The Florida Panthers Face What Could Be Their Biggest Decision Ever.

The naming of the next head coach of the Florida Panthers will be one of the most important decisions this franchise has had to make in it’s existence.  Assuming that off-season changes are made as has been promised, the new bench boss will have to be carefully selected not only on the results he’s achieved previously, but also on his philosophy with both veteran and younger players.  The future of this franchise will hang in the balance with this choice more than any other time before.

In today’s NHL, the dictatorship style of a Scotty Bowman, or Mike Keenan (even though he’s softened up), doesn’t always work. And if it does, it’s only for a short time.  Most coach’s have a short shelf life, and eventually are tuned out by players making millions more, and unwilling to be told what to do by some has been, or old man that’s seen the game pass him up.  For that I blame the salary cap, and the willingness of teams to coddle their players into thinking that they are above the coach.

In my formative fan years coach’s coached, players played, and there were no two ways about it.  In current times, that philosophy has been tossed out the window along with my eight track player and all the jean shorts I used to own.  There has to be a middle ground.  Yet for an organization that is starving to win, the right combination of coach, his staff, and players must be put together with precision.  The Florida Panthers have made many mistakes in this area, as have other teams, yet it’s time to make the right choice once and for all in order for this organization to move in the right direction.  Since Dale Tallon arrived in May of 2010, the Florida Panthers have terminated three head coach’s.  That’s quite the revolving door in a very short time span as the Panthers begin yet another search.  The following statement by Tallon should give you some indication of the direction he’s looking:

 “We will immediately begin an extensive search for a new and experienced coach for our franchise, who will guide the Panthers to future success”.

While the search is underway, let’s hope that the “chosen one” is someone who has the right amount of discipline, and pays attention to detail.  Someone who holds players accountable, regardless of star status, and knows just when to stir the drink, or spit in the soup.  He must be loud when necessary, firm when needed, and have fun when appropriate.  Yet find a way for his players to go to the wall for him without having to berate them on a constant basis.  He must be good with young players, and have the respect of the veterans, who can be his alter ego when times get tough and the hammer needs to be pounded.

As for me, I always have responded and respected a coach who knew how and when to push my buttons.  The same for my working life with a manager who knew exactly how to say the right things, regardless of how much I didn’t want to hear it.  And when it was time to pat me on the back.

That said, here’s a look at some potential candidates, first starting with the unemployed:

Barry Trotz: I know what you’re thinking.  But Trotz is one of the most respected coach’s in the game today, despite never making it past the second round of the playoffs.  But given the rosters that he was saddled with during his coaching years, not many could have done any better.  With no real scoring threat for most of his tenure, the Predators were forced to focus on defence, and that is exactly what the Panthers need.  In addition I don’t think there was one player who ever said they didn’t like playing for him.   Trotz it seemed every year was able to get the most out of his limited roster, as his teams never took a night off.  During Chicago’s Stanley Cup run in 2010, Nashville was the one and only team that made me nervous because of their shutdown style.  Unfortunately, they were never good enough offensively to do much damage.  That wasn’t Trotzs’ fault as he had no scoring.  Personally, I would love to see how Trotz would fair if given a team with some offence.  Which the Panthers have promised to acquire this off season.

Guy Boucher.  He’s young, but not inexperienced.  He’s determined and focused, although too much for some.  He pays attention to detail and expects the same from his players.  You may not enjoy his 1-3-1 style of play, which sometimes morphs into a 1-4, but let’s face it, this Panther team needs to pay attention to defence, and Boucher demands it.  As does Trotz.  Habs fans were screaming for Boucher to be their next coach before he was hired in Tampa.  Had that happened, he wouldn’t be on this list.

Peter Laviolette:  Laviolette likely has a list of suitors, which could get longer once the playoffs are over since there could be another coach or two that losses his job.  He’s a Stanley Cup winner having taken two different teams to the final winning with Carolina, and he has the experience.  He’s an old school type that may not work well with our youngsters, and that could be a drawback with the youthful roster the Panthers have. In addition his structure, or lack of could be a problem. If however Dale Tallon and the rest of the Panthers management feel that Peter is the right choice, then so be it.

