PROF. HORACHEK: Panthers Coach Helps Mold the Young Florida Panthers ... Bergenheim, Huberdeau Still Out
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Panthers had yet another new face in the lineup Tuesday night with Garrett Wilson the latest to come up from the minors and join the team.
Instead of being negative about having to replace veteran players with inexperienced ones -- and being asked to try and win games -- coach Peter Horachek seems to be embracing his role as a teacher.
"If I start complaining about it, I'm only complaining to myself,'' said Horachek, who coached the likes of Wilson, Vincent Trochek, Colby Robak and others while with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL before taking over the Panthers in November.
"It is what it is. I think everyone can see almost half of our team is from San Antonio. But they're playing hard. This is a great opportunity for a lot of players. To come into the NHL and be able to play against Joe Thornton and all these players .-.-. You'll see it in a year from now, two years from now. They're going to grow from this.''
When the Panthers took on the top-tier Sharks late Tuesday night at SAP Center, they did so with eight of their 18 skaters having played in the minors at some point this season.
Horachek says it's important these players learn what it takes to be NHL players and he plans on helping them.
"They don't need me yelling at them every day,'' he said. "I can make my point clearly without doing that.''
In Pete DeBoer's final months as Panthers coach in 2011, Florida had a similar look with general manager Dale Tallon trading away a number of veteran players and replacing them with call-ups from the minors or with castoffs from other teams.
DeBoer, now in his third year of coaching the Devils after being fired by Tallon at the end of that season, told NHL.com before last week's game in Sunrise that Horachek is handing things in a positive way.
"It looks eerily familiar to the last year I was here, the last couple of years,'' DeBoer said. "Upon reflection and watching, I think Pete has done a very good job of handling the situation, much better than I did at the time.''
Although the losses have frustrated Horachek as it did DeBoer, Horachek is taking a big-picture approach with Florida's young players.
DeBoer, sensing he wasn't going to be asked to return, didn't have much patience with helping along a construction project he wouldn't be around to finish.
Ultimately, Horachek could be in the same boat. The Panthers gave Horachek the head coaching job on a interim basis with Tallon saying the two will talk about the future once this season is mercifully done come April.
"There is an opportunity here to step up and they can grow together and make this a positive thing moving forward,'' Horachek said. "It's up to them. I can't give them the confidence. But they build the trust in their play. They're going to grow and they're going earn it. You can stay or you can go away.''
Horachek has drawn praise from both the young players he had in San Antonio at the beginning of the season to veterans he inherited when Kevin Dineen was fired.
"I think teaching the game, when you have a young group, can be difficult at times because they make mistakes and do so repeatedly,'' said captain Ed Jovanovski, who saw the ill effects the hard-nosed style Marc Crawford inflicted on young players when he was with Vancouver in 2000.
"Peter is a good communicator and I think he's done an honorable job for us. We all have to assume the responsibility of saying something when a player makes a mistake. All of us helping each other will put us closer to where we want to be.''
Said Trocheck: "It was a tough situation for him to come into, but Peter is a real positive guy and stays even keel all the time. He hasn't changed a thing even though so many guys are up. He expects you to do the job.''
A fourth-round pick by the Panthers in 2009, Wilson took the long road to the NHL as he spent time both with Cincinnati of the ECHL and San Antonio before getting the call Sunday that he would be joining the Panthers.
Being told early allowed Wilson's parents to book a flight from Toronto and make it to San Jose in time to see their son make his NHL debut against the Sharks.
"My experience has been a little different than most guys up here,'' said Wilson, 23, who started on the fourth line with center Scott Gomez and Krys Barch.
"I just tried to stay positive when I was down there, keep working hard. My game is based on work ethic.''
-- Winger Sean Bergenheim could be back soon. Bergenheim missed his third straight game with an apparent groin injury but skated with the team on Tuesday.
-- Jonathan Huberdeau is out for at least the next few games after being run up into the boards during Sunday's game against the Canucks.
Horachek said Huberdeau didn't skate in South Florida on Tuesday and doesn't expect him to join the team on this West Coast swing. Jesse Winchester, who has missed five games, has been skating and could meet up with the team.