Dale Tallon said he had a lengthy list of candidates for his coaching vacancy.
The general manager of the Florida Panthers said he formally interviewed 15 for the position and spoke to another half dozen on the phone and, without directly confirming this, was waiting to speak with Nashville assistant Phil Housley.
“It was an exhaustive search,” Tallon said.
Yet a few weeks ago, San Jose Sharks assistant coach Bob Boughner was so impressive in his final interview with Tallon he just about landed the gig on the spot.
Tallon said after their final meeting — held at the Raleigh-Durham airport in North Carolina — it was clear the Panthers had found their new coach.
“Of all the interviews with all the people, Bob Boughner impressed us like no one else,” Tallon said.
“In all the years I have been in the business — hiring coaches, firing coaches, meeting coaches — Bob was the most prepared. His performance, preparation and passion knocked us out of the park. It was incredible to see. ...
“After meeting with Bob, it was clear that this was our guy. I’m proud to be associated with him, proud to work with him.”
The Panthers formally announced Boughner as the 15th coach in franchise history on Monday morning then introduced him to South Florida at a press conference at BB&T Center that afternoon.
Dressed in a sharp gray suit, Boughner said Florida’s young and talented base made the Panthers a desirable spot to coach despite their many problems last season.
The Panthers, after all, won a franchise record 47 games with 103 points and — just a year ago — were the reigning Atlantic Division champions. Last year’s dismal season saw the Panthers plummet to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
“The pieces here, the set up here for the future is just unbelievable. This is a good hockey team,” said Boughner, 46, a former NHL defenseman who played over 600 games in the league and captained the Calgary Flames during his career.
“I am over-the-top excited. I’m going to able to work with some great people, get a chance to help this team bounce back from last season. Everyone has a clean slate to work with. There are just so many great pieces here and I feel that there is room for a lot of success here.”
Boughner, by the accounts of Tallon and team president Matt Caldwell, came into his meeting with the team with a clear vision of the job he wanted to do with the Panthers.
And, once word broke that he was a candidate, Tallon and Caldwell said they were inundated by players, coaches and front office people who had dealings with Boughner over the years offering words of recommendation.
Yet it was Boughner’s precise game plan of what he feels he can do to help the Panthers get back to the top of the Eastern Conference which sold Tallon.
“There were lot of days my wife was asking what I was doing and it was 2 a.m. and I was still on the computer, churning away,” Boughner said.
“I wanted to make sure I wasn’t coming in here half prepared. I wanted to jump in and know everything about the organization from personnel to management to ownership. That’s why I feel so comfortable standing here today. I think I’m in a great spot.”
Tallon mentioned Boughner being Florida’s 15th coach with the franchise’s 24th season coming up in a few months so no one was trying to hide the fact the Panthers go through coaches pretty quickly.
Pete DeBoer, who brought Boughner to San Jose in 2015, coached the Panthers for three years before being fired after one tumultuous season under Tallon.
Since DeBoer’s dismissal, the Panthers are now on their fifth coach. Tallon fired Kevin Dineen and let go interim coaches Peter Horachek and Tom Rowe; firing Gerard Gallant last season wasn’t his call.
In this hire, Tallon says he wanted someone with a “fresh voice” although Boughner’s past experiences with players like Aaron Ekblad (whom Boughner has known since the Florida defenseman was a youngster), Derek MacKenzie, James Reimer and Alex Petrovic didn’t hurt.
“I wanted a guy who was newer, not necessarily the most experienced,” Tallon said. “Being a head coach in the NHL wasn’t really the No. 1 criteria for my list that I put together. ... I wanted new voices, new faces, new attitude. More of a contemporary look. I didn’t want to go back. ...
“This was the right choice.”
Although Boughner got some advice from DeBoer on where to look for a house in South Florida (he plans on living near the beach) and schools for the two children who are moving south, he says he is not daunted by Florida’s track record when it comes to its coaches.
“I’m a confident guy,” Boughner said, “and I really truly believe once we build this staff and put the plan in place, there are great pieces here. I think there’s a lot of excitement because there’s a lot of opportunity for growth and success here.
“We’re starting with a real good base. We have a clean slate. We’ll talk about this year, not last year.”
TALKING WITH JAGR
Tallon said he is speaking with Petr Svoboda, Jaromir Jagr’s agent, about returning for at least one more season. Tallon confirmed Florida wouldn’t sign Jagr until the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft is finished later this month.
Jagr, 45, played with Boughner in Pittsburgh for parts of two seasons from 2000-01.
“I have trouble getting out of bed some mornings and he’s still playing. I don’t get it,” Boughner said.
▪ Florida assistant general manager Eric Joyce denied a report that the team asked defenseman Keith Yandle was asked to waive his no-movement clause so the Panthers could leave him exposed in the upcoming expansion draft.
Each team has to submit its list of protected players — either a combination of four fowards, four defensemen and a goalie or five forwards, three defensemen and a goalie — by Saturday.
The expansion draft will be held at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas on June 21.
MEET BOB BOUGHNER
Birthplace: Windsor, Ontario.
Playing experience — Minor leagues (AHL, IHL, ECHL): 5 seasons; NHL (Buffalo, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado): 10 seasons.
Coaching experience — Ontario Hockey League (Canadian juniors): Coached Windsor Spitfires for eight seasons ... won Memorial Cup and OHL Coach of the Year twice ... Remains team president, part owner of Spitfires. NHL: Assistant coach for Columbus Blue Jackets (2010-11), San Jose Sharks (2015-17).
Florida Panthers ties: Played parts of two seasons with Florida’s minor league affiliates in Cincinnati (IHL) and Greensboro (AHL) from 1994-96 ... Worked with Derek MacKenzie (Columbus), James Reimer (San Jose); coached Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic at Ivan Hlinka junior tournament. ... Coached under former Florida Panthers coach Pete DeBoer with Sharks ... Played alongside Florida free agent forward Jaromir Jagr with Penguins ... Is a long time friend of Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad and his family; both live in Windsor.
Personal: Wife Jenn; has four children: Brady (20) and Molly (19) will attend college in the fall; Emma (17) and Lola (14) will attend school in South Florida.