Marc Crawford:  This is a long shot.  A  former Stanley Cup winner when he coached the Colorado Avalanche to a sweep of the Florida Panthers in the 96 finals, Crawford has had only three losing seasons as a coach (one was a partial season), and has made the playoffs 8 times out of 15 seasons.  He’s currently coaching in Switzerland, but his two-year deal ends this season.  His teams typically play an uptempo game, using their speed, while still being defensively responsible.  He last coached the Dallas Stars in 2010-2011 and that team somehow missed the playoffs despite accumulating 95 points in the very tough Western Conference.

The currently employed who could be in the running once the season ends:

Larry Robinson: One of the best defenceman to ever play the game, a Hall of Famer and a two-time Norris Trophy winner.  A Stanley Cup winner as a player and a coach, Mr. Robinson would be a tremendous choice.  Robinson is currently an assistant in San Jose, and hasn’t been a head coach since the 2005-2006 season when he was coach of the New Jersey Devils.  Stress and other health related problems prevented him from continuing on, yet maybe the time is right for him to give it another try.  He’d certainly have the respect from the players, and he definitely  knows what it takes to be a winner, and a leader.

Ken Hitchcock:  One of the most experienced coach’s in the game today, a former Stanley Cup winner whose old school, respected around the league, but is demanding.  Hitch as of this typing is currently employed as the head coach of the St. Louis Blues, however after failing to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round this year after leading the series two games to none, and losing in very similar fashion to the Los Angeles Kings the year before, one has to think his days could be numbered.  He’s a very good coach who is sometimes too stubborn for his own good, but he knows how to win.

Randy Carlyle:  Was another successful defenceman during his playing days in the NHL.  He won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim in his second season as head coach.  Since then however, his playoff success has been limited.  Carlyle is the current coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs who finished 6th in the Atlantic division after a promising start to the season.  If you watched this year’s NHL 24/7 on HBO you kind of get the idea of Carlyle’s personality and style. He’s cranky, not that great with kids, and when you get on his bad side, you’re likely never getting off.  He’s on the hot seat in Toronto, and if MLSE Sports is willing to give him another chance, or at least until next Christmas, I say good.  It would prevent him from being on this list of candidates.

Honorable or dishonorable mention depending on your taste:

Dan Bylsma.  Still employed by the Pittsburgh Penguins, but is rumored to have a very short leash.

Ron Wilson.  Last coached the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Claude Noel.  Dale said he was looking for success… this is a no.

Terry Murray.  We already did this.

John Stephens.  Currently an assistant in Los Angeles.

Mike Keenan.  Kidding.  He’s currently in his first year of a two year deal coaching in Russia, with his team playing for the championship today.  He’s been here twice already, and while he’s near and dear to me, it’s not happening.  But don’t be surprised to find him in Washington next season.

It’s difficult to blame Horachek entirely for the team’s misfortune this season especially when the leading scorer couldn’t reach 40 points, however there were likely a few things that cemented Tallon’s decision.  One was keeping Tomas Fleischmann at the point on the power play.  The other may have been continuing to play an unproductive Scott Gomez.  Peter Horachek was a classy individual whom I hope gets another chance somewhere.

The next coach for the Panthers will be the 13th in franchise history (they’ve had 7 in the past 10 seasons) and it won’t be an easy decision for either side.  The Panthers will have to convince their choice that their intent is to assemble a team that will be a consistent playoff contender.  Something that they’ve promised before.  Whoever takes the job will have to believe that this time, they (Panthers) actually mean it.

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Florida Panthers Season In Review. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

Saturday night the regular season ended for the Florida Panthers the way it has in 12 of the past 13 seasons; out of the playoffs.  In addition the Panthers will once again be slated for one of the top three picks in this years draft.  Another familiar position they’ve known all too well since the summer of 2010.  The season was summed up perfectly by young defenceman Erik Gudbranson who had this to say after Saturday night’s loss to Columbus:

“It difficult. You never want to be in this position,” Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “This isn’t fun. We put ourselves behind the 8-ball early in the season in that nine-game stretch, and we really didn’t recover well.

“It’s a disappointing feeling in here. You want to be in the playoffs. For it to end so abruptly now, it’s difficult.”

Now that the season has been completed, we’ll look at what worked, what didn’t work, and what we don’t want to see again.

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Game Day Preview: Flyers vs. Panthers. Don’t Worry We’re Gonna Find A Way.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: 40-29-9 (89 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 28-43-8 (64 PTS).


