SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Bob Boughner believes that he’s ready to finally be an NHL head coach.
The Florida Panthers agree.
Boughner is Florida’s new coach, introduced at a news conference Monday afternoon. The former NHL defenseman becomes the 15th coach in the franchise’s 24-year history, and its fifth since 2011.
General manager Dale Tallon said Boughner sees the game in a modern way and is the right leader to get the Panthers back toward competing for the Stanley Cup. Tallon said Boughner blew away the team with his interview late last month.
“Of all the interviews and of all the people, Bob Boughner impressed us like no one else,” Tallon said. “All the years I’ve been in the business interviewing coaches, firing coaches, meeting coaches, Bob was the most prepared and his performance, his preparation, his passion knocked us out of the park.”
Boughner spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach in San Jose under former Panthers coach Peter DeBoer, who said the Sharks hate to lose him given his contributions.
“This is a terrific opportunity for Bob to become a head coach in the National Hockey League and one that he deserves,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said.
Boughner is the fifth coach to be hired since the regular season ended, a list that includes the Vegas Golden Knights choosing Gerard Gallant as their first coach. Gallant was fired by the Panthers early this past season, getting replaced by then-general manager Tom Rowe. But Florida never found the same form it had a year ago on the way to the Atlantic Division title, and missed the playoffs by 14 points.
That led to the Panthers going back to what has worked in the past: Tallon squarely in charge again as general manager, and his first major move of the offseason is bringing in a 46-year-old — he shared the ice with Panthers free agent forward Jaromir Jagr both as a teammate and an opponent — to take over a team that believes it should be right back in the playoff mix next spring.
“I’ve been a player, I’ve been an owner, I’ve been an executive, I’ve been a head coach, an assistant coach,” Boughner said. “I know this league and I know the game and I’m ready for this challenge.”
Boughner’s only previous experience as a head coach came in the Ontario Hockey League with the Windsor Spitfires, over two stints spanning eight seasons. He led Windsor to a pair of Memorial Cups and he was twice selected as the OHL’s coach of the year. He also spent the 2010-11 season as an NHL assistant in Columbus.
He now takes over a team with a young core led by one of Windsor’s favorite natives – Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, a 21-year-old who has already been an All-Star and is one of the biggest keys for Florida’s hopes over the next few seasons.
“I think we have a lot of great pieces here to build something special here in South Florida,” Boughner said. “Their setup here for the future is unbelievable.”
Boughner’s hiring follows a formula that the Panthers have used quite often in recent years: Bring in a coach who has never been in charge of an NHL team. Of the Panthers’ last six coaches, five – DeBoer, Kevin Dineen, Peter Horachek, Rowe and now Boughner – were not previously NHL coaches before getting the chance to take the reins in Florida.
For now, Boughner is one of only two true first-time coaches in the NHL. Vancouver’s Travis Green was hired in April, and he’s never before coached in any league higher than the AHL.
Tallon described Boughner as adaptable and willing to incorporate outside the box ideas into his coaching saying, “Don’t let the fact that he was a tough player fool you as far as the analytics and the style of play that we’re going to incorporate.”
Boughner played in 630 NHL games with Colorado, Carolina, Calgary, Pittsburgh, Nashville and Buffalo. He also played in the Panthers’ organization, though only in the minors and never actually appeared with Florida.