Paul Maurice Hired as Florida Panthers Head Coach

The Florida Panthers hired Paul Maurice as their head coach. Here is what he brings to the team.

Winnipeg Jets' head coach Paul Maurice discusses Patrik Laine's concussion during a short press conference after the pre-game skate.
Photo Credit: MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

After weeks of searching, the Florida Panthers have landed on a coaching decision. In a somewhat surprising move, the team chose Paul Maurice to be the Florida Panthers head coach. Maurice replaces interim coach Andrew Brunette, who lead the team to a 51-18-6 record since taking over last season.

This move comes as quite a shock to the Panthers faithful, as Maurice was not a name floated around during the hiring process. Still, the organization views Maurice as someone who can take the team forward. Here is what he brings to the organization.

Paul Maurice’s coaching history

Paul Maurice has been a head coach in the NHL for 24 years. His most successful season came in 2002 where he took the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Final. Most recently, Maurice spent the past nine seasons as the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets. In those nine seasons, Maurice made the playoffs five times. His most successful season with the Jets came in 2018, where he made the conference finals.

Since the NHL has changed drastically in the last five years, it really only makes sense to analyze his last stint in Winnipeg to see what he will offer as the Florida Panthers head coach.

Since the 2017-18 season, the Jets averaged 3.18 goals per game. That places them eighth in the league over that stretch. The team also gave up 2.79 goals per game under Maurice, a figure that places them 10th.

In that same time frame, the power play hovered around 23%, which places them fourth league wide. The Penalty kill had a success rate of around 80%, which is below league average.

The Macro numbers suggest a consistently good offensive team with defensive questions. This is exactly what those Jets teams were. Maurice does deserve credit for implementing a system which allowed his offensive talent to thrive. However, the same defensive lapses plagued his teams year after year with little adjustments from him. The Jets became predictable and it ultimately led to his ousting there.

Maurice’s fit with the Panthers

The Panthers wanted experience with their new coaching hire, and Maurice has plenty of experience. This Panthers team can also be thought of as an upgraded version of Maurice’s Jets. Both are gifted offensively and lack the lockdown defensive ability of many of the perennial cup contenders. In this sense, the learning curve shouldn’t be too steep for Maurice as he adjusts to his personnel.

Still, Maurice will need to change some things if he wants to be successful as the Florida Panthers head coach. For instance, the Penalty kill needs to be sharper. Too often in Winnipeg were the Jets caught flat footed leading to good scoring chances for their opponents.

The Panthers had similar problems last year. The virtue of a veteran coach is the ability to make adjustments quickly and seamlessly. Hopefully Maurice can provide this, but it was not apparent through many of his seasons with the Jets.

Another, and perhaps larger, problem is his handling of personnel. Specifically, his reputation as an authoritarian. Players such as Patrik Laine have been at odds with Maurice in the past, and it led to Laine demanding a trade. Much like former panther coach Gerard Gallant, Maurice tends to favor grizzled veterans over promising youngsters, which stunted the growth of many players in Winnipeg. Could the same happen to players like Anton Lundell and Spencer Knight in Florida? Only time will tell, but that could be disastrous for the franchise.

My Take

Ultimately, I do not think this was the right hire for the Panthers. Part of what made the team special last year was how much the players loved playing for Andrew Brunette. Every single one raved after the season about how much they loved him as a coach and how much they wanted him back behind the bench.

Of course, the flameout in the playoffs left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. It certainly led to management’s decision to change coaches. Still, to abandon what the team had been building together after just one playoff failure is not the mark of a good organization.

Think about the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019. After a 62 win regular season, they suffered an embarrassing first round sweep to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Despite this, the team made no drastic moves in the offseason. Jon Cooper returned as the coach and the core remained the same. They grew together and won the next two Stanley Cups.

Why the Panthers did not try to emulate the Lightning in this sense is beyond me. Great teams become great through continuity. Coaches, like players, are capable of growth. Bruno looked outmatched in these playoffs, no doubt, but not having the patience to stick with him and let him make mistakes portrays a palpable lack of trust that the players are certainly affected by.

Keep in mind this is not an indictment of Paul Maurice as a coach. He has a proven track record of success in numerous circumstances and his experience has value. But the damage done by uprooting the leader of this team outweighs the potential schematic improvement that Maurice can provide.

