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PETER HORACHEK FIRED: Who Is Next for Florida Panthers?

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Dale Tallon is once again searching for a new coach for the Florida Panthers.

Plenty of NHL coaching experience is a requisite.

Tallon fired interim coach Peter Horachek on Tuesday, citing Horachek's lack of said experience. Prior to replacing Kevin Dineen on Nov. 8, Horachek spent nine seasons as an assistant in Nashville.

Barry Trotz, recently fired as coach of the Predators, is thought to be near the top of Tallon's wish list. Trotz, the only head coach in Nashville's history and one of Horachek's closest friends, is expected to be courted by a number of teams.

"Barry Trotz is a hell of a coach,'' Tallon said when prompted.

Said Horachek: "He's been a very successful coach for 15 years in Nashville and I think he'll be quickly scooped up. If he was given the opportunity and thought [Florida] was best for him, I would wish him all the best in that. Absolutely. I wish him nothing but the best. Let the chips fall where they may. I wish Dale and the Panthers nothing but the best. I hope things go well.''

Former Philadelphia and Carolina coach Peter Laviolette is also on Tallon's radar. Laviollette won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 and took the Flyers to the Cup Finals in 2010 where they lost to the Blackhawks.

Tallon reiterated that he didn't speak with Laviolette when Dineen was fired. Former Panthers assistant GM Mike Santos previously said Horachek -- who had been coaching Florida's minor league team at the time -- was the only one considered.

Other former NHL head coaches on the market include:

Guy Boucher (led Tampa Bay to Eastern Conference finals in 2011); Ron Wilson (fired by Toronto in 2012 but has coached in 1,401 games with four teams); John Stevens (led Flyers to Eastern Conference finals in 2008 and is an assistant in Los Angeles); and Terry Murray (coached the Panthers from 1998-2000 and is currently in the AHL).

More could become available in the coming weeks.

"We felt as a group that this wasn't quite the right fit in the direction we're headed in,'' Tallon said.

"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, who is no longer with the organization, was told of his fate by Tallon on Tuesday morning. Tallon said he made the decision a few days ago.

"I thought my chances were 50-50 on coming back,'' Horachek said from his home in Fort Lauderdale.

"I thought if they knew for sure, they would have made a decision right away. I'm disappointed but the decision has to be made. I'll get another opportunity somewhere. I'm grateful for the chance to do it here. I'll get a chance to be a head coach in this league again. I take nothing but positives from my time here.''

The 12th coach in franchise history but the first with the interim tag since John Torchetti in 2004, Horachek -- hired last summer to coach Florida's minor league team in San Antonio -- lost his first two road games behind the Florida bench before upsetting Anaheim on Nov. 12 in Sunrise.

The Panthers played well for a time and won five straight and seven of eight in early December.

Florida was 21-24-7 after winning in Detroit on Jan. 26, but then lost five of six going into the Olympic break.

“He did a good job, came in and worked hard and tried to turn things around,” Tallon said of Horachek's brief tenure.

“It's tough to come in during the season and try and turn things around. But he did a good job.”

The Panthers -- who had the league's worst power play and penalty kill units -- finished the season with mostly younger players as they ran out the string, winning just two of the final nine games.

"I wanted to be part of the development of the young players and see the growth of them,'' Horachek said. "That's a disappointment. You can see some of the talent here, you can see the possibilities that can come forth if you do the right thing. You would like to continue the process over the long haul. That would have been a very exciting thing.''

Florida ended 29th of 30 teams but won the draft lottery and hold the top overall pick. The draft will be held June 27-28 in Philadelphia.

Tallon said he would like to have an experienced coach hired by then as it's expected the hiring process won't take much longer than a month.

Dineen was officially introduced by the Panthers on June 1, 2011.

Florida’s past three coaches – Peter DeBoer, Dineen and Horachek – came to the Panthers without ever being the head coach in an NHL game.

DeBoer came from the Canadian junior leagues and was hired by former GM Jacques Martin; Dineen coached in the American Hockey League and was hired by Tallon.

“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.”

 

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