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.''