At the outset, I had written that September 9th, 2021 was the start of Fake Panthers training camp. This is, after all, the date the game gave me. But I have had a bit of an issue with that… a problem in the program. The game gladly lets you schedule exhibition matches during your training camps. In fact, the game will sometimes tell you that other people have challenged you to exhibitions during your camp.
Normally, eh, who cares… but this year I’ve got this overseas tour going on, and as it turns out, it’s really unrealistic to hold training camp while simultaneously playing exhibitions across Europe and Scandinavia. So I’ve had to break out a figurative TARDIS for my figurative hockey club, and shift the camp stuff forward. I did this by simming the foreign exhibition tour while doing the camp, and then rearranging the order of events judiciously.
This stretches my second rule of the exercise – writing as I go, without knowing any more than the reader does at any point in the story. It’s unavoidable here, but I stuck closely to the first rule, which is that if you see it in the story, it’s what happened in the simulation, in the order it happened. I didn’t use what was going on in the exhibitions to color my account of what happened in the training camp, even though it was all happening “at the same time” in simulation terms. So, for example, when I report that certain players are doing well or poorly at the beginning or end of camp, that’s what the coaches in-game are telling the Fake GM; it’s not based on their game performances.
AUGUST 23, 2021
The Panthers will open training camp earlier than normal this year, because of a special agreement that Mike Beginner has worked on for months, and for which he is particularly proud. For the first time in six years, the Panthers are going on an overseas tour for part of their preseason exhibition schedule.
Florida has done this four other times, owing largely to their heavily-international roster. In times past the Panthers have had as many as ten different countries represented among their players. This year’s model is not quite that globe-spanning, but besides the Canadian and American contingents, the camp has 3 Russians, 4 Czechs, 3 Finns, a Slovak, a Pole, and 6 Swedes. (And Matt Brewer, a Canadian national, was actually born in Ardrossan, Scotland.) Naturally, not all of them will be sticking with the big club in the end, but as many as a dozen could remain, depending on the competition among the lower reaches of the roster. Already, the team is beginning to debate some of those hard decisions: Axel Mattsson vs. Wren Nadeau, Filip Ruutu vs. Marco Robson, and whether there’s room for Ivan Pohanka or Stanislaw Zaczyk.
Every year has a few unexpected surprises, and this year, the camp’s big surprise is Pavel Kiselev. The young goalie hadn’t been expected to challenge for a spot, but his first two days have been sterling. He is among the most fit prospects in camp, and his play has compared favorably to Milt Coles, the incumbent backup. Goalie coach Brady Robinson can’t stop raving about him. “He’s really sharp, really together,” he keeps saying. “Really together” starts to become a catchphrase among the younger players: “How you feeling?” brings the automatic reply, “Really together!” “He’s feeling really together!” Robson keeps chirping whenever someone makes a particularly smooth play.
But Luch Sanipass is the youngster looking most together thus far. The team had hopes he would show flashes of his potential, but thus far it’s fairer to say that he is only showing flashes of his inexperience. What has Ryan McGill taking especial notice is the attention to detail the 20-year-old is showing in drills and practices, where he never has to be told twice what to do or where to do it. He also seems to grasp the why behind the how, at one point sliding a few feet wider on a faceoff, correctly anticipating where Team Blue is trying to go and forcing a turnover. McGill is already mentally penciling him in for a roster spot.
Beginner is most concerned about Anderle. The young defender seems a step behind in many drills. The team is deep enough where they’ll have someone to step into his role, should he falter, but this is the camp where he had really hoped to see him build on his 31 NHL games from last year. Mattsson also seems out of sorts, struggling to adjust to his new team.
As camp winds on, however, Anderle gets himself on track. It’s not Jay Bouwmeester, the team’s captain, who has made a difference here, though – it’s Roman Svoboda, normally reserved and only beginning his second season as a Panther. Halfway through the second scrimmage, he pointedly pulls aside his younger countryman and gives him an earful of Czech. “Rough translation?” he deadpans. “’Get your helmet out of your locker.’”
Helmet firmly replaced, Anderle plays his best hockey of the camp in the second half of the scrimmage and is noticeably improved over the final five days.
The team has made no official cuts, save for unsigned prospects who were invited to camp as a first look and who cannot play in the exhibitions. This year, that’s Anatolij Mashanov and Tanner Murray. A third player, Art Hunter, has a pulled groin, and though it’s not bad in and of itself, trainer Brad Joyal is concerned enough to sideline him for the tour, in hopes that he will rejoin the club for the stateside schedule.