Upshall welcomes change, opportunity with Panthers

By Bill Whitehead

New Florida Panthers right winger Scottie Upshall has a reputation that he carries well. Outgoing, good-natured and vocal, Upshall appears to be living the dream daily. When it was announced he was going to play for the Panthers, TSN joked that Upshall acts as though he’s never had a bad day in his life, despite a major injury and multiple change of addresses following mid-season trades.

Not surprisingly, Upshall, who is playing for his fifth team since the beginning of 2006, is excited to be in Pantherland, where he is expected to help a group that some feel will be on the cusp of making the playoffs. For whatever reason, it’s never worked out for Upshall anywhere for too long. He either wasn’t what the front office felt like was needed or was a more valuable piece in a trade. Like the other new additions, Upshall wants to make the best of his chance in Florida.

“This is just a great opportunity for all us, I think,” Upshall said. “The 10 guys who were acquired on July 1, and with (Brian) Campbell and (Tomas) Kopecky acquired just a few days before that, it’s a winning group. That’s something that’s been missing down here. There’s just a great core group of guys here, and I think they’ll be really welcoming to the new guys here.”

Upshall stressed the winning background many of the new acquisitions bring, especially those sporting championship rings and those who have been playoff regulars.

“We’ve got guys who have won in the past. We’ve got three Stanley Cup winners coming in from Chicago. We’ve got guys from Washington who have gone to the playoffs. Myself and Ed have been to the playoffs and know what that’s like. We’re adding a group of guys that have won and bring some experience. Positive things are in our future,” said Upshall, a first-round draft pick (No. 6 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2002.

Upshall is the type of player Florida general manager Dale Tallon was targeting. He isn’t a rookie who might try to do too much in an effort to make a good impression. Nor is he a seasoned — maybe extra seasoned — veteran trying to cling to a semblance of a career. Upshall, who turns 28 the day before Opening Night, has demonstrated he is a quality player who has put together a few good seasons, despite an ACL tear that prompted surgery in February of 2010. He fits the bill as a player who could be a prime candidate to have the breakout campaign everyone has expected of him.

Check out the talent and emotion Upshall brings in this highlight of his natural hat trick he turned in against Preds goalie Dan Ellis:

What will Upshall be for Florida? In the best-case scenario he has that breakout season, improves on the 22-goal output he had last year and contributes scoring depth to a Panthers team that really needs it. If he’s a 20-goal scorer at season’s end, it’s easily a win for the Panthers because of the intangibles he brings.

He’ll be one of the players the media will find quickly and frequently in the dressing room; Upshall isn’t one to duck the scribes or become tight-lipped when the red light shines on the microphones and cameras. He’ll be immensely quotable after scoring his first hat trick wearing Panther red or having a bad night when he missed an open net. Equally important, he’ll be reliable to his teammates and have their backs at all times.

That not only sounds like a good guy, it sounds like a leader.

By Bill Whitehead
NHLHS Florida Panthers Credentialed Correspondent
Twitter: @BillWhiteheadFL