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10 Questions with Brian Biggane


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Brian Biggane is the Palm Beach Post Panthers beat writer. He is one of the best hockey beat writers in the biz. We here were lucky enough to get an interview with Brian Biggane about the Panthers offseason and future. To help you acquaint yourself with Mr. Biggane, here is a short biography courtesy of The Palm Beach Post.

 

Position at The Post: Hockey writer

Here since: 1980

Hometown: Buffalo, N.Y.

What I blog about: Florida Panthers

What I do when I'm not working: I enjoy playing golf and traveling with my wife, Maria. We've visited Europe a half-dozen times and her native Brazil more than 10.

Past jobs: During my teenage years I worked as a newspaper carrier (five years) and dishwasher, and I spent time one summer during college shoveling coal that spilled off a conveyer belt back onto the belt at a power plant. I got a half-hour at the end of every shift to take a shower. By the end of that summer I knew I'd do whatever it took to get my college degree.

Sports: Completed about 20 triathlons during my 30s, but my real claim to fame is playing four years of college soccer at St. Bonaventure University, starting my last two at left back.

Car: Recently purchased a Toyota Prius hybrid, which I'm happy to say has lived up to its claims of getting 50-plus mpg.

Most difficult interview: Former Dolphin coach Don Shula, by a mile. During his heyday, he lived to intimidate young writers. At 26, when I came onto the beat for the Fort Myers News-Press, he treated me the way a lion treats fresh meat.

 

Panthers Daily Puck: Which players have the Panthers been targetting, either through free agency or trade?

 

Brian Biggane: It's all free agency; if they were going to do a trade they'd have done it by now (i.e., Gratton). The two names I've heard that are almost definite are Viktor Kozlov and Todd White. I know they were interested in Scott Hartnell and Niklas Backstrom, but they took themselves off the market. They'd like to go with the two I mentioned and a couple other mid-range ($2-3 million) forwards. They're set on defense and in goal.

 

PDP: There have been some rumblings that the Panthers are trying to trade captain Olli Jokinen. Is there any truth to the rumors?

 

BB: Not at all. Jokinen has been growing as a leader and is becoming a bargain at $5.25M a year. They've got a dedicated captain who wants to win. Those rumors are not coming from South Florida.

 

PDP: What do you believe important RFAs Stephen Weiss and Jay Bouwmeester will command in contract extensions?

 

BB: Bouwmeester figures to be tougher to get done that Weiss, though undoubtedly the holdup with Weiss is that he's likely to get a lot better down the road, so agreeing to what seems good money now (say, $3 million per) may turn out to be a bargain later. His agent, Pat Morris, is pretty savvy. Bouwmeester's agent also knows he's coming into his own as one of the best young D in the game, so anything less than $4 million a year would be a bargain. I don't think he'll command more than $5M.

 

PDP: Aside from rumors inside the organization, what players do you feel are sleepers to end up in the Panthers uniform after this offseason is all said and done?

 

BB: What you'll see this summer is more guys who fit specific roles. I asked Jacques today if there's any sense they need another Nieuwendyk-Roberts type and he said that job's been done, so the guys will be younger. Kozlov, for example, can put up points and is excellent in the shootout. White is very good on faceoffs and defensively. He might jump out and go after a Petr Sykora or Ruslan Fedotenko to get what Juraj Kolnik failed to provide offensively. The names won't blow anybody's socks off but if they fill a need they might be just as important as, for example, a Ladislav Nagy, who can put up points but doesn't do much else.

 

PDP: Which Panthers prospects do you feel might have a shot to make the roster out of training camp?

 

BB: Talking with Randy Cunneyworth about the Rochester guys after last season he was probably most impressed with Anderson, who's signed now, and Sprukts. There's a feeling Kreps is also getting very close. It could come down to those two for the fourth-line center job. Stewart, Globke and Larman will get games but nothing long-term, unless Stewart finally "figures it out," as they say, and starts playing to his potential.

 

PDP: With Dave Strader's apparent new job with the Coyotes, who is in line to replace him in the television play-by-play role?

 

BB: I just heard about that today and when I spoke with the FSN people there's still no announcement, though Strader's been close with Darren Pang for years and that would be the lure. This is all so new the rumors haven't even started, but you can bet a lot of resumes are in the mail.

 

PDP: What have you heard about the Panthers new jerseys?

 

BB: I remember last year they skated with them one day and I asked Ville Peltonen what he thought. He said, 'These are new? That's a waste of money.' The Reebok people will love to hear that.

 

PDP: Lets look into a crystal ball. If the Panthers fill their goals, where do you see the Panthers ending up at the end of next season?

 

BB: Definitely in the playoffs, and this is the first time I've used that 'D' word in a long time. Certainly the division is right there; I'd say it'll come down to them and Tampa Bay, and the way they handled the Lightning the second half last year they should have the edge. After that, once you get the third seed anything can happen.

 

PDP: What do you think about the job Jacques Martin is doing to bring optimism back down to South Florida?

 

BB: I've said this again and again: It's hard to second-guess a single move he's made since last September. Even Toronto fans admit Florida got the better goaltender at the draft. Dumping Gratton, Kolnik and Belfour are all signs he is holding people to high standards, on and off the ice. I spoke with Olli this week and he can't wait to get started.

 

PDP: A little fun now. What is it like covering the Panthers on a daily basis during the season? What is your favorite story from life on the road as a hockey columnist?

 

BB: I think it's one of the hardest beats in South Florida because none of us get any help, while the Dolphins, Heat and Marlins writers all have dedicated backups. That means more work for us, though, of course, when your team keeps missing the playoffs, it also makes for shorter seasons. But I've been in this business for more than 30 years and hockey players are bar none the best athletes to deal with. And you'll hear that throughout the business.

The most fun I had on the beat was my second season, the Year of the Rat. That group was so much fun to be around, starting with Roger Neilson and going through Skrewy, Billy Lindsay, Tommy Fitz, Mell, etc., etc. It'll be great to catch up with them in a few weeks ... and that's the best thing about my job, meeting great people like that.

 

 

Thanks a bunch, again, for doing this interview Brian. I can't wait for the season to begin already! Go Panthers!

 

Panthers Daily Puck

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Wow, to be completely honest, you guys did a great job. Biggane really knows his stuff, very informative and very well written. I especially like the part about Olli. I can't wait for the new season to start. His mention of possibly winning the division really got me excited. I always thought "okay let's just make the playoffs with a 7 or 8 seed", but Biggane is exactly right, the Panthers have a real possibly of getting a division title and that has me frickin' stoked!

 

Good work, gents!

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the southeast devision is traditionally the 3rd seed. Once free agency picks up I will make my 2007-08 projections, but just based on what I've seen so far, 2-3 teams will make the playoffs from the SE. it will come down to m 2 favorites, Atlanta and Florida, and it will be a close race.

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PDP: What have you heard about the Panthers new jerseys?

 

BB: I remember last year they skated with them one day and I asked Ville Peltonen what he thought. He said, 'These are new? That's a waste of money.' The Reebok people will love to hear that.

I love this part. It seems like the new jerseys aren't really that different at all, which is excellent news because the current jerseys are already one of the best out there and it looks like they will remain that way.

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