posted 8 years ago
SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers open the season markedly different from last year's club, which failed to reach the postseason for the eighth consecutive year.
The Panthers have a new coach behind the bench and last year's captain, Olli Jokinen, was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes this summer. But just what identity first-year coach Pete DeBoer is crafting for this club remains unclear.
"I can tell you what we want it to be," DeBoer said. "And that's that you better be ready to play. They're going to come and they're going to work hard and they're going to play a team game."
When the Panthers open their season Friday night at Carolina, they hope DeBoer, a bolstered defense and an increased responsibility placed on their offensive leaders will help end their playoff drought.
"I think there was a lot of guys dragging a lot of negative stuff and some baggage into this season," DeBoer said. "I really wanted to come in this season and give everybody a clean slate and not have any preconceived notions on players or attitudes. I wanted to give everybody an opportunity and I think that has worked. Everyone, so far, seems to be buying in."
DeBoer, 40, came to Florida after Jacques Martin left his dual role of general manager and coach to concentrate on the team's front office. The highly touted junior coach from the Ontario Hockey League is known for his fiery style, and has been described as capable of putting the "fear of God" in a player.