The Florida Panthers made it official on Monday and named Bob Boughner as their next head coach, replacing interim coach Tom Rowe.
“After an exhaustive search, we are pleased to welcome Bob as the new head coach of the Panthers,” said GM Dale Tallon. “He sees the game in a modern way and is eager to work with our young players. During the interview process, Bob blew us away with his preparation, his passion, knowledge and dedication to the game. We believe that he is the right leader to get our team back to competing towards our goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”
That interview is apparently what put him over the top. One imagines if this had been an opportunity that came up a few years ago, Boughner gets his foot in the door thanks to his incredible success at the junior level – two straight Memorial Cups and eight strong seasons with the Windsor Spitfires. But to land this job, Boughner needed to convince Tallon that he deserved it without any NHL head coaching experience, and did so.
The first time Boughner’s name was floated as a coaching candidate in the NHL was way back in 2010, which was way too early, by his own admission. But he now has experience as an assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010-11 and then with the Sharks for the last two seasons.
“I’m glad I did what I did,” Boughner said. “This is my third full year on an NHL bench and looking back, at the time when I won a couple (Memorial) Cups, I said, ‘I’m ready to go to the NHL.’ Well, it’s not as easy as you think.
“There’s a lot of learning and the league changes every year and team’s identities. You see teams, the L.A.’s — four or five years ago winning Stanley Cups. Now those teams are built completely different. Now it’s the teams, the Pittsburgh’s, the Nashville’s, all of these speedier teams. So, you’ve got to stay on top of it. You’ve got to know the league.
“I feel comfortable going into a position if I was fortunate to be in that position to one, to manage people. Managing NHLers is different than managing kids in the OHL. I know how teams are playing, their tendencies, their coaching. So that experience has helped me. I’m ready. I’m definitely ready and I want to get my own team.”
You have to love that self-awareness.
You also have to love the high praise from Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who believes Boughner, 46, is a great coach for the right age bracket. “He has everything that you are looking for in a modern day coach. He gets today’s athlete.”
(One hopes he gets yesterday’s athlete too, if Jaromir Jagr returns. Luckily, Boughner played with Jagr for the Pittsburgh Penguins.)
There’s a lot to like with this hiring. Like with another candidate named Phil Housley with the Nashville Predators – whom the Panthers, for whatever reason, decided not wait to interview – Boughner was the defensive coach for the Sharks. At this stage of his development, Aaron Ekblad could use someone like this in his ear.
And if you’re Boughner, you’re counting your blessings that the Colorado Avalanche opted not to hire you last season. The Panthers are much closer to contending, and are in a more favorable conference for contending. Instead of going into a job wondering where Matt Duchene is going to be traded, you come into a job wondering who will surround Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov.
Sure, some of the managerial weirdness in the last year gives you pause about the Panthers – the Gerard Gallant firing remains one of the oddest in recent memory – but with Tallon back in charge, that at least steadies the ship enough that you’re not afraid of being tossed overboard the minute the sea gets choppy.
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