Less than 24 hours after the Ottawa Senators said goodbye to Cory Clouston as head coach, the Florida Panthers threw the axe down on Pete Deboer following a second consecutive losing season. Where Clouston’s future as an NHL coach seemed all but written on the wall after Eugene Melnyk elected to re-up Bryan Murray – DeBoer’s dismissal is slightly more surprising given the personnel he was left to work with this season.
It’s difficult to look at the state of the Florida Panthers as a team and hold DeBoer responsible for their shortcomings, but general manager Dale Tallon had obviously seen enough that he felt a coaching change was necessary. DeBoer led the Panthers to a 93-point season back in 2008-09, narrowly missing the playoffs with a third place finish in the Southeast Division. The next season was a disappointing 77-point finish in Sunrise, followed by this year’s 72-point effort by an underwhelming mix of veterans and youth.
A fire sale at the trade deadline did little to bolster the roster for the immediate future, which didn’t exactly give DeBoer much of a shot at finishing the season on a strong note. With their elite goaltender Tomas Vokoun set to become and unrestricted free agent on July 1, a rebuild of sorts would appear to be in order. In a conversation with Puck Daddy, Panthers president Michael Yormark denied that a full scale rebuild is on the horizon:
“As we all know, Dale’s a great recruiter, and [assistant GM] Mike Santos is a great recruiter and a great negotiator. We expect to have a huge summer. We expect to put a team on the ice next year that’s going to get into the postseason and be fun to watch. I wouldn’t say we’re rebuilding; I think we’re retooling.”
Clearly, Dale Tallon and Yormark felt that Pete DeBoer did not have a place in this plan for a quick turnaround. So who takes the helm in Florida? George Richards of the Miami Herald tossed around some names of unemployed coaches that may figure into the Panthers’ plans; Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien are a couple of former NHL coaches that could conceivably step behind the bench in Florida.
As for DeBoer, hopefully he lands on his feet somewhere down the road. He’s a good coach who had a tough run in Florida. Sometimes a change is best for everyone involved, and that’s the impression that DeBoer’s firing leaves with me. Whomever takes as coach will not have an easy job, let’s hope for the Panthers sake that Dale Tallon knows what he’s doing here.