TORONTO – Bryan McCabe didn’t get rattled when he heard boos in Toronto as a member of the Maple Leafs, so he’s sure not concerned about getting jeered now that he’s a member of the Florida Panthers.
“It doesn’t bother me now that I’m on the other team, it didn’t bother me when I was on that team,” said McCabe, breaking into a chuckle. “I just laugh it off. It’s fine.”
If anything, the razzing seems to sharpen McCabe’s focus. He had both of Florida’s goals in a 3-2 loss in Toronto on Tuesday night. Last year, during his first season as a Panther, he scored an overtime winner versus the Leafs, giving him three goals in three games at ACC since he was dealt to Florida just prior to the 2008-09 season.
McCabe’s pair against his old team gave him seven goals and 23 points in 43 games this year to lead all Panthers defencemen in scoring.
But the 34-year-old is counted on for more than his on-ice contributions. Florida made McCabe its team captain just before this season began – the second time he’s worn the ‘C’ in his career. The first coming way back when he was just 22 years old and playing for the New York Islanders in 1997-98.
“I’ve been in the league 15 years now and I’m very honoured to have the opportunity to do it again,” said McCabe, before adding with a laugh, “I was captain at a young age and didn’t do a very good job of it I don’t think, so I’m very fortunate to get another chance with this team.”
According to Cats teammate and fellow former Leaf Dominic Moore, McCabe is asserting himself quite well in the role this time out.
“He’s done a great job as captain,” said Moore, whose Leafs career briefly overlapped with McCabe’s in 2007-08. “He leads by example everyday. I’ve been really impressed with Bryan, the way he’s carried himself. He probably learned a lot from playing with guys like Mats (Sundin).”
For 41-year-old Florida coach Pete DeBoer, McCabe’s presence on the team has been a huge asset.
“He’s been great,” DeBoer said. “For a young coach in the league, to have a veteran guy like that who’s seen a lot of stuff, he’s got a real pulse on the dressing room. He’s been real valuable for me because it’s something that I don’t have to deal with and I can concentrate on coaching.”
Like all men who wear a letter in the NHL, McCabe was far more concerned about his team’s fate than his own personal plight after the loss to the Leafs, which started a three-game Canadian road swing that takes them through Montreal and Ottawa.
Florida is trying to make the post-season for the first time since 2000 and McCabe made it clear that will be a tough task if it continues to blow two-goal leads like it did in Toronto.
“It’s just a big road trip for us,” he said. “All these teams, we’re battling with them for playoff position and we need wins. We gave one away tonight.”