When Peter DeBoer was signed to coach the Florida Panthers three years ago, he came to us with a very impressive resume. A very successful coach in the OHL with the Plymouth and Kitchener, DeBoer was hired as the man to steer a young Florida Panther club back to respectability and the playoffs. DeBoer was given a four year contract by then General Manger Jacques Martin, and then majority owner Alan Cohen. Both Martin and Cohen promised that DeBoer would be supplied with the tools necessary for Pete to guide this team to the postseason and beyond. Like that girl in high school who befriended you so you could take her to prom, only to dump you after it was over, both Martin and Cohen bailed on DeBoer, barely waiting for the dance. Leaving him holding nothing but a wilted corsage.
DeBoer survived three general managers, (Uncle Jack, Randy Sexton and Dale Tallon) during his tenure. The ownership group changed hands three times, and he coached a team who’s roster turned over drastically in each of his three years as coach. Each year as the trade deadline approached his team was the subject of rumors, many of which never panned out, and some of which did. The moves that weren’t made however, were the one’s that could have saved his job had they been completed. More after the jump.
Remember Jay Bouwmeester virtually asking to be traded by saying he didn’t know if he wanted to stay? Deals on separate occasions were in place with Philadelphia among other teams, but the Panthers got greedy and kept asking for more….. Or thought that Jay could be convinced to stay. Can you imagine what this team would have done with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux? There was also rumor of a trade to Vancouver for Mason Raymond, Kevin Bieksa and an unamed player that never happened either. Yet we sent Jays’ rights to Calgary for Jordan Leopold and a third round pick. Silly, awful, stupid…..use whatever words you like. Those were they types of things that Pete had no control over, and must have made him say to himself…..”what did I get into”?
In his first year as coach the Panthers were in the playoff race to the bitter end. Losing out on a tiebreaker to the Montreal Canadians, as they ended the season with 93 points. That summer all the Panthers had to do was go out and get some scoring, trade Jay for some value, and there should have been no reason to expect a better result the next season. Uncle Jack left town and took a head coaching job in Montreal, and Randy Sexton continued to sink the boat further, as DeBoer and the Panthers continued to spiral. The big signing? Steve Reinprecht. In 2009-2010 the Cats finished with 77 points, last in the Southeast Division. This year the Cats would finish with 71 points, good enough for 15th in the conference. A ten game losing streak prior to the final game would virtually seal DeBoer’s fate. Of course many believe that he was doomed the day Dale Tallon was brought in as General Manager.
Deboer’s coaching record with Florida in his three years: 103-107-36.
The team endured various losing streaks. They came close to being a playoff contender many times, inlcuding the midway point of this season. Truth be told, they were pretenders, and didn’t have enough to take the next step. DeBoer’s fault? Maybe. However instead of making a deal for scoring help along the way, the Panthers decided to wait it out, and see what could be done. A better coach might have squeezed more blood out of these rocks. Maybe. But it just wasn’t about what the Panthers didn’t have. It would also be about what DeBoer didn’t do.
The Panthers have been offensively challenged for DeBoer’s entire tenure with the club. Some may argue that the Panthers have had trouble scoring since the Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure left town. DeBoer doing himself no favors this season had often mentioned how this was an area of weakness on the club that was difficult to overcome on a nightly basis. Surely Tallon grew weary of hearing this after most losses. While the Panthers did have difficulty scoring, they were for the most part this season in striking distance of a playoff birth, but played so inconsistently at times, they never were able to take the next step.
Some will say that DeBoer got blood out of a rock, while others will say he was overmatched. There were many nights this season that the team played listless for two periods, only to wake up in the third and come up short. There were also games where the Panthers took leads into the final frame and found all sorts of ways to lose them, and ultimately the game. They were fragile, nervous, and timid. They lacked physicality, and suffered from a power play that was at or next to last in the NHL this entire year.
As decorated and as highly regarded as DeBoer was, he was not without his faults. He had his issues with veteran players who were used to speaking their mind and when this happened, it usually resulted in a benching. Nick Boynton was the first to have this happen to him as he questioned his ice time and DeBoer gave what Boynton felt was a non satisfactory answer. With Boynton benched the Panthers acquired Steve Emminger to share/take time from the rugged D-man. That year the Cats fell short of the playoffs. It was also widely known that DeBoer and goaltender Tomas Vokoun didn’t always see eye to eye. Vokoun was mishandled on a few occasions as he was vocal about the team’s play in front of him more than once. Rather than see Vokoun’s points as being valid, Vokoun sat for stretches. Scott Clemmensen, Vokoun’s backup also had a rough beginning with the team in his first season, but things eventually simmered down.
It was also felt that DeBoer didn’t teach or hone the skills of some of his younger players. Michal Repik comes to mind as the talented prospect has yet to live up to his billing. Although it’s kind of hard to show your scoring skills while playing on the fourth line. DeBoer also wasn’t a huge fan of physical players. Steve MacIntyre and Darcy Hordichuk who were both brought here to provide muscle, spent most of the games they dressed for knitting sock’s on the bench. Remember when David Booth was hit by Mike Richards? No one came to his defence. And that was not the only time the Panthers showed no push back. Dale Tallon vowed to change that image here, and has stated on many occasions that the Florida Panthers will not be pushed around and run over any more.
No coach is perfect as much as we’d like to believe. They all have faults. They’re very peculiar in their own way. Pete was well liked, and many felt that this firing might be unjust. The Panthers and Dale Tallon however used this season to evaluate Pete and obviously feel that a fresh start is needed for this franchise to move forward. Tallon is on a mission to get this team into the post season and challenge for a Stanley Cup. As most general managers do, Tallon wants his own man.
Pete has no regrets about what he did. had he been given the right tools the results may have been different. However some of his tactics were not up to NHL standards. His life line for his future was set in stone at the beginning of the season.
You’d be a fool to think that unless DeBoer got Florida into the playoffs this year, that he would be retained. Potential replacements and more analysis next time.
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