As you might be able to tell with a the summer being as quiet as it’s been for fans of the Florida Panthers, coming up with news is all but impossible. My job, or my objective of this site is to bring you news, or information, or make something up if I have to. In an effort to generate some possible conversation amongst my readers I have to ask the following question, “Does Peter DeBoer, head coach of the Florida Panthers survive the season”?
It’s a legitimate concern, and there are opinions all over the place about the type coach that he was before he got here, and the type of coach that he’s become since he got here. Known for his ability to work players hard, be fair, and be a no nonsense type in juniors, it was expected that the same style would be able to turn the Panthers fortune around. The style he wanted his team to play would be what we know as uptempo. More offence, less defense, yet responsible at both ends of the ice. A far cry from the “watching paint dry” system that Uncle Jack forced us to watch during his time as a coach.
His first year with the Panthers they missed the playoffs by one point. Everyone seemingly felt that he had done a pretty solid job given the roster of grunts he had to put on the ice. Finishing the year 41-30-11 with 93 points, most felt that the job he did was short of miraculous. There were some mistakes along the way as would be expected by a rookie coach, especially one making the jump from juniors to the NHL, but for the most part he did a solid job. Personally the most glaring mistake I feel he made that first year is the treatament of defenceman Nick Boynton. Not to rehash the entire situation, but the two got into a shouting match during the playoff run and Boynton was sent home for disciplinary reasons. Taking Boynton’s place was an old friend of DeBoer’s, Steve Eminger. Not exactly an even tradeoff, but Deboer was apparently making an example of Boynton. I think he was picking on the wrong guy, and we may never know the exact truth of that situation, but so be it.
Last year the Panthers finished 32-37-13 good enough for 5th in the Southeastern Division and finishing 14th in the Eastern Conference. While the rosters of both clubs were virtually the same, minus Jay Bouwmeester, DeBoer’s ways, or habits if you will seemed to fail a bit in his second season. Known for his toughness and unwillingness to stand for lackadasical play, the team played many nights as though they couldn’t wait to get to the golf course. Or South Beach.
The Panthers team that was put together for Pete last year was short on scoring, short on defense, short on character and short on heart, many, many nights. Some of you may not want to believe it, but the fact of the matter is, it’s true. I myself grew tired of the cliche’s. “We got some chances, but couldn’t convert. We need to play a full sixty minutes. We need to come prepared. We can’t just play the third period”. On and on they went. On top of it the team lacked toughness and the willingness to display almost any type of aggression. The Mike Richards hit on David Booth was the most obvious scenario of that.
The Cats went out and acquired bruising forward Steve MacIntyre, known for his ability to drop the gloves and take on anyone at anytime. He would serve a purpose as the enforcer of the team. Big Mac played 22 games for the Panthers last season and averaged 2:52 minutes of ice time and had only 24 minutes in penalties. The clamps must have been put on him, as it seems that DeBoer isn’t a fan of that type of player. Granted Mac wasn’t brought in for his skill, but if you’re going to dress a guy like that, especially on this team, you better figure out a way to use him. We certainly aren’t talented enough to carry a player like that if he’s not going to play. MacIntyre is now back with the Oilers, and the Panthers lack a player of his toughness completely at this point.
So as we look to the new season, how many games does DeBoer get? Is it a fair assesment of him and his performance with the roster that he’ll have? Again, lacking a goal scorer, a number one center, a solid right wing, and absolutely no toughness, I would say that Pete’s tenure here is hanging by a thread. If the Panthers get off to another slow start, he’s going to feel the heat. Even though general manager Dale Tallon has said he likes Pete, there’s no way that Tallon will stand for another display of what we saw last year.
The 20 -25 game mark will be DeBoer’s first test I imagine. If after 20 games the Panthers don’t have at least 20 points, the clock will start ticking. If by game 25 they have less than 30, the hook will most likely come. Unless there are some obstacles that DeBoer can’t control. Granted this is all speculation on my part, and knowing that we have a roster that’s not much of an improvement over last season, I still believe that Tallon has DeBoer on a short leash.
It’s almost a situation where DeBoer is a lame duck, but you still have to see it through. One improvement should be the defence and the penalty kill with the removal of Mike Kitchen, who was replaced with former Panther defenceman Gord Murphy. Or will it be different? Maybe it’s not Kitchen and maybe it’s the players? Kitchen moves on to Chicago to take the same role with the Stanley Cup Champs. We may really find out the answer to the previous question. One thing that Blackhawk forwards do is backcheck, and come back to help the defence. Something not all Panther forwards were willing to do. At least nightly.
Time will tell. Question is how much time? Is DeBoer in over his head? Is he a lame duck? Was he really ready for the big time? All opinions pointed to yes.
Remember though, people also thought that Roberto Luongo was the best goalie in hockey!
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