GAME DAY SONG:  Waiting On A Sunny Day.  Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

This will be the third and final meeting of the season between the Florida Panthers and the Philadelphia Flyers, who have split the previous games with each team winning at home.  Both games were low scoring as the Flyers beat the Panthers 2-1 back in October, and the Panthers beat the Flyers 3-1 in late November.

The Flyers come into this game having gone 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, but they were 1-4-2 in a recent seven game stretch before beating the lowly Buffalo Sabres 5-2 on Sunday.  They’ll be looking to punch out another victory against a Florida Panther team that is right now playing the role of spoiler, especially after Sunday’s comeback victory over the Dallas Stars.  The Flyers who have a totally different look since the last time they came in for a visit, find themselves in a dog fight for a playoff spot.

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Game Day Preview: Stars vs. Panthers. There Was No Place For Sorrow.

DALLAS STARS: 38-28-11 (87 PTS) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 27-43-8 (62 PTS.)


GAME DAY SONG Loose Ends, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

The Florida Panthers will host their second consecutive Western conference opponent this evening when Tim Thomas and the Dallas Stars visit the BB & T Center for the final matchup of the season between these two teams.  The first meeting was back on opening night in October when the Panthers ousted the Stars 4-2, with newly signed free agent Scott Gomez netting his first goal of the season. Since then Gomez has only scored one other time, but has been receiving praise of late from head coach Peter Horachek for his leadership on the ice.  Something this battered and bruised young team is in desperate need of.

There’ve been a number of changes since game one of the season for the Panthers.  They have a totally different look on the ice and behind the bench since that optimistic night in October.  Peter Horachek has replaced Kevin Dineen as the head coach, with assistants Brian Skrudland and John Maddenreplacing Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsey.  On the ice, Tim Thomas was sent to Dallas ironically, and Roberto Luongo is now the number one goalie with Dan Ellis as his back up.  Ellis came form the Stars in the Thomas trade, and both he and Bobby Lu have quickly found out that there’s a problem with defence here.  It’s expected that will be addressed in the off season.

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Dancing To Support The Children’s Miracle Network

I normally don’t like to use this website as a platform to ask for donations, yet when something this important comes along, it’s difficult to resist.  My daughter, who some of you know as Alexandrea, Alex or @LilMissRatTrick is in her second year at the University of Florida.  She’s doing exceptionally well in her studies, enjoying life away from home, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

In a few days she’ll be participating in an annual event simply called Dance Marathon at the University of Florida, which raises money for the The Children’s Miracle Network.  The link explaining what it’s all about can be found by clicking here.

She has also set up a personal page where you can make donations towards her goal, which can be found by clicking this link here.

This is her description of the event:

This year I will be participating in an event that has grown into another one of our great Gator traditions – Dance Marathon at the University of Florida. Dance Marathon is a yearlong commitment in which thousands of students come together to raise funds and awareness for Children’s Miracle Network. Each April, more than 800 of these students stay awake and on their feet in the Stephen O’Connell Center for 26.2 hours to show their support for the patients at Shands Children’s Hospital at UF, right here in Gainesville.

This cause is very important to me personally. Each year my sorority raises money for our national philanthropy, Children’s Miracle Network. As a volunteer at Shands Hospital in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Emergency Department, I know exactly what this organization is fighting for. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from Dance Marathon go toward purchasing state-of-the-art medical equipment, finding research grants and educational programs, and supplying toys and other items for children to help make their stay at the hospital more enjoyable. In addition, donations fund the search for cures for some of the most common yet incurable diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis and cancer. It’s For the Kids!!

I know that times can be difficult for some, but if there’s any way that you can make a donation, no matter how small, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  Alexandrea and I both thank you in advance for any donation that you can make.


Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Islanders. Times Got Hard.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 27-41-8 (62 PTS) vs. NEW YORK ISLANDERS: 29-35-10 (68 PTS.)


GAMEDAY SONG: Downbound Train, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

It’s a quick turnaround for the Florida Panthers as they take on the New York Islanders 24 hours after being trounced by the New Jersey Devils last night.  The 6-3 score is quite indicative of the actual game, despite what looked like a valiant comeback from the Panthers.

