The Panthers announced on Monday that Bob Boughner has been named the team’s new head coach.
Boughner (pronounced ‘Boog-ner’) is the 15th head coach in history of the Florida Panthers – including interim head coaches – and the 5th since the start of the 2011-12 season.
“After an exhaustive search, we are pleased to welcome Bob as the new head coach of the Panthers,” said Tallon. “He sees the game in a modern way and is eager to work with our young players.”
The spot has been vacant since the Panthers relieved Tom Rowe of his coaching duties in April at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season.
The team went 24-26-10 under the direction of the 61-year old Massachusetts-native after Gerard Gallant, who guided the Panthers to a franchise-best 103-point campaign a year ago, was fired just 22 games into the season as a result of a “philosophical divide.”
“During the interview process, Bob blew us away with his preparation, his passion, knowledge and dedication to the game,” said Tallon. “We believe that he is the right leader to get our team back to competing towards our goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”
Boughner, 46, played 630 NHL games and 188 AHL games from 1992 until 2006. From 1994 to 1996, he was a member of the Panthers’ minor league affiliates, the Cincinatti Cyclones (IHL) and Carolina Monarchs (AHL) until being traded to the Buffalo Sabres for a 3rd-round draft pick.
The tough, rugged defenseman served as an assistant captain with the Penguins during the 2000-01 season – during which he was a teammate of Jaromir Jagr – as well as a captain and assistant captain for the Flames from 2001 through 2003.
He has owned a majority stake in the Windsor Spitfires franchise since 2006 and coached the team to back-to-back Memorial Cup and OHL championships in 2009 and 2010.
The rosters during those two seasons included current NHLers Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis, Adam Henrique, Cam Fowler, Austin Watson, and Phillipp Grubauer.
Boughner’s success earned him the OHL and CHL ‘Coach of the Year’ awards in 2008 and 2009 as well as the head coaching job for Canada’s Under-18 team at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
It was there where he coached a couple of members of the Panthers’ current roster – including Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic – to a gold medal.
The very next season, Boughner went on serve as an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that featured Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, Jakub Voracek, and Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie.
“This is a guy who has played the game and relates to players very well,’’ Derek MacKenzie told the Miami Herald on Saturday.
“I thought he was a real players coach. I have followed his career and you could always tell he would be a head coach some day.“
Boughner returned to coach the Spitfires until he took a job as the San Jose Sharks’ assistant coach under Pete DeBoer in 2015.
He oversaw the Sharks’ defense, which includes several top defensemen in Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Justin Braun, the former of which finished 9th in league scoring this season and 11th a year ago.
“He was a big part of our success as a D-corps last year [with] his ability to teach, his ability to understand as a former player certain situations,” said Brendan Dillon, a defenseman for the San Jose Sharks, in September. “I think from top to bottom, our defense really enjoyed having him [on the bench], and are happy to have him back.”
Over the past two seasons combined, the Sharks have allowed the 4th-fewest goals and the 2nd-fewest shots against per game in the NHL.
James Reimer, who signed with the Panthers as a free-agent last July, was a member of the Sharks towards the end of the 2015-16 season when they acquired him at the trade deadline.
The Panthers interviewed a host of coaching candidates since the regular season ended a couple of months ago with the hope of finding someone to take their squad of young players to the next level.
Boughner publicly expressed his interest in the Panthers’ open spot when he spoke with Sportsnet in mid-May.
“I really like the Florida team to be honest with you,” said Boughner. ““I’ve known (Aaron) Ekblad his whole life. I see him all the time during the summer — he’s actually buddies with my son. I see him around the house a lot.
“I’ve got some familiarity with that team. I’ve had Derek MacKenzie in Columbus, had Reimer in San Jose, Pysyk and Petrovic at the under-18s, Ivan Hlinka (Tournament), so pretty familiar with the team and I think they have a great base moving forward.”
Jim Montgomery, who coached the University of Denver to an NCAA championship in May, also interviewed with the Panthers a couple of times before the 47-year old recently opted to remain with the school.
Todd Reirden, Craig Berube, Scott Arniel, and several other candidates with varying levels of experience were looked into heavily by the Panthers.
It was also reported that they were waiting for the Stanley Cup Finals to end to speak with Phil Housley, an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators, but decided to move forward with Boughner.
“I’ve known Bob Boughner for a long time,” said Aaron Ekblad on Sunday in an interview with the Windsor Star. “From what I know, players love to be coached by him and he’s been on winning teams.”
“If the rumors are true, I’d be very excited.”
Boughner owns a solid reputation throughout the hockey world and has been open about his desire to become a head coach in the NHL for many years.
As an owner of an OHL franchise and a coach at various levels, he’ll bring a new perspective to the Panthers’ bench and locker room.