Andrew Brunette should have been the coach again. The team was absolutely dominant during the regular season due in large part to the work of Brunette. The Panthers did not need a change of direction, they just needed more time to learn. I do hope I am wrong, but I think this was the wrong decision.

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Panthers vs Capitals: Win provides hope for post-Quenneville era

The Panthers played a hard fought game against one of the NHL’s premier teams. They showed they still have what makes them special.

SUNRISE, FL – OCTOBER 9: Florida Panthers Head coach Joel Quenneville looks on during third period action against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the FLA Live Arena on October 9, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Panthers returned to action on Thursday night following a five day hiatus from play. This extended break came on the heels of one of the most physically and mentally exhausting weeks in team history. A week which saw a head coach fired and replaced, as well as three games in four nights.

Without delving into the whirlwind of that week, suffice it to say the Panthers went into their abbreviated BYE week with a few more questions than before.

Thursday’s win against the Capitals helped answer many of those questions. The Panthers defended home ice with a 5-4 overtime victory. That final score may not jump off the page, nor should it. In this case, statistics will not tell the whole story. What fans should take away from this game is the composure this team exuded when they were met with adversity.

The OT winning goal for the Panthers

This game could have slipped away from the cats several times over. It could have slipped away when Sergei Bobrovsky left the game with an upper body injury. The game could have slipped away when Spencer Knight let in a breakaway goal one minute into the second period. It could have even slipped away when the Capitals scored three unanswered goals to tie the game. The Panthers, however, refused to let that happen.

A staple of the Quenville era of Panthers history has been their composure. During his first season as coach, the team earned the “Comeback Cats” nickname for their numerous late rallies. Over the past three years, that resilience in the face of adversity has only grown stronger. Whether it be playing from behind or holding off late rallies, this iteration of the Panthers never seem to get rattled.

Following Quenville’s dismissal from the team, it would be fair to wonder if the Panthers still had that composure in them. After all, having a veteran, Stanley Cup winning coach would give any team that confidence.

Last night showed their fans and the rest of the league these are not the same old Panthers. The Washington Captials, led by a scorching hot Alex Ovechkin, currently sit at third in the Metropolitan division and have a 0.700 points percentage. They have been dangerous all year and could have easily stolen this game from a less prepared team.

Despite playing with their backup goalie for the majority of the game, despite missing two starting defensemen, (Nutivaara and Gudas missed the game due to injury) and despite having to deal with Ovi’s blistering shooting all game, the cats pulled it out. Interim coach Andrew Brunette deserves immense credit for instilling the team with the same calmness as his predecessor.

This game was not perfect by any means, but the team showed the league they will still have a built in edge over any team they play. The Cats will need to build off this game if they want to make a deep playoff run. For now, Brunette and the rest of the staff showed they are more than capable of getting it done.

Other Quick notes from the Panthers game

  • For now, it is clear Sergei Bobrovsky is the number 1 goaltender. Spencer Knight is a serviceable backup for now but certainly needs more time to grow into the clear cut starter we know he can be. Hopefully the Bob injury is not too serious
  • The defense did not look very sharp tonight in front of Knight. This can be just that they were missing two starters, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
  • While they did blow the lead rather quickly, getting a 4-1 lead was pretty impressive and seemed almost easy. Keeping that offense going while improving the defense will be paramount going forward.
  • The Power Play is looking better and better by the game. Credit to the coaching staff for continuing to try new things
  • Congratulations to Chase Priskie for making his NHL debut tonight. Hopefully the first of many for the Broward native.

Looking Ahead

The Panthers will play the Hurricanes on Saturday night at 6 P.M. in sunrise. This will be a matchup of the two best teams in the league. Absolutely must see TV for any fan of hockey.

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Panthers vs Lightning: post-game recap

The Panthers played their in state rival on Tuesday, with plenty of takeaways to discuss.

Panthers vs Lightning
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers continue to impress, this time vs in-state rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the most recent hockey battle of Florida, the Panthers pulled off one of their most decisive wins against the defending Stanley Cup champs. They improve to 3-0-0 after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1.