As per usual, Florida started from behind giving up the first goal 12 seconds in, and with 11 minutes gone, were trailing 3-0.  Not many teams good or bad are able to recover from something like that, however the Panthers eventually closed the gap.  With goals from Dmitry Kulikov, Brad Boyes (is 20th), and Brandon Pirri, bringing the Panthers to within one, as they trailed 4-3 heading into the final period.

A goalie change for the Devlis that saw Cory Schneider replacing Martin Brodeur seemed to ignite the Devils, and Jacob Josefson and Travis Zajac finished the scoring.  For Zajac who scored three times, it was his first career hat trick, giving him 16 goals on the season.  The Devils came out with some desperation early to set the pace, yet Florida, in what has become a redundant theme made the game close.

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Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Devils. We Cannot Undo These Things We’ve Done.

 FLORIDA PANTHERS: 27-40-8 (62 PTS.) vs. NEW JERSEY DEVILS: 31-28-15 (77 PTS.)

GAME DAY SONG:  Outlaw Pete, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band (Watch it!)

The individuals responsible for putting this game on NBCSN must have thought that the New Jersey Devils would be entrenched in a playoff spot, and that the Florida Panthers would be playing respectable hockey with their maturing youth.  Instead, tonight’s tilt finds the Devils scratching and clawing, fighting for their playoff lives, while the Panthers are sinking further into the abyss of the Eastern Conference with some of their youth nursing injuries.  If the Devils, who are currently 5 points out of a playoff spot, do indeed miss the postseason, they can point to their record in shootouts as what will be the primary reason.  New Jersey has lost 10 consecutive shootouts, something that the Florida Panthers were all too familiar with back in the days of head coach Peter DeBoer.  Heck they were familiar with it when Jacques Martin was behind the bench as well.

The shootout as we all know is the NHL’s gimmick for deciding games that end in a tie after five minutes of overtime.  And while this writer firmly believes it should be abolished, the New Jersey Devils’ season rides on those 10 losses, and when you’re a team that struggles to score goals as it is, the pressure of a skills competition magnifies your results.  Devils forward Patrik Elias commented on the quandary that they find themselves in:

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Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Ducks.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 26-37-8 (60 PTS.) vs. ANAHEIM DUCKS: 45-18-7 (97 PTS.)


GAME DAY SONG: Jungleland, by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band (Featuring Clarence Clemmons)

A quick (pardon the pun) turnaround for the Florida Panthers as they take on the Anaheim Ducks tonight following yesterday’s matinée loss to the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 4-0.  The four game road trip against the top four Pacific division teams ends here, and if the Cats are able to salvage a win, they’ll come back to sunny South Florida with a 2-2-0 record.  Not too shabby considering the opponents they’ll have faced.

In yesterday’s game the Panthers came out with some energy for the first five minutes or so of the game, then the momentum swung towards the Kings when Ed Jovanovski took a slashing penalty seven minutes in.  Trevor Lewis of the Kings scored a couple of minutes later, then just a few seconds after Sean Bergenheim finished serving a minor for hooking, Mike Richards scored his 10th goal of the season to put the Kings up 2-0, and that was all Los Angelese would need.  The suffocation of the Panthers was well under way.  The Kings scored once in the second, and once in the third on their way to Jonathan Quicks fifth shutout of the season, and his record-setting 172nd win as a King.  Former Kings goalie Rogie Vachon was the previous leader in victories and was on hand to watch the win.

Quick wasn’t tested by the Panthers too much, but did make what could be one of the top 10 saves of the season against the snakebitten Tomas Fleischmann.  Flash had an opportunity to send a backhander towards what looked like a wide open net, but Quick with his Cat like reflexes denied the struggling winger, with a sparkling glove save.  The play was reviewed, and while we have no idea if a “top” view was available to see, the call on the ice stood, as Fleichsmann’s season long struggles continued.

As for tonight, the Ducks come into this game in third place in the Western conference, and have been off since Thursday.  The rest could be good as they have tapered off with a 3-4-2 record so far in March.  Their upcoming schedule however is in their favor as they face nine opponents who would not be in the playoffs if they started today.  Included in those nine games are three against the Edmonton Oilers.  Up until their loss to San Jose on Thursday, Anaheim had been in first place since early December in the Pacific division, and now find themselves four points behind the Sharks, but have two games in hand.

