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Report: Florida Panthers fire two assistants, Brunette’s status unclear



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Florida Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette, right, and Derek MacKenzie, left, watch against the Detroit Red Wings in the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Per ESPN’s Kevin Weekes, the Florida Panthers let go of assistant coaches Ulf Samuelsson and Derek MacKenzie.

Tuomo Ruutu will remain on staff.

Additionally, Florida has yet to make a decision on longtime goalie coach Robb Tallas, whose contract is up.

The Panthers have also not decided whether or not Andrew Brunette will be returning as head coach.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said on the Jeff Marek Show that the Panthers will likely bring Brunette back with a coaching staff of his own.

“It sounds like it’s trending in that direction, but I don’t want to say it’s a guarantee,” Friedman said of Brunette’s return.

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The two assistants let go of were of Joel Quenneville’s staff before he resigned due to his involvement in Kyle Beach’s sexual assault scandal coming to light.

MacKenzie officially joined Quenneville’s staff in 2019 after working in an unofficial coaching role following a career-ending shoulder injury on Opening Night in Tampa to start the 2018-19 season.

MacKenzie, former captain of the Panthers, spent parts of five seasons with Florida.

Ruutu was hired this offseason, while Samuelsson was hired in 2020 after serving as an assistant under Quenneville with the Blackhawks from 2017-18.

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Brunette took over with Quenneville’s assistants intact on Oct. 28 following his resignation and led the Panthers to a 51-18-6 record and a Presidents’ Trophy under his tutilege.

In the playoffs, he led Florida to its first playoff series win since 1996 before getting swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.

After the playoffs were over, Brunette was candid in saying that his decision to return behind the Panthers’ bench next season is in question.

“I mean, I love this team. Of course, I would love to,” Brunette said. “But those aren’t really my decisions. I have family I have to talk to and see … we were kind of thrown into this a little bit. I have to talk to my wife and see if, after playing for 20 years, if she’s on board for this.”

Zito also mentioned that the team needed time to mull over the decision on whether or not Brunette will return and nothing seems imminent at the moment.

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Matthew Kristal

Colby, GR: What do you believe this sends as a message? I’m reading into this that the possibility of Q’s return is no longer a realistic option (I know there was some smoke this was a possible scenario). Could this be that Z is removing the interim tag and giving Bruno the opportunity to form his own staff? Or is it still possible that an more veteran coach is brought in and Bruno is given a front office position?

Bob E.

Brunette botched the last week of the season and the playoffs.
It’s now up to Zito to decide whether or not he needs a new coach or were they just rookie mistakes that are not likely to be repeated.

Bob E.

I would vote for the new coach since I over the years I have seen veteran coaches who continually panic year after year at playoff time and drain the confidence right out of their players just as happened here.

Matthew Kristal

Bob, for what it’s worth I agree with the sentiment that he seemed overwhelmed in the playoffs and didn’t adapt to the change in playing style. I think he’s earned another season to prove himself as a viable head coach with his own staff, but Z and co will have a better idea into how much he leaned on Q and on his assistants during the year to determine if this is the best way forward.

[…] the Florida Panthers are making some changes after a disappointing end to their 2021-22, firing both assistant […]

Van Hamlin

A revolving door for coaches spells loses for any franchise. Brunette did a good job and the players like him. The GM screwed up letting Vittrano go and signing twiddle de and twiddle dumb. The loss to Tampa was about soft players, not bad coaches
Barkov did the Flamingo on the few shots he did block. Huberdeau was a ghost. 1 for 30 on power plays is about being trashed by Vaselefsky. We couldn’t hit the high corners. If coaches could tea h that, every team would win the cup.

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