Although Tampa was without Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning played a strong team game in both the offensive and defensive zones. They gave the Panthers all they could handle, but the Panthers still prevailed.

While it is only game three of the season, this game could mark a passing of the torch for the best team in Florida. The Lightning have dominated that matchup for the better part of last decade. If this most recent game is any indication, however, the next decade could be very different.

Panthers vs Lightning Game Recap

In the first period, both teams failed to put a puck in the back of the net. Through a combination of good defense and stellar goaltending, the teams went into the first intermission tied at 0.

In the second period, Brandon Montour broke the ice. As a Panthers power play winded down, Anton Lundell won a faceoff. He threw the puck back to Sam Reinhart who tossed it cross ice to Brandon Montour. Montour, wide open on the right side of the ice, capitalized with a beautiful wrister to beat Andrei Vasilevsky glove side. It was the first goal of the season for Montour and the first points for Lundell and Reinhart.

Early in the third period, Brayden Point evened the game for the Lightning. Not even one minute later, the Captain answered. Barkov and his line generated a lot of activity in front of the net, and Barkov tipped it in.

Later in the third, the kid had his moment. A beautiful transition two man game was only outshined by Lundell’s beautiful snipe. His first career goal game on a pass from newcomer Sam Reinhart, and put the Panthers up by two.

Anthony Duclair put in an empty net a few minutes after, extending his goal streak and icing the game for the Panthers vs the Lightning.

Quick Takeaways

  • While Penalties are still a problem, Penalty killing is not. The Panthers took 6 penalties and killed off every single one, including an extended 5 on 3. Anton Lundell specifically has shined on the penalty kill.
  • The power play still needs work. The Cats failed to score on the man advantage yet again. To remedy this, Coach Q swapped Reinhart for Hornqvist on the top line. This changed seemed to help a bit, but has not bore fruit yet.
  • Goalie Spencer Knight continues to live up to the hype. He made 30 saves on 31 shots. That type of performance against this caliber of team at 20 years old is borderline unheard of.
  • Rookie Anton Lundell had his best game of his career thus far. Besides the goal and assist. He led the team with over 4 minutes of penalty kill time. He is starting to look like a future all star.
  • Sam Reinhart seems to have good chemistry with Lundell on that third line. Undoubtedly a fair bit of talent to keep on a third line, but if it aint broke…
  • After a shaky first two games, Radko Gudas had some shutdown penalty kill minutes. They will need more of that from him going forward.

Looking Ahead

The Panthers play the Avalanche at home on Thursday at 7 P.M. Another good test for this team against another cup contender.

Panthers vs Lightning Round-up: Levine’s Line of Thinking

Panthers writer Andrew Levine gives us his thoughts on the first edition of the Sunshine State Showdown and what we can expect from the Panthers next

Panthers vs Lightning

If you were in the Amway Center Tuesday night, you were in for a treat. For the first time this season, the Cats and the Bolts shared the ice and it was absolutely electric. I’ve never been a big preseason hockey fan, but the first edition of the Sunshine State Showdown has me looking forward to Thursday’s encore and Saturday’s grand finale of the Panthers vs Lightning series.

1. This was just a preview of what’s to come

There really is no other way to say it; we hate them, and they hate us. There’s always been beef in the Panthers vs Lightning series, but the playoff series in May only amplified that. I mean look at the penalty minutes accumulated in the THIRD PERIOD OF A PRESEASON GAME.

Shoutout Bryan for bringing it up, but the Panthers-Lightning battles may just be the best rivalry in hockey right now. The battles are only going to get more intense as the season goes on, and if we see them in the playoffs, you better hold onto your butts. Maybe we see the modern day version of the iconic Sabres Senators brawl, but that will have to wait for now.

2. Owen Tippett is a Top 6 Forward

Henrik Borgstrom walked so Owen Tippett could fly. Tippett has continued to build off his strong finish to last season by adding two goals against Vasilevskiy on Tuesday.

Tippett’s first goal Tuesday vs Tampa

Tippett showed flashes last season alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Sam Bennett, and I think a full season alongside them can lead to some magic from 74. We’ll see the 9-1-1 line (Huby, Bennett, Duclair) reunite at some point in the season, but right now you have to let Tippett play on the second line and evaluate him from there. On top of that, Duclair offers more stability alongside Anton Lundell than Tippett does, which is important in building confidence of the young Fin.