Ryan Getzlaf leads the Ducks in points with 76, and Corey Perry leads in goals with 36.  Getzlaf who has a great pair of hands, and is one of the premier playmaking centers in the league has five helpers in his last four games, while Perry has 9 points in his lat 9 games.

Anaheim is a lot like the Kings, except that they can score.  Their 222 goals put them fourth overall in the NHL.  Jonas Hiller is difficult to beat most nights, and is having another stellar season.  He carries in a record of 27-11-6 with 5 shutouts and a 2.46 GAA.

This will be the second matchup between the two teams, and Florida will be looking to sweep the two game set.  The Panthers won the first tilt back on November 12th in a come from behind victory that snapped a nine game losing streak at the time.  Dan Ellis will get the call tonight, and will be making his second start as a Panther since being acquired at the trade deadline from Dallas in the Tim Thomas deal.  In his first start for Florida Ellis gave up five goals in a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You’ve read this here many times before, and I am hoping to be proved wrong. The last game of long road trips, especially one’s that are on opposite coasts, are usually a death trap for struggling and inconsistent teams like the Panthers.  This will be their third game in four nights, and their fourth in six.  It’s hard not to have your sights set on going home and mailing it in.  That coupled with the fact that Anaheim should be refreshed not having played since Thursday, and hungry to reclaim first place in the Pacific division doesn’t bode well for Florida.

The Panthers will need to stay out of the penalty box, limit the shots against Ellis, and score a couple of goals early.  You’ve read that here before too.  However falling behind in Anaheim isn’t a good idea, as the Ducks are 24-7-4 on home ice.


Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Kings. I Dreamed I Was In A Hollywood Movie.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 26-36-8 (60 PTS.) vs. LOS ANGELES KINGS: 39-25-6 (84 PTS.)


GAME DAY SONG:  Spill The Wine, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

This will be game three of a four game western road swing for the Florida Panthers who are coming off a hard fought loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.  Phoenix, a team that’s very difficult to play against because of their attention to defence is very similar to today’s opponent the Los Angeles Kings.  Yet if you thought that the Coyotes were boring you to death, wait until Los Angeles gets a lead against you.  The Kings with goaltender Jonathan Quick in net, are tied with the Boston Bruins for allowing the least amount of goals in the NHL so far this season (149).  In addition to their tight defence like the Coyotes, the Kings style of play can be significantly more physical.

With an even tighter defence, a persistent forecheck, and the sandpaper to go along with it, the Kings don’t have to score much either as their 170 goals for shows.  Of all the teams that are in a playoff position right now, the Kings have scored the least amount of goals, with the Minnesota Wild a close second (174).  Coach Darryl Sutter, he of many odd faces and tweed sport coats, insists that his clubs pay attention to every detail of the game,especially in all three zones.  Sutter isn’t a proponent of wide open hockey, and would rather see a low scoring affair that ends up 2-1, rather than a firewagon game with a score of 7-6.  The Kings impose a style of physicality that’s meant to wear the opponent down by finishing every check, bumping a player at every opportunity, and capitalizing on mistakes that they force you into.  It’s not exciting, but for them it works.  And don’t let the Kings get ahead of you after two periods of play.  In those situations they have lost only one game in regulation out of more than 130 in the past two plus seasons.  A ridiculous number when you think about it.

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Game Day Preview: Canucks vs. Panthers. We Let Loose Of Everything.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS: 30-29-10 (70 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 25-35-7 (57 PTS.)


GAME DAY SONG:  Backstreets, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

This is one of the games that had been marked on the calendar when the schedule came out last summer simply because it’s a Western Conference foe that I’m extremely familiar with.  However when thinking of what this game would be like at that time, it wasn’t the fact that Roberto Luongo would be in goal, as that was almost a certainty.  It was for whom he would play for.  After a small twist of fate, and a request to get out of “dodge”, Luongo a former Florida Panther will be back in goal for the Panthers following 8  seasons playing for the Vancouver Canucks.

Since he’s arrived in Florida two weeks ago, Luongo has played four games, won two of them, recorded a shutout, played against and beat his former backup (Cory Schneider).  And this afternoon will play against his former team for the first time since the trade.  What a strange turn of events.

“It’s going to be weird. I was in that locker room a week-and-a-half ago, so it’s the first time really I’ve been traded during the season,” Luongo said. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel but it’s definitely going to feel weird.”

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