I spoke at length with Florida Panthers coach Pete DeBoer after Wednesday's practice in Coral Springs.
He says he would like to come back next season although he doesn't know what's going to happen one way or another.
Pete admits he was in a bad place around the time of the trade deadline but says he is totally past that and is more than willing to work with the kids and get them ready for the future.
Below is the story I filed for The Miami Herald. If you want to read the full interview with DeBoer, it's under the Maple Leafs game box at the bottom of this post.
I've spoken to people within the organization who feel a change is needed; others would like to see what Pete can do with a real lineup. Obviously, this is up to Dale Tallon. He's going to make whatever move he feels is right.
Pete has another year left on his contract and wants to come back. The way I figure it, the guy has given this franchise his best and this franchise has not done the same over the course of the past three seasons.
Brighter days are coming and Pete has done enough seeing that through.
The Panthers problems are not Pete DeBoer. This guy is getting blood from rocks, taking lemons and making lemonade, creating chicken salad from ... well, you get the gist. I'm out of cliches anyway.
Enjoy your night...
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
Pete DeBoer doesn't know if he'll be back coaching the Panthers next season.
If he is not retained, DeBoer said he has no regrets on the job he has done.
“I don't worry about next year. I sleep easy at night. I know how hard we have worked as a staff,'' DeBoer said Wednesday morning. “I think our team plays with structure and plays hard every night. They have all year. If that's not good enough, that's for other people to decide.''
DeBoer, in the third season of a four-year contract signed in 2008, said he has not been told whether he will return for the 2011-12 season. Sources within the organization say changes could be made, although team officials – such as general manager Dale Tallon and team president Michael Yormark – only say DeBoer and his coaching staff will be “evaluated” at the end of the season.
DeBoer says he and Tallon talk often and have a good relationship. What they don't converse about is DeBoer's future. The Panthers, who will miss the playoffs for an NHL-record 10th straight season, have 12 games remaining and have been in a league-high 44 one-goal games.
“Other people will decide if the wins and losses were enough. I can only control what I control,'' DeBoer said. “I'm very comfortable that our team has been prepared, structured and played hard all year. If you judge things on wins and losses and if people think it's fair to judge this organization on that at this point, well, that's out of my control. I wouldn't expect anything less than being evaluated. I'm comfortable being evaluated.''
DeBoer was hired by then-general manager Jacques Martin just months after Martin was relieved of coaching duties. DeBoer was a hot commodity that summer, interviewing with the Senators and being linked to the vacant job in Los Angeles.
A highly-successful junior coach in Canada, DeBoer came to the Panthers with big plans – and his first team came within a tiebreaker of making it to playoffs. The 2008-09 Panthers tied Montreal for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but lost in a tiebreaker. Montreal won three of four against the Panthers that year.
Since the near playoff miss, the Panthers organization has mostly been in flux. Martin abruptly resigned in 2009 to coach the Canadiens as it became known the team was up for sale. Assistant general manager Randy Sexton took over for Martin, but because of the ownership issue, didn't have the financial support that offseason and was hampered in making improvements.
The Panthers have hovered near the bottom of the league standings the past two seasons as Sexton and Tallon ended up shipping off veterans mostly for draft picks and prospects. The lineup Florida will run out against Toronto on Thursday features seven players who have spent considerable time in the minor leagues over the past two seasons.
Martin recently echoed comments most scouts around the league have said about DeBoer's teams: “Truth is, I think Peter gets the most out of his guys, gets the most out of what he has.''
“I think he has done a great job. Just look at what we did in his first year with the team we had, the guys we had,'' said center Stephen Weiss, who played for DeBoer with the Plymouth, Mich., Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League from 1999-2001.
“He gets the most out of guys. He pushes you hard, but he's an easy coach to play for. At the end of the day, he wants you to do your best and give an honest effort. If all the guys do that, he's satisfied with the results we get.''
Tallon has over $30 million to spend this offseason just to get to the salary cap floor and retool the roster. DeBoer would like to be there for Florida's hoped-for renaissance.