If all goes well, Tippett will become the most impactful first round draft pick (as a skater, Knight will earn this overall title soon) for the Cats since the arrival of Aaron Ekblad in 2014.

3. Noel Acciari’s Injury

Unfortunately a consequence of the intensity of Tuesday’s game. Acciari left the game early with a shoulder injury, and the Twitter Doctors believe it to be severe.

If Acciari is to miss 5+ months, what the team does from there will be interesting. Acciari projected to play on the fourth line and was going to figure into the teams penalty kill rotation, so his absence will have to be dealt with. Does Joe Thornton center the fourth line or do they look at giving Eetu Luostarinen the opportunity instead?

4. Knight’s Watch is Coming

With Sergei Bobrovsky being unable to play last night (Big congrats to him and his wife on the birth of their child!) it was Spencer Knight’s time to shine.

Knight continues to show that he’s ready for an increased role with the team this season, bringing a sense of calmness in between the pipes along with his elite puck tracking ability. While Bob is expected to be the main guy this season, I feel that his leash is shorter than ever. The franchise used a high draft pick on Knight (otherwise we could be sitting here talking about Panthers legend Cole Caufield) and his rapid development may force Q to make a change earlier than they expected to.

Overall, the team showed they’re ready for the regular season to start and so am I. Looking forward to being in the FLA Live Arena next week when the Cats kick off the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Until next time, we move 🤝

Follow Andrew Levine on Twitter

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Florida Panthers’ Preseason Schedule Announced

Here’s what to look forward to this Preseason.

The 2021 NHL season cannot get here soon enough.

Until then, however, we’ll have the preseason to tide our collective appetites over. The Panthers have announced the following games for the 2021 preseason:

September 26 – vs Nashville (split squad doubleheader) 2 P.M. and 6 P.M.

September 29 – at Dallas 8 P.M.

October 1 – vs Dallas 7 P.M.

October 5 – vs Tampa (game played at Amway Center in Orlando) 7 P.M.

October 7 – at Tampa 7 P.M.

October 9 – vs Tampa 6 P.M.

While the preseason certainly does not offer the same level of excitement as the regular season, it still offers appointment viewing for several reasons. Here are three things to look forward to in this upcoming preseason.

Spencer Knight in Net

Regardless of Sergei Bobrovsky’s presence on the roster, Spencer Knight will likely have a large role on this team. How much he plays will depend largely on his play in the preseason. Knight only has 6 total games of NHL experience under his belt. He impressed in those four games, but the true evaluation of Knight will come over a full season of work. Knight has yet to have a full camp and preseason with the team. That extra preparation should help him, but preseason will be Knight’s first true test to see if he can split games with Bobrovsky for a full season.

The battle for the final forward spot

With the top 6 forwards all but certain, the Panthers will be unlikely to play much of the veterans during the preseason. Some of the younger forwards, however, still have something to prove. Anton Lundell, Owen Tippett, Grigori Denisenko, and Aleksi Heponiemi all have expectations to be full time NHLers this season. The Panthers do not have available spots for all of them. In fact, only one spot can be guaranteed in the bottom 6 between the four of them. While it is possible for another to dethrone a roster mainstay from last year, (perhaps Vatrano or Marchment) at least one will certainly be left on the outside looking in. Preseason will largely dictate who gets in and who does not. A true battle unfolding between the four young forwards will undoubtedly be worth watching.

Matchup with Tampa

Three straight games against the defending cup champs — Doesn’t get better than that. The teams will certainly not be at full strength for the matchups, but games between the cross-state rivals always come with a little something extra. In case you haven’t gotten the memo yet: these teams do not like each other. The games will be chippy, scrappy, and charged with raw emotion. Regardless of the stakes, these teams want to beat each other by any means necessary. Beyond that, coaching decisions will be worth keeping an eye on. How each team uses its depth pieces and adjusts strategy on special teams will likely carry into the regular season and perhaps beyond. For hockey nerds and violence buffs alike, these games will be worth watching.

Follow Sam Schetritt on Twitter

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