Joel Quenneville resigned as Florida Panthers head coach Thursday night following the fallout from his complicity in the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks Sexual Assault Scandal. Quenneville led the Panthers to an appearance in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in the 2019-20 season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2020-21. Quenneville was one of the most successful coaches in franchise history, as the three-time cup winning coach had got his 2021-22 team off to a red hot 7-0-0 start before being taken down by the scandal.
Quenneville’s resignation relieves the Panthers from any financial burden that the Panthers would face in paying out the rest of his contract. Quenneville’s inaction is inexcusable and for that he must pay the price. Unfortunately it will impact the Panthers.
Andrew Brunette will take over as interim head coach for the Florida Panthers. Brunette, the team’s assistant coach, has been behind the bench since the 2019-20 season, when Quenneville was hired. Brunette will be aided in his duties by assistants Ulf Samuelsson, Derek MacKenzie and Tuomo Ruutu.
Brunette’s head coaching debut comes tonight as the Panthers look to extend their franchise-best start to a season to an 8 game winning streak. Brunette will make his head coaching debut in Detroit. The 48 year old is a veteran of 1110 NHL games, with 768 points in his time with several organizations. Brunette served as assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild from 2013-15, helping Mike Yeo lead the Wild to two second round appearances, where they would be snuffed out both years by Quenneville’s Blackhawks.
Brunette’s first opponent as head coach, the Detroit Red Wings, are off to a 4-2-1 start to their season. The Red Wings are led by Captain Dylan Larkin, Winger Tyler Bertuzzi and rookie sensations Winger Lucas Raymond and Defenseman Moritz Sieder. Tonight’s game will air exclusively on the streaming platforms ESPN+ and Hulu. Puck Drop is 7:00pm EDT.
Brunette is serving as the interim coach. The Panthers are planning on launching a head coach search. If Brunette has success in his role as interim coach, I doubt they make to look a change. Several candidates have been mentioned for the Panthers job, one of the most coveted head coaching jobs in recent memory. If the Panthers choose to stay in-house, which would be the right move in my opinion, they’d go with Brunette, as he’s already the interim coach, or if he struggles, maybe try Samuelsson or MacKenzie.
THE TORTS CASE
Allegedly, the leading candidate for the job is John Tortorella. Known for his hard-core defensive coaching style and his temper, Tortorella doesn’t seem like a great fit for the Panthers job long-term. Despite winning a Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Torts has had his ups and downs. Tortorella is an incredible coach in the short-term, an excellent motivator. However, his hard defensive style doesn’t really seem to fit the Panthers high flying offensive style.
Tortorella also may have bad blood with Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and Winger Anthony Duclair. Both players have had extremely hot starts, and Torts presence may cause issues with them. After a short stint in Columbus, Duclair left the organization and Torts bashed the now-called “Duke of Florida” in the media, calling him someone that doesn’t listen. He also once suspended Sergei Bobrovsky for a game for some really strange reason in Bob’s final season with the Jackets.
Tortorella and Zito know each other, as Zito came from the Blue Jackets organization. Tortorella has led his teams to 12 playoff appearances in 20 years, winning the cup once. His teams have only made it past the second round twice. Perhaps Zito knows something that we don’t. Bill Zito has hit every move out of the park so far, and I highly expect that he is the one leading the coaching search.
I learned information from a secondary source, who has connections with a notable Panthers beat writer that Tortorella is not seriously being considered for the job. Tortorella appeared on ESPN’s The Point Thursday afternoon. Despite his brash personality, he won viewers over with his sympathy for Kyle Beach, the victim of the Blackhawks scandal, calling out the Blackhawks management at the time, saying “What if this was your son?”. Torts also seemed to be taking his time in the spotlight as a job interview for the Panthers, heaping praise on Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov. Tortorella called Barkov the best player in the NHL, saying that he prefers Barkov to high flying offensive machines such as Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid due to Barkov’s excellent two-way game. He also praised Barkov’s leadership skills, calling his quietness and humility one of the most attractive traits in a captain. Clearly Tortorella is dying for the opportunity to coach the Panthers.
Since he was signed to a massive 8 year deal that will keep him here the rest of the decade, I expect Aleksander Barkov to have a huge say in who the new head coach will be. Barkov seemed very disappointed in his former head coach during his postgame availability Wednesday night, but kept the focus on hockey. Barkov has huge sway in the locker room and has really grown into his captaincy. His calm presence helped the team weather the storm Wednesday night.
There are several other candidates for the most coveted gig in the hockey world.
Bruce Boudreau is a candidate for the job. Boudreau has consistently led his teams to regular season success, but has often failed in the playoffs. Boudreau is an excellent offensive coach, but his teams have seen their struggles defensively, which has hurt him when it matters. Boudreau is known as a very kind and loveable man, but his coaching stock has dropped.
Other candidates for the gig include a few overseas candidates. David Dwork of Local10 suggested Rikard Gronborg, the head coach of the Swedish National Team and ZSC Lions of the Swiss NL. Another candidate Dwork suggested was Juuka Jalonen, who coaches Jokerit Helsinki in the KHL. Jalonen is a Finn, which could be attractive to Barkov and several of the team’s Finnish players.
There are several assistant coaches that I like, but since it is the middle of the season, I doubt a change is made, as those guys are under contract to their current teams.