Florida Panthers

‘Legacy’ on players’ minds as Florida Panthers open season vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Bob Boughner will make his league head-coaching debut on Friday night when he leads the Panthers in a road game at the Tampa Bay. The team has had four head coaches in the past four years.
Bob Boughner will make his league head-coaching debut on Friday night when he leads the Panthers in a road game at the Tampa Bay. The team has had four head coaches in the past four years. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

The book — the one that could influence the 2017-18 Florida Panthers season — is called “Legacy,” and that’s exactly what new coach Bob Boughner wants to create in Sunrise.

After being hired by the Panthers in June, a friend recommended that Boughner read the aforementioned book, which is about the New Zealand national rugby team, known as the All Blacks, and how they became world champions.

A 46-year-old former NHL defenseman from Windsor, Ontario, Boughner will make his league head-coaching debut on Friday night when he leads the Panthers in a road game at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Boughner is hoping that his team — led by center Aleksander Barkov, defenseman Aaron Ekblad and goalie Roberto Luongo — will not only show talent but also chemistry and togetherness, which is why he has shared some of the catchphrases from “Legacy” with his players.

“I think every coach tries to put his own touch on a team, different things he wants to get through to players,” said Boughner, who served as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks for the past two years.

“For me, examining this [Panthers] organization and seeing the ups and downs, I think it’s important to create a great environment for them to come to the rink every day. I know as a former player that when you come to the rink and it’s a great environment, it makes you want to work harder.”

There have been more downs than ups for the Panthers, who have missed the playoffs in 14 of the past 16 years. But even when the team won its division in 2012 and 2016, the Panthers were unable to sustain that momentum to the next season.

Florida Panthers coach Bob Boughner is excited about the young team the Cats will bring to the 2017-18 season.

That helps explain why the Panthers have had four head coaches in the past four years, starting with Peter Horachek, who lasted just one season; Gerard Gallant, who was fired just a few months after winning the division; and Tom Rowe, who was given the team for 61 games last season.

Boughner, with his energy, organization and motivational ideas, seems to have made a positive impression with his players.

“They are clear, concise and confident in everything they do,” Ekblad said of the Panthers’ new coaching staff. “They are always on the dot, making sure we keep our pace.

“In between periods, they have great insight on how to counter the other team. … It’s working well.”

The pucks start flying for real on Friday, and the Lighting will provide an immediate and stiff test. Center Steven Stamkos, held to just 17 games last season because of a right-knee injury, is back, and that could be a real problem for not just the Panthers but the entire Atlantic Division.

PANTHERS0315 SCORE1 CTJ
Florida Panthers Aleksander Barkov celebrates after scoring on Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Fredrick Andersen in the first 18 seconds of the first period at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, March 14, 2017. CHARLES TRAINOR JR ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Stamkos, 27, is already a six-time All-Star and has two seasons with more than 50 goals.

For the Panthers, Barkov, 22, has the most potential to develop into that type of star, assuming he is healthy. He scored a combined 49 goals the past two years, but he also missed 37 games.

Barkov will once again work with Jonathan Huberdeau, but the newcomer in their line is Evgeny Davydov.

Boughner is confident Barkov will make it work.

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo talks about the importance of entering this season without a mindset of not getting lost in the big picture and prepare for each individual game

“Besides his talent,” Boughner said, “there’s [Barkov’s] work ethic and how he puts in extra time in the gym or before practice working on faceoffs.

“He’s a real quiet guy but a leader by example. Other guys can watch him and learn how to play the 200-foot game.”

Barkov, who said he was thrilled that former linemate Jaromir Jagr was able to remain in the league and sign with the Calgary Flames, also said he is excited about the new season and the start of the Boughner Era.

“We’ve been waiting for too long, since last season,” Barkov said. “We can’t wait for Friday. When the puck drops, we’ll be ready to go.”

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