By special request...
Florida has a 14.2 percent chance to claiming the top pick after finishing 28th in the 30 team league as Edmonton (25 percent) and Colorado (18.8) finished below the Panthers. Florida will be represented by former president and general manager Bill Torrey.
The Panthers have won the lottery three times – and traded the pick each time.
In 1998, Florida held the first pick yet had already traded it to San Jose. Tampa Bay ended up with the pick and took franchise player Vinny Lecavalier.
Florida also traded the top pick in 2002 and 2003 after winning the lottery and selected Nathan Horton and Jay Bouwmeester respectively. In 2002, Columbus selected perennial All-Star Rick Nash with Florida's pick; Pittsburgh took goalie Marc-Andre Fleury the following year.
Vokoun downplayed what appeared to be a sour relationship with DeBoer, but did say there was some friction.
Vokoun will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career on July 1 unless he and the Panthers come to an agreement beforehand.
“Sometimes I didn't agree with [DeBoer's] decisions and I let him know. I was completely honest with him and he was with me,'' Vokoun said.
“I'm sure this isn't the best way to negotiate as a free agent, but I like South Florida and they are building the right way. It's been said for a long time, but based on [Tallon's] track record, they have the right people.''
Said Tallon: “[Vokoun] has stated he wants to remain a Panther and we'll look at every possible angle to who is making our team and who is going to be the starting goalie for us. We have a lot of time to make that decision. We had a good meeting today, very positive. He wants to be a Panther and we'll see what happens.''
-- Vokoun did have a lot of good things to say about the Tampa Bay Lightning, although he was using that franchise to say good things about the Panthers. He thinks the Panthers may not have had as much as Tampa did when they started their rebuild, but sees similarities.
Pete DeBoer said he wants to return to coaching as soon as possible, saying any of the newly formed openings around the NHL look good to him.
DeBoer didn't do much after being fired on Sunday morning, but he looked ready to get back to work just a day later. And he's pretty confident he won't be out of a job long, saying “I’m a much better coach than I was three years ago. .-.-. I’ll work again in this league and I’ll win in this league.”
DeBoer drove to the Panthers training facility in Coral Springs on Monday morning but didn't pull into the back parking lot reserved for players and staff. Instead, DeBoer parked in a visitor's space and strolled into the facility wearing a black NHL golf shirt with dress pants.
DeBoer didn't go anywhere near the Panthers side of the building, instead deciding to speak to the gathered media inside an empty birthday party room near the public ice sheet. It was a far cry from the large press conference the team held for DeBoer when he was hired on June 13, 2008.
“Once you get away from it, the emotion starts to disappear. You can look back on things rationally,'' DeBoer said. “I enjoyed my time here. I was treated first class.''
DeBoer then said, “I want to get back and coach in this league as quickly as possible. I think I could be successful at it. I feel like I’m a much better coach than I was. When you go through something like this, you want to jump right back in, show people they made a mistake. That’s the mindset you have to take as a player moving on or as a coach moving on.”
The Panthers are definitely moving on. A number of players spoke of a new start being needed as DeBoer's style wore on them. One veteran player said it would be good for a fresh start as players were “afraid to make mistakes,'' under DeBoer and his coaching staff. That said, DeBoer's players gave him a good effort this season as Florida played in a league-high 49 one-goal games.
“It’s wasn’t an easy decision. There were a lot of sleepless nights,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. “We are going in a different direction with different players, different personnel, a different style of play. I felt that change was needed to move forward and what was the best fit for our organization. It’s not about the past, it’s about the future. It’s not who is right or who is wrong. Pete is a good coach, a good guy and I was hoping we would be together for a long time.''
DeBoer left the facility as a number of his players filed out, the season complete. The Panthers players held their annual party Monday night on South Beach before going their separate ways. For DeBoer, a gig being an assistant for Team Canada at the upcoming world championships await as does likely conversations with teams that have openings in Ottawa, Minnesota and New Jersey.
The worst, for DeBoer, is now over. Telling his three children that they would be leaving South Florida once school is out because he didn't work for the Panthers anymore wasn't an easy task. The last time the DeBoer clan moved, it was south, dad getting what he thought was a chance of a lifetime. Actually, he thanked the Panthers for that rare opportunity to coach an NHL team for three seasons.
“That wasn’t an easy conversation,'' DeBoer said. “That’s probably the toughest conversation I had was with them. They don’t fully grasp or understand [being fired], so it wasn't an easy thing to go through. When your dad picks this as a profession, you have to deal with that. We're not alone. Like others in North America, and especially in Florida, they’re not the only ones dealing with a father who is unemployed.”
