Panthers coach Pete DeBoer refuted a report out of Vancouver that suggested that defenseman Keith Ballard was traded over the summer because the two had heated arguments during the course of last season.
Ballard, traded to Vancouver in June, told The (Vancouver) Province that he and DeBoer had a number of “screaming matches.’’
DeBoer acknowledged the arguments happened, but said they stemmed from the team’s lack of success as well as Ballard’s admitted disappointing season.
“I don’t expect anyone to be happy with the season we had last year,’’ DeBoer said Thursday. “I would have more concern if players were saying I was fine with how things went and didn’t get in anyone’s face. It is what it is. The environment was the same for Keith the year before when he had one of his best years. It was a tough year on everyone but I make no apologies for my motivation tactics or for getting on top of people. That’s my job.’’
Ballard said Thursday he does not believe the trade stemmed from those arguments because both he and DeBoer are competitors who just wanted to win. Both DeBoer and Ballard said they were fine with each other after each cooled off.
The main factor in Ballard’s trade was likely the $21 million he had remaining over the final five years on a contract he signed upon arriving in South Florida in 2008. General manager Dale Tallon traded Ballard and Victor Oreskovich to Vancouver for the 25th overall pick as well as forwards Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner.
“He was trying to push me, get more out of me and I’m the first guy to say he should have done so,’’ Ballard said from Vancouver. “We raised our voices behind closed doors. We’re competitive people. I’m not the first player to get into a shouting match with a coach and I sure won’t be the last. This happens on every team. I enjoyed my two years in Florida. I had good teammates and the organization treated me and my family very well.
“Aside from us not making the playoffs, I have no complaints about my time with the Florida Panthers.’’
Added DeBoer: “We were both disappointed in how the year went in general. It wasn’t just about his play. I was excited about having the opportunity to getting him back to where he was the previous season. I admire a lot of qualities Keith has. He works hard, he’s a good teammate. He did a lot of things well. I never had an issue with him.
DeBoer has had his share of run-ins with players over the course of his two seasons (re: Nick Boynton, Scott Clemmensen and Ville Koistinen) as coach of the Panthers, but current players backed DeBoer in saying that such disagreements are common during a lengthy season.
The Province report – not offering any sources or quoting Ballard – said that DeBoer is “extremely unpopular with most of the Florida players because he largely treats them like juniors.’’
A number of Florida players stood up for DeBoer and his coaching style on Thursday, with forward David Booth saying “he’s the right coach for this team. He pushes us. Maybe some guys don’t like that, I don’t know. I personally love playing for him.’’
As far as players hating playing for DeBoer as The Province suggested, defenseman Bryan Allen said that was not the case.
“Did we all get along last year? No. The way things were going, we shouldn’t have, truthfully,’’ said Allen, Ballard’s roommate last season. “No one had a good year last year. It was frustrating for everyone, including the coaches, players and fans. Pete wasn’t happy and hates to lose. That shows. He has passion for the game and tried to get the best out of us.’’
Highly touted goalie Jacob Markstrom made his first start of the preseason on Thursday and played throughout Florida’s 5-1 loss to Nashville in a rookie game held in Coral Springs. Markstrom faced 37 shots in the loss.
“I didn’t want to lose the game and I let in five goals. Of course I’m not happy with that,’’ the 20-year-old said. “I wanted to win this game and play my best. I didn’t. I just have to go home, have a good meal, a good sleep. Tomorrow is a new day.’’
(*) Panthers alternate governor Bill Torrey said the Panthers will likely host a four-team rookie tournament at their training facility next year.
Former Florida winger Martin Gelinas – now Nashville’s director of player development – confirmed the Predators will likely return. Atlanta and Tampa Bay have been mentioned as other teams that may be interested.
Torrey also said the Panthers would hold a weeklong rookie development camp next summer as well.
(*) THURSDAY’S ROOKIE GAME – Nashville 5, Panthers 1: Florida’s Corey Durocher kept the Panthers from getting shutout for a second straight day when he scored with 3:35 left. The Predators, who outscored Florida 10-1 over the two-day period, got two goals from Chris Mueller.