Panthers get Stanley Cup winning coach Joel Quenneville
The seemingly always-revolving door of Florida Panthers head coaching has made one more twirl — and the Panthers are hoping this is the last time it happens for a long time.
As Sunday turned to Monday, less than 24 hours after announcing they had fired Bob Boughner following two playoff-less seasons that began with optimism but fell short of expectations, the Panthers made a splash with their 16th head coach in franchise history and 12th overall hire since 2000.
Three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Second all-time winningest coach in NHL history (890 wins, 532 losses, 77 ties and 137 overtime losses).
Eighteen playoff berths in 21-plus seasons at the helm of a program (he was fired 15 games into his 11th season with the Blackhawks and 22nd overall season as a head coach).
Simply put: Arguably the biggest hire the Panthers could have made.
“The proudest I am to be a Florida Panther is right now,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said at Quenneville’s introductory press conference Monday afternoon at the BB&T Center. “This man to my left is a champion. Champions breed champions.”
It’s also another notion that shows that the Panthers plan to make waves this offseason that, they hope, help them make the jump from being a fringe Stanley Cup playoff team to one that is making deep postseason runs on a yearly basis.
“This is a new era,” Tallon said, “a new beginning.”
It’s a beginning that starts with the reuniting of two friends in Tallon and Quenneville.
Tallon was the architect of those Blackhawks team that led to the three Windy City parades. He had left for the Panthers in May of 2010 — before the Blackhawks won the first of those titles — but he did most of the heavy lifting in terms of acquiring Chicago’s personnel, and he worked with Quenneville for two years.
“I’m giddy like I’ve never been before,” Tallon said.
Quenneville, 60, began his coaching career with eight years at the helm of the St. Louis Blues, a term that included seven playoff appearances, before his dismissal in 2004. He then coached Colorado for three years, reaching the conference semifinals twice.
He moved on Chicago for 10-plus seasons and guided the Blackhawks to the playoffs every year except 2017-18, before being dismissed early this past season.
And now, he’ll continue his career with the Panthers, a team that has made the playoffs just five times in the franchise’s history and has only won playoff series in 1996 when they advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Panthers have missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons after being unable to overcome slow starts.
With his new team standing in the back of the room two days after their season ended, Quenneville gave them a message he hopes sticks with them throughout the offseason.
“I want every one of you to remember where you’re at right now and remember the feeling that you’re having today,” he said, scanning the room. “Next year, we want to be right now coming off the ice with our skates on and preparing for our first-round opponent. You’re going to know that when you’re on that ride that it’s the ride of a lifetime and the memories are everlasting.”
Quenneville knows the talent is there.
The Panthers, despite coming off a season in which they tallied just 86 points and were 12 points shy of a playoff berth, had a record-setting offensive year.
They set the franchise record for most goals scored in a single season (264) and had two 90-point players (Aleksander Barkov, 96; Jonathan Huberdeau, 92) and three 30-goal scorers (Mike Hoffman, 36; Barkov, 35; Huberdeau, 30) for the first time in franchise history. The Panthers also ranked second in the league in power play behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But turnovers and poor defensive play kept the Panthers from truly reaching their potential.
“I think this team has the ingredients to win,” Quenneville said.
And the players — young core and all — know the onus is on them to as well to live up to Quenneville’s gaudy expectations.
“I think we should have done that a couple years ago,” Barkov, the Panthers’ 23-year-old captain, said. “Yeah, we have a lot of young guys and a young core, but of course we have to take that next step.”
Defenseman Keith Yandle added: “They’ve set us up to win. Now, it’s our turn to step up.”
And center Vincent Trocheck: “He’s obviously been around the game for a long time. He’s won three Stanley Cups. It’s great to have a veteran coaching presence who can whip us into shape.”
The expectations will be there once again. Quenneville plans to turn them into reality.
“Get excited about this opportunity,” Quenneville said. “It’s real.”