By bringing back two original member of their franchise on Tuesday, the Panthers dipped into their past in hopes for a brighter future.
General manager Dale Tallon and coach Pete DeBoer announced that original Panthers Gord Murphy and Brian Skrudland were hired by the team in different capacities.
Murphy, a defenseman who played six seasons in Florida, will be DeBoer's new assistant coach joining Jim Hulton and Robb Tallas.
Tallon added that it was important for the current batch of Panthers to realize things always haven't been bleak as far as hockey goes in South Florida.
Although the Panthers haven't made it to the playoffs in an NHL record-tying nine consecutive seasons, the team advanced to the playoffs in two of its first four seasons in the league and made an improbable run to the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs with Skrudland and Murphy – both chosen by the Panthers in the 1993 expansion draft.
“I wanted to bring back some of the alumni, bring a sense of family and winning tradition from the early Panthers days,'' said Tallon. “Their passion, dedication .-.-. they have history. They know what it takes to be successful down here. We want to build the a tradition, a culture of winning. Paying the price to win. These guys exemplified that.''
Murphy, who was an alternate captain in Florida, has been an assistant coach the past seven seasons in Columbus and said he had hoped to someday return to South Florida.
With Mike Kitchen leaving DeBoer's staff, the two spoke over the course of the past few weeks and Murphy was able to do some early scouting of the young defensive core he will inherit. Like Kitchen, Murphy will coach the defense as well as the penalty kill.
“We started the franchise there, my daughter was born there it was a great six years,'' Murphy said. “That's a place my wife and I still hold very near to our hearts. I've followed the franchise ever since I left and that crest on the jersey really means a lot to me. I'm excited about this.''
DeBoer said Murphy didn't get the job because he played for the Panthers when they were good, but that was a nice bonus. DeBoer said if Kitchen wasn't to return – DeBoer added he hoped he would – he wanted an assistant coach who had not only played in the league, but worked under strong coaches, had a “strong hockey IQ,” work ethic and strong character.
“He fit all that and happens to be a former Panther,'' DeBoer said from Canada. “That's great. He's going to be working with our young defensemen .-.-. For me, that's the most important job in the franchise going forward. .-.-. We're going to play a team game, have depth. That's how the '96 team won and that has to be our formula. To have guys like Gord and Skrudland, who believe and know first hand that it can be accomplished and isn't a pipe dream, is critical.''
Skrudland had been an assistant coach in Calgary from 2000-03 before coaching in youth hockey the past few years. Skrudland was a guest of the team when it opened the new Den of Honor last season and he spoke of bringing the pride of the franchise back. On Tuesday, he reiterated those remarks.
“I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be back in the game and to be back involved with this team, one I have a place in my heart for,'' said Skrudland, who played in Florida from 1993-97. “When you get to draft as high as Florida has, it's no surprise you end with high charter guys. We have players here who are the full package. It won't take nine more years for this drought to end, I can tell you that.''