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Coach Pete DeBoer fired; Panthers president denies ‘rebuild’

Greg Wyshynski
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Florida Panthers Coach Pete DeBoer wasn't hired by GM Dale Tallon, but he was fired by him on Sunday after going 103-107-26 in three seasons at the helm. Also gone are assistants Jim Hulton and Jamie Pringle; according to George Richards of the Miami Herald, assistants Gord Murphy and Robb Tallas will stick around until a new coach is hired.

"These decisions are always tough to make, but we felt strongly that it was the right time to make a change," said Tallon in a statement. "We need to go in a new direction with a fresh approach and philosophy as it relates to our head coaching position."

His 93-point team back in 2008-09 was two points and two wins away from the playoffs; he leaves after coaching the Panthers to their NHL record 10th consecutive season without a postseason appearance.

We spoke with Panthers President Michael Yormark for a story that will run on Monday, and he spoke about the direction of the team under Tallon and whether the Panthers are going to be a contender next season.

Despite the house cleaning today, the Panthers president denies this is a rebuild.

Here's Yormark, from our conversation on Friday:

"It really depends on how you define 'contention.' If contention is defined as 'winning a Stanley Cup,' then yeah, you're probably a couple of years away. But if contention is getting back into the postseason and fighting for respect, I don't think we're far away at all.

"What [the front office] did at the trading deadline, to clear cap space in order to reinvest in the team during free agency, was fantastic. We have a blank canvas. We have as much or more [cap] flexibility as any team in the National Hockey League. We're going to be aggressive. As you've seen with other teams, you can make big jumps from year to year. Our expectation is that we're going to take a major jump from this year to next year.

"As we all know, Dale's a great recruiter, and [assistant GM] Mike Santos is a great recruiter and a great negotiator. We expect to have a huge summer. We expect to put a team on the ice next year that's going to get into the postseason and be fun to watch. I wouldn't say we're rebuilding; I think we're retooling."

Obviously, clearing out the coach is part of that retooling. And any player agent that remembers when Tallon was "aggressive" in Chicago with Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet must be looking at a second vacation home right now.

The first name that leaps to mind for DeBoer's successor is Mike Haviland of the Chicago Blackhawks, an assistant coach who served under Tallon and is considered a rising star. One wrinkle, potentially: He's a New Jersey native that's been talked about as a potential Devils coach if Jacques Lemaire opts for the easy chair (again).

As for DeBoer … well, hockey's never lacked for irony. He was fired on the same weekend the Ottawa Senators fired Cory Clouston, three years after DeBoer flew to Barbados and interviewed with Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk. Jacques Martin, then Florida GM, claimed DeBoer simply liked the Panthers organization more. The Miami Herald passed along the other side of the story:

Of course, Ottawa has a different take on how things went down. According to the Ottawa Sun, Melnyk flew from Barbados to Canada to interview Craig Hartsberg (former coach of the Blackhawks and Ducks who was coaching in juniors as well), with GM Bryan Murray offering the job Thursday night. The Sens made it official on Friday morning, with DeBoer agreeing to coach the Cats "around noon" says JM.

Hartsberg was fired and replaced by Clouston. Now the Panthers and Senators are looking for new coaches in the same offseason … again.

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