to the rink every day.
The Panthers have something off which to build this season, and theyre keeping their group together. Kris Versteeg, another former Blackhawk, signed a four-year deal with them Monday morning, avoiding arbitration. The Panthers have gotten a taste of the postseason again, and want to repeat it a few more times.
Obviously our goal is to make the playoffs and go from there. But we may not surprise as many teams coming into this year, Campbell said. But its exciting. Its nice to play down in South Florida and enjoy all the aspects that come with the environment down there.
Now there just has to be hockey this season. Campbell remembers the lockout all too well. And count him among the many who dont want to see it repeated.
You never want to (lose playing time), he said. For a lot of us players, weve already lost one year. It took a while to build things back up. But the good thing is, (the two sides) are communicating and staying positive. Its probably going to come down to a deadline. Hopefully we can meet that deadline.