The Florida Panthers have seemingly found their man.
After an extensive search undertaken after a disappointing end to the season, the Panthers are now reportedly expected to name Paul Maurice as the club’s new head coach, replacing interim coach Andrew Brunette after the former winger led the Panthers to their first-ever President’s Trophy this season.
The move is surprising, to say the least.
Not only did Brunette stabilize a Panthers locker room that could have gone sideways in the aftermath of Joel Quenneville stepping down in disgrace just eight games into the year, but Brunette earned a Jack Adams nomination for his troubles, being named one of the consensus three best bench bosses from this past season when all was said and done.
Of course, the way in which the season ended certainly played a factor in the organization’s decision to move on.
Burdened by intense expectations after spending nearly the entirety of the organization’s draft capital on trade deadline additions, the Panthers fizzled out spectacularly in the second round of the postseason, barely getting by a weak Washington Capitals squad to open the dance before being swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Panthers’ high-flying offense went out the window against the back-to-back champs, with the team mustering just three total goals in four games as their entire star contingent went cold at the worst possible time.
Clearly, management was not impressed with Brunette’s lack of results in a crucial playoff run. And, now, he’s out.
Replacing him now is Maurice, the veteran bench boss who actually stepped down as coach of the Winnipeg Jets back in December while the team was struggling to grapple with a playoff spot.
Maurice had been one of the longest-tenured coaches in the NHL prior to his resignation on Dec. 17, with the 2021-22 season having served as his ninth behind the Jets’ bench after taking over for Claude Noel in 2013.
Throughout his time in Winnipeg, Maurice oversaw the most successful period of modern Jets hockey, compiling a 315-223-62 record in his role while leading the team to four postseason appearances, including a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2017-18.
In recent years, however, the Jets had been on somewhat of a downward spiral, failing to make the playoffs this season and setting the stage for large roster change set to come.
Perhaps a change of scenery will breathe new life into Maurice’s skills as a coach. Regardless, despite the decision to move on, Brunette leaves some big shoes to fill.