Through the dead periods of the summer, the Florida Panthers have managed to keep busy, naming their new assistants for the 2019-20 season.
On Tuesday, June. 4, the Florida Panthers announced that Mike Kitchen, Andrew Brunette, and Derek MacKenzie will serve as Joel Quenneville’s assistants for the upcoming season. Robb Tallas will also return in his eleventh season as the Panthers Goaltending Coach.
Mike Kitchen, who’s 63 years of age, owns over 25 years of coaching experience, serving as an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers, and Chicago Blackhawks. He also served as a head coach for the Blues for three seasons.
Kitchen, who famously spent seven seasons with the Blackhawks, built a working relationship with Panthers coach Joel Quenneville.
The two spent time together behind the Blues and Blackhawks bench, helping guide the Blues to a franchise record 114-point season, while also leading the Hawks to Stanley Cup victories in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
As a player, Kitchen was originally selected by the Kansas City Scouts in the third round (38th overall) of the 1976 NHL Draft. By the end of his career, Kitchen participated in 474 NHL games, posting 74 points (12G & 62A) with the Colorado Rockies/New Jersey Devils.
As well, Kitchen and Quenneville both played as defensemen for the Rockies/Devils from 1979-80 to 1982-83.
Andrew Brunette, who’s 45 years of age, spent the last seven seasons with the Minnesota Wild in several roles: Director of Player Personnel, Assistant General Manager, Assistant Coach, and Special Assistant to the General Manager
Prior to his days working in front office, Brunette was originally selected by the Washington Capitals in the seventh round (174th overall) of the 1993 NHL Draft.
Participating in a grand total of 1,109 NHL games, Brunette played for the likes of the Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, and Chicago Blackhawks.
Derek MacKenzie, who’s 37 years of age, played in his final NHL season (2018-19) with the Florida Panthers, dressing up in only one game due to a season-ending shoulder injury.
Through his five-season tenure with the Cats, MacKenzie played in a total of 304 games, recording 20G, 34A, and 54 points. From 2016-17 to 2017-18, MacKenzie served as the team’s captain.
In addition to playing for the Panthers, MacKenzie also spent some time with the Atlanta Thrashers (four seasons) and Columbus Blue Jackets (seven seasons), tallying 2 assists in 28 games and 31G, 38A, for 69 points in 279 games, respectively.
This past season (2018-19), while sidelined with a shoulder injury, MacKenzie assisted the team’s coaching staff in an unofficial assistant coaching role.
Florida Panthers Head Coach Joel Quenneville had a few words to say about his new assistants:
"“We have assembled a talented coaching staff with unique perspectives and a wealth of hockey experience. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a proven coach and a quality person like Mike Kitchen again, as well as Andrew Brunette who is a bright, young, hockey mind who I coached as a player. It’s exciting to welcome former Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie to our staff as he enters the NHL coaching ranks following a great playing career. Together with longtime goaltending coach Robb Tallas, we are motivated by the task ahead of us. Our staff is eager to begin working towards our goal of bringing playoff hockey back to South Florida.”"
Now with the Panthers bench fully complete, the organization can turn its attention over to the draft and free agency. 2019-20 couldn’t come soon enough!