DeBoer gets the job — in Florida
The man many thought was coming to Ottawa to coach ends up with the Panthers. How did it happen? There’s no shortage of theories — or denials — reports KEN WARREN.
The wild and wacky week in the NHL coaching fraternity ended with Peter DeBoer being named head coach of the Florida Panthers late yesterday afternoon.
As late as Wednesday night, DeBoer and Craig Hartsburg were both in the running for the Ottawa Senators’ head coaching job.
DeBoer met with Senators owner Eugene Melnyk in Barbados on Wednesday, leading to speculation that the Senators were about to hire him as head coach.
There were also unsubstantiated reports that DeBoer insisted on a fouryear contract with the Senators and that Bob Hartley, the other leading candidate, demanded a higher salary than the Senators were willing to pay.
However, Senators general manager Bryan Murray denied those stories yesterday.
“There was nobody offered a contract except Craig Hartsburg,” Murray said. “Nobody else was ever offered a job and they were never of- fered a contract because they were never offered a job. There was never anything on their part saying they want this or want that.”
But while Hartsburg was willing and able to accept the Senators’ job when it was offered, it’s believed DeBoer wasn’t prepared to make a commitment to the Senators until he had completed the interview process with all the NHL teams interested in his services.
There’s speculation he may have been playing teams’ offers against each other to receive the best possible salary and contract terms. That list would have obviously included the Panthers. Details of DeBoer’s contract were not released yesterday.
“I am very excited about getting the opportunity to coach the Florida Panthers,” DeBoer said. “I am looking forward to the challenge of guiding this franchise back to the playoffs and to putting a team on the ice that our fans in South Florida can be proud of.”
Panthers general manager Jacques Martin said DeBoer’s sparkling junior record helped tip the scales in his favour.
“Peter was our top candidate to fill the coaching vacancy and we are very pleased that he has decided to join our organization,” Martin said of DeBoer, who took the Kitchener Rangers to a Memorial Cup championship in 2003 and got them to the Cup final again last month. “He is a great hockey mind who will complement our coaching staff very well. He has been very successful in the junior ranks and I am confident that he will help our franchise accomplish its goals.”
From an outsider’s point of view, it appeared DeBoer had been the front-runner for the Senators’ position, if only because he was wined and dined by Melnyk in Barbados.
Melnyk, however, says he always intended to meet with both DeBoer and Hartsburg, more as an ambassador to promote the organization and the city than as part of the formal interview process.
Due to scheduling conflicts, Melnyk said he couldn’t make it to Ottawa to meet with DeBoer earlier this week and suggested that DeBoer fly south.
“If you’re going to have someone working for you at that level, you really want to get to know them,” Melnyk said. “You don’t want to meet them running down the hallway before the first game.
“Bryan had not made up his mind at the time. I had told him that I could juggle some things around (on Thursday and yesterday), but I couldn’t earlier this week and I asked if (DeBoer) could come down to Barbados.
“It’s not a bad gig to come down for pizza and beer for three hours, and then go to the beach and go shopping. (DeBoer) jumped on a plane and came down.”
Melynk’s first meeting with Hartsburg came after the Senators’ owner flew to Sault Ste. Marie from Barbados, taking him back to Ottawa for yesterday’s announcement.
Murray was complimentary about both DeBoer and Hartley, but was particularly positive in his comments about Hartley, the Hawkesbury native who won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche and also coached the Atlanta Thrashers.
“I think Bob Hartley is going to make a good coach for somebody,” he said. “He’s a guy who was ignored a little bit for a couple days here in the media. I had a great interview with Bob Hartley. I have great respect for him.
“His plan (for the Senators) was real good. I think whoever hires him will get a guy who is really dedicated to success. I just told him that, at this point, I had to make this decision and I really appreciated him giving us the time.”