SUNRISE — As a longtime broadcaster with the Blackhawks, TNT analyst Eddie Olczyk knew it would not be easy for the Florida Panthers to move on when Joel Quenneville was forced to resign in October.
The Panthers, unbeaten through seven games at the time, quickly named assistant coach Andrew Brunette as their interim coach and ended up having the best season in franchise history.
There were some bumps in the road, sure, but nothing crazy enough to derail the best team the Panthers have ever put on the ice.
Now in the second round of the playoffs, Olczyk said he credits Brunette for keeping the Panthers on the right track.
Olczyk, speaking to Florida Hockey Now before the Panthers’’ 4-1 loss to the Lightning on Tuesday, will be part of the TNT broadcast during this series.
He previously did Game 4 of the Washington series.
“Bruno’s personality, Bruno’s resume, his relationship with Joel, Vinnie and Teresa Viola signing off on the decision with Bill and his staff helped,” Olczyk said.
“He got one of my votes for Coach of the Year, not that it means anything. It was not an easy spot to be put in, but life is not easy. I think Bruno handled it extremely well. His team played unbelievably, pretty much, all season long. It’s hard not to like Bruno. I think he kind of the perfect guy standing in line. He had to go in there and galvanize the troops, get them focused.
“I give the players a lot of credit as well for responding the way they did. The Panthers are playing the same way they were under Joel. Bruno made a few tweaks, but nothing substantial. I think he was the perfect guys to give the keys to. It has proven to be the right decision under difficult circumstances.”
Brunette, obviously, did not expect to be behind the Florida bench when this season started.
He joined Quenneville’s staff after being let go from his role as the director of player personnel with Minnesota in 2019, figuring if he was going to learn how to be a coach, it would be to his benefit to learn from the best.
A former player with the Blackhawks under Quenneville, Brunette knew the system both on the ice and off it as an assistant with the Panthers the past two-plus years.
While Quenneville’s future is not known following his role in the Kyle Beach sexual assault scandal which resurfaced from 2010, Brunette appears to have learned on the job in what was a tough situation.
Replacing a Hall of Famer in the middle of a very successful start — with no warning — was not easy.
Brunette will be a full-time head coach in the near future, whether it is here or elsewhere.
“You never know when things are going to change, right?” Olczyk said. “You never know when doors are going to open or close. I think he has taken full advantage of this situation and he got a really good roster, Bill made some great acquisitions during the season.
“They had a great regular season. But they were always going to be judged, after losing to Tampa last year, on whether they could take the next step.
”The regular season they had was terrific, but with this roster can they keep going? They passed their first exam and did so with flying colors.”
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
PANTHERS V. LIGHTNING (TBL leads 1-0)
- Game 2: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami/Fort Lauderdale); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
PANTHERS V. LIGHTNING
- Regular season series — Tied 2-2: Florida 4, @Lightning 1 (Oct. 19); @Lightning 3, Florida 2 OT (Nov. 13); @Florida 9, Lightning 3 (Dec 30); Tampa Bay 8, @Florida 4 (April 24).
- All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 73-49-18, 10 ties
- Playoff history: Second meeting; Tampa Bay d. Florida 4-2 in R1, 2021
- Round 1: Florida d. Washington 4-2; Tampa Bay d. Toronto 4-3
- Full schedule — Game 1: Tampa Bay 4, @Florida 1; Game 2: Tampa Bay at Florida, Thursday, 7 (TNT); Game 3: Florida at Tampa Bay, Sunday, 1:30 (TNT); Game 4: Florida at Tampa Bay, Monday, 7 (TNT); Game 5*: Tampa Bay at Florida, Wednesday, May 25 (Time, TV TBA); Game 6*: Florida at Tampa Bay Lightning, Friday, May 27 (Time, TV TBA); Game 7*: Tampa Bay at Florida, Sunday, May 29 (Time, TV TBA). (*) — If necessary.