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Florida Panthers Pregame: Andrew Brunette a Jack Adams finalist

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Florida Panthers Andrew Brunette
Florida Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette meets with the team during a morning skate ahead of Game 1 of their second round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday // Photo @ColbyDGuy

SUNRISE — Andrew Brunette may be the interim head coach of the Florida Panthers, but he is now a finalist for the NHL Coach of the Year award.

On Thursday morning, before the Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2, Brunette was named one of three finalists for the Jack Adams Award.

The other two: New York’s Gerard Gallant — who coached the Panthers from 2014-16 — and Calgary Flames coach Darryl Sutter.

“It’s an incredible honor for me personally,” Brunette said. “As corny as it sounds, I’ve been in this job since the end of October and it’s been a day-to-day kind of thing. I’m just trying to win a hockey game today, but it’s an incredible honor to be named in the same breath as Jack Adams and the guys I am [nominated] with in Sutter and Gallant, they’re two of the best of all-time.”

Of the three nominees for the Jack Adams Award, Brunette is the only one with the interim tag.

It has been one that has stuck with him ever since he took over for Joel Quenneville in October, but it is also one that he has embraced going forward.

“I think we’re all interim in coaching and in life and whatever happens, happens,” Brunette said.

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Of course, not all interim coaches inherit a team with the talent that this Panthers group had at the time that he took over.

After all, the Panthers were 7-0 at the time of his hiring.

Brunette was thrust into the coaching role on Oct. 28 when Quenneville resigned when his involvement in Kyle Beach’s sexual assault scandal came to light in the Jenner & Block report.

It was an emotional time for the team and it was his job to bring the group together.

“It wasn’t an easy time in our locker room,” Radko Gudas said. “I think the way he acted, the way he prepared us for the game, made us focus on the things that were in front of us and didn’t really give us a chance to think of the other things.

“He made sure that we were on the same page and I think that’s what we needed and we responded to his challenges and to his words and I think that was the main part as to why we kept the success and we kept rolling even in those difficult times. It was very difficult for him, but he handled it very well.”

He passed that test with flying colors, leading the team to a 3-2 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings on the day after he took over.

“I’m very lucky,” Brunette said. “That’s why we are where we are is because of the leadership on our team, our group, and our staff. We’re a close group and we’ve had some success, but we want more.”

Not much changed for the Panthers on the ice under Brunette.

“I didn’t change, I just try to be myself and I think players see through it if you’re not authentic,” Brunette said. “I wanted to make sure that I was myself and the credit is all to them, they made that transition very seamless, they made it easy for me, they competed their butts off all year, so that’s all you can ask. I didn’t do anything special.”

He played for Quenneville in Chicago during the 2011-12 season and joined Quenneville’s staff as an assistant coach in 2019 up until he was named the interim coach, so he knew the system pretty well.

“We were rolling before the coaching change, so there weren’t really a lot of things that we needed to change and I think he address the things that he thought we could adjust, what we could do differently and do better,” Gudas said.

“Overall, we didn’t change a whole lot, but we just adapted and I think to be successful in this league, we have to adapt when things are thrown in front of you and make the best out of your opportunity. I think that’s what he did and we responded and it was a great step for both sides of the organization.”

Under Brunette, Florida went 51-18-6 and cruised on its way to the Presidents’ Trophy, scoring the most goals since the 1995-96 season (340) in the process.

Along the way, the Panthers’ play under the tutelage of Brunette was enough to impress Claude Giroux to the point where they were the only team he would waive his no-trade clause for.

Philadelphia Flyers teammate Keith Yandle told Giroux nothing but good things about Brunette and his staff and it helped sway his decision to head to Sunrise.

“When I came in, I heard he is a player’s coach,” Giroux said. “He’s played the game, he’s played a lot of games in the NHL, so for him to have that experience as a player, I think that’s helped him as a coach.”

For Giroux, he found Yandle’s assessment of Brunette to be very accurate.

“He’s doing a good job here in the way he communicates with the players and everyone respects him in the locker room,” Giroux said. “Guys want to play for him. It’s a well deserved nomination.”

MORNING SKATE UPDATE

Carter Verhaeghe was not on the ice Thursday morning with Brunette saying he is a game-time decision.

Maxim Mamin filled in on the left side of the top line with center Sasha Barkov and Giroux.

NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS 

PANTHERS V. LIGHTNING (TB leads 1-0)

  • Game 2: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise   
  • TV/Streaming: TNT
  • Postgame: Bally Sports Florida
  • 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 2; 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. 
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