“Sure I would like that opportunity. You can see the other side of this, you really can,'' he said. “We're coming out of this. We were in a ton of games this year, played the right way. There really is a foundation being set with the young guys we have. Absolutely you would like to be a part of it, but that decision will be made by other people. I really don't know what will happen. I have contract left and I would like to be back.''
Luke Williams, an amateur scout with the Panthers for the past eight years, died in a car accident late Tuesday night, the team announced. Williams, survived by his wife Lucy as well as children Sandy, Jeff and John, was 83. Williams had previously worked for the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lighting and for Canadian junior teams.
“Luke was a true professional and an exceptional human being,” Tallon said in a statement.
-- Goalie Jacob Markstrom underwent knee ligament surgery on Wednesday and will rehabilitate throughout the summer. The Panthers say Markstrom, 21, should be ready for training camp in September. Markstrom, Florida's goalie-of-the-future, spent his first North American professional season with the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.
Markstrom hurt his knee in February and was brought to South Florida to be evaluated by team doctors. It was determined he wouldn't need surgery and was sent back to Rochester to rehab. Markstrom finished his first AHL season with 16 wins in 37 starts. Markstrom was the first pick of the second round in the 2008 draft in Ottawa.
Markstrom made his NHL debut on Jan. 23 when he replaced Scott Clemmensen to start the second period of a game in New Jersey. He gave up two goals on 14 shots and took the loss in a 5-2 decision to the Devils. Markstrom became the youngest goalie to make his debut with the Panthers.
THURSDAY: MAPLE LEAFS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Toronto leads 29-19-7
The game: Toronto has won two of three against the Panthers this season, but lost 4-1 in Sunrise on Nov. 10 as Florida has won four of its past five against Toronto on home ice. .-.-. The Maple Leafs had a sliver of postseason hope left going into Wednesday's game at Carolina. Toronto had lost four of five going into its game against the Hurricanes.
PETE DeBOER: MARCH 16, 2011
How tough has the past few weeks and months been on you as a coach trying to compete in the NHL?
When you go through this two years in a row, it's tough. I like to teach. I went through a week to 10 day place where you're not in a good place because of the trade deadline.
Then you come out the other side and you're ready to work. That's where I am now. You start to teach again and you have to be the guy who drives the energy level. These guys here? They're happy to be here. They're excited to play. You have to foster that. I'm in a good place now.
How much has the future been weighing on your mind?
I don't worry about next year. I sleep easy at night. I know how hard we have worked as a staff. I think our team plays with structure and plays hard every night. They have all year. If that's not good enough, that's for other people to decide.
We always talk about how wins and losses define what you have accomplished. Is it fair, with the problems here, to judge you only on that?
Other people will decide if the wins and losses were enough. I can only control what I control. For me, I'm very comfortable that our team has been prepared, structured and played hard all year. If you judge things on wins and losses and if people think it's fair to judge this organization on that at this point, well, that's out of my control.
Dale Tallon, Mike Santos and Michael Yormark haven't said you're coming back or you're not. They say you'll be evaluated. Would you rather just know, yes or no?
That's the business. I wouldn't expect anything less than being evaluated. I'm comfortable being evaluated. Whatever decisions those guys make, they make. I learned a long time ago in this business you do the best job you can. I'll sleep easy regardless because of what we've done and how we've played.
Stephen Weiss always talks about seeing this thing through. You feel the same way?
Sure I would like that opportunity. You can see the other side of this, you really can. We're coming out of this. We were in a ton of games this year, played the right way. There really is a foundation being set with the young guys we have. Absolutely you would like to be a part of it, but that decision will be made by other people.
A gut feeling on what's going on?
I really don't know what will happen. I have contract left and I would like to be back. But that decision is out of my control. I'm proud of how this team has shown up all year long.
I don't have a feeling one way or another. I'm not even thinking about it. All I'm thinking about are these final games and getting these kids as ready as we can so they can compete every night. That's my focus right now.