Who Was The Last Man To Coach A Panther Playoff Team?


In 1998-1999 Terry Murray took over as head coach of the Florida Panthers after his brother Bryan assumed the role when he fired previous coach Doug MacLean.  Terry had  coached the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers prior to that, and was brought in to guide the Panthers back to Stanley Cup playoff contention.  In that first partial season, the Panthers missed the playoffs finishing with 78 points, which was a 15 point improvement over the previous season, but still nowhere near good enough for the playoffs.

Some great names were on that roster including Pavel Bure, Scott Mellanby, Ray Whitney, Robert Svehla and Mark Parish.  In 1999-2000 however Murray would guide the Panthers to the playoffs when the team finished with what is still a franchise record 98 points which allowed them to start the first round of the playoffs against the New Jersey Devils.  That playoff round was over faster than it started as the Devils swept the Cats in four games.  Bure, Whitney, Viktor Kozlov, Mellanby, Billy Lindsay, and Svehla along with some other memorable names were part of the last team to appear in the post season. The goaltenders for Florida?  Mike Vernon, Trevor Kidd, Mikhail Shtalenkov, and Sean Burke. Yikes!

The Devils were a stacked team that year with Martin Brodeur playing in 72 regular season games, and their offence featuring Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora and Bobby Holik.  Defensively the blue line was manned by two of the very best in Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer.  If memory serves me right, the first game of the series saw the Panthers watch a three goal lead disappear, as they went on to be swept.

Murray’s tenure in South Florida would b e short lived as his stern and non-c0mmiunicative ways began to eat away at the players.  This truly was a situation where the coach had lost the room, and after 36 games in the 2000-2001 season, President Bill Torrey could take no more as he fired both Terry and his brother Bryan.  The Panthers had only six wins at the time, and a change obviously had to be made.  The firing came after a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at home where a common chant among the faithful, yet fed up fans was “Fire Murray”! “Fire Murray”!

Duane Sutter took over as coach and Bill Torrey took over as interim GM for the balance of the season.

It’s taken the Florida Panthers 11 years to dig out of that rut, and thankfully with all the sweeping changes that have occured in the past 18 months, it appears that the Panthers are not only on their way back to respectability, but on their way to making a serious playoff run.

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