As for the Panthers, Tallon is in no hurry to name a replacement. With the Stanley Cup playoffs going on for the next two months, the Panthers likely won't hire DeBoer's successor for quite some time.
“There's no timetable,'' Tallon said. “We're going to do extensive research and will put together a list of top candidates. We're going to take our time and do it right. We're not going to rush. There's no need to rush. We will get the right guy.''
-- Tallon said DeBoer seemed to be surprised about the news when the two met Sunday morning at BankAtlantic Center.
I do not think he was. At all. This had been a long time coming.
-- DeBoer went around the locker room following Saturday's win and shook hands with his players. He stopped at Stephen Weiss' stall, shook hands and then playfully rubbed Weiss' head.
These two have been close for a while.
"I had him in juniors and he’s done a lot for me,'' Weiss said. "He’s gone to bat for me as a player, as a young player being a smaller guy. He kind of taught me how to play defensively and push me to where I am today.
"It’s tough to see. I thought he did a really good job here with a pretty depleted lineup over the last couple of years. .-.-.
"It’s tough to see. At the same time, I’m sure it was a good experience for him over the last few years coaching at this level. He’ll be fine.''
The Panthers had their final meetings at their training facility throughout Monday with almost every player speaking about their excitement for the future.
With the team's past, who wouldn't be looking ahead?
The Panthers 2010-11 season came to a close on Saturday as Florida upended visiting Washington 1-0 at BankAtlantic Center. Yet that victory brought only the slightest of good feelings. The Panthers finished last in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history, missing the playoffs for what is now an NHL record 10 consecutive seasons.
As in all seasons, the Panthers went through highs and lows. Unfortunately for them, however, the bad points outweighed the good by a substantial margin. With a new coach and a retooled roster, general manager Dale Tallon says there's reason to be optimistic about the future. Tallon does, however, realize that's been said around these parts before.
“We have tough decisions to make and that's why I am here,'' general manager Dale Tallon said Monday. “I'm excited every day. Who wouldn't want to be in this position? We're going to turn this around, have a great future. We have a good core of young players, financial flexibility in the free agent market and a big draft with 10 picks. .-.-. This needs to be a destination. We want to make this a destination. We wan to win a Stanley Cup.''
WHAT WENT RIGHT
-- Florida's penalty kill was one of the best units in the league, finishing sixth. It didn't hurt that Florida was the lowest penalized teams in the league, meaning the Panthers didn't have to kill off as many penalties as other teams. That doesn't underscore the fact that Florida did a great job defensively when down a man or two, as Florida's 41 goals allowed when at a disadvantage was fewest in franchise history – 18 fewer than last season. New assistant coach Gord Murphy – who was retained by the team as it goes about its coaching search – gets much of the credit.
-- Goaltending is obviously a big reason Florida was able to do so well on penalty kills, although both Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen were also around last season. Vokoun continued to show he is still an elite goalie in the league as he finished 11th in save percentage and tied for sixth with six shutouts. If Vokoun leaves as a free agent, Clemmensen will likely have a much larger role in 2011-12.
-- Mike Santorelli was a nice find by assistant general manager Mike Santos as the 25-year-old center broke out in his first full NHL season by finishing third on the team with 20 goals. The return of David Booth – who missed all but 25 games last season with two major concussions – was also a bright spot as Booth led the team in goals (23) for the second time in three seasons.
WHAT WENT WRONG
-- Florida's power play ended the season ranked last in the league and set a franchise record (not counting the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season) for fewest overall goals. Tallon said the problem was more a lack of talent than philosophy although assistant Jim Hulton paid the price for it. The Panthers just had too many long stretches of games without a power play goal for anyone to fear it.
-- The Panthers were definitely competitive, but any thought that Tallon was going to be a buyer at the deadline died when the Panthers lost consecutive 5-1 games to the Islanders and Senators – two teams ranked below Florida at the time. Tallon swept in and decimated the roster, trading veterans like Bryan McCabe, Radek Dvorak, Bryan Allen, Dennis Wideman and Cory Stillman for mostly draft picks and prospects. Florida ended up winning just four of 20 after the deadline as the team dropped to the bottom of the standings.
-- How competitive were the Panthers? They played in a league-high 59 one-goal games. Problem was, Florida didn't win too many of those close games, going just 19-18-12. The Panthers scoring woes were well documented as the team scored two goals or fewer in 48 games. Of those 48 games, Florida won just five.