HORACHEK FIRED: Panthers Begin Search for 'Experienced' NHL Coach; Trotz, Laviolette Possibilities for Job
The Panthers fired interim coach Peter Horachek on Tuesday after less than one season behind the bench in Florida.
Horachek was brought into the organization last summer to coach Florida's AHL team in San Antonio but was promoted when Kevin Dineen and his coaching staff was fired in November.
Although the Panthers showed some signs of life under Horachek and his new coaching staff, the team still finished 29th in the 30 team league and will begin its search for a new coach immediately.
General manager Dale Tallon said he made the decision to replace Horachek a few days ago and told him the news on Tuesday. Horachek, Tallon said, took the news with class and "understood" that Tallon is looking for a coach with more NHL coaching experience.
The two coaches on the market who immediately fit that bill include former Philadelphia and Carolina coach Peter Laviolette as well as former longtime Nashville coach Barry Trotz. Horachek worked for Trotz for nine seasons with the Predators.
"Barry Trotz is a hell of a coach,'' Tallon said when asked about him.
More NHL coaches could be looking for work in the coming weeks with Tallon saying his list of potential candidates is long. Florida's next coach will be the 13th in franchise history.
"We felt as a group that this wasn't quite the right fit in the direction we're headed in,'' Tallon told reporters on an afternoon conference call.
"We felt we probably need someone with more NHL coaching experience heading down the road. The past few coaches we've had have had no NHL coaching experience and as a group we needed to find someone with more coaching experience. We're going to identify the guys who are available and find the guy who has the most experience probably.''
Horachek was 26-36-4 this season after taking over for Dineen in November when the team was 3-9-4 and riding a seven game losing streak.
Tallon said Horachek is no longer with the Florida organization.
"He did a good job, came in and worked hard and tried to turn things around,'' Tallon said. "Things went well early and kind of faded at the end. We made some trades at the deadline to become younger and get some assets moving forward so it's never easy. It's tough to come in during the season and try and turn things around. But he did a good job.''
Florida's past three coaches -- Peter DeBoer, Dineen and Horachek -- came to the Panthers without being the head coach in an NHL game.
DeBoer came from the Canadian junior leagues and was hired by former GM Jacques Martin; Dineen had coached in the American Hockey League and was hired by Tallon.
Tallon said he would like to have a new coach in place by the time the draft rolls around at the end of June. Dineen was hired by Tallon in May of 2011.
"We're going to interview every possible candidate, take our time and make the best decision,'' Tallon said. "However long it takes -- if we decide to do it tomorrow, it's tomorrow. I don't foresee that happening. We're going to interview a lot of candidates.''
-- Tallon said the new coach would "have a lot of influence on who his assistants will be," but added that he would like to retain John Madden and Brian Skrudland after they joined Horachek's staff in November.
Madden had been in his first year as a scout with the Panthers and Skrudland -- Florida's first captain in 1993 -- has one year left on his contract and could return to working in the organization's player development program.
"I will make recommendations that we keep them if possible,'' Tallon said.