SUNRISE, Fla. – The Florida Panthers and head coach Joel Quenneville have parted ways.
In a statement, the team said Quenneville had “resigned from his role with the club.”
Panthers President and CEO Matt Caldwell said in the statement:
After the release of the Jenner & Block investigative report on Tuesday afternoon, we have continued to diligently review the information within that report, in addition to new information that has recently become available. It should go without saying that the conduct described in that report is troubling and inexcusable. It stands in direct contrast to our values as an organization and what the Florida Panthers stand for. No one should ever have to endure what Kyle Beach experienced during, and long after, his time in Chicago. Quite simply, he was failed. We praise his bravery and courage in coming forward.
Following a meeting today with Commissioner Bettman at National Hockey League offices, which was part of the league’s process to decide how to move forward, Joel made the decision to resign and the Florida Panthers accepted that resignation.
The team said an interim head coach would be announced “forthcoming.”
Local 10 News confirmed the move Thursday evening. It was first reported by NHL Network and ESPN hockey analyst Kevin Weekes, who added that former Stanley Cup winning head coach John Tortorella would be a “top potential candidate” for the job.
The move comes on the same day NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with Quenneville to discuss the latter’s involvement in a sexual assault scandal from 2010 that has shaken the league to its core.
Former Chicago Blackhawks player Kyle Beach is suing the team over an alleged sexual assault that took place during the team’s march to the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship.
An internal investigation revealed that Quenneville was among several team higher-ups that discussed the allegations during a meeting in late May that year, on the same night the Blackhawks clinched the Western Conference title.
Fast forward to Wednesday night when Beach gave an emotional interview on TSN, discussing the allegations in great detail. Beach mentioned Quenneville by name, going to far as to say there was no way the coach didn’t know what was going on.
You can read more about Beach’s comments by clicking here.
Quenneville was hired by the Panthers during the summer of 2019.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
The departure of Quenneville from the Panthers is a sudden and jarring change of events.
Florida is in the midst of its best start to a season ever, storming out of the gates with seven straight wins.
The Panthers are finally viewed as a Stanley Cup contender, showing up at the top of NHL power rankings near and far. Quenneville was an early favorite for the Jack Adams Award, given annually to the NHL’s best coach.
While Florida may still remain a Cup favorite and ultimately reach successes never before seen by this franchise, if it does happen, it will be without Quenneville.
Looking ahead, because frankly the train doesn’t stop moving, Florida now has a major vacancy to fill behind the bench.
Here are my top two candidates for the job from three different categories: in-house replacements, potential new hires and out of the box options.
This is Brunette’s third season behind Panthers’ bench as an assistant coach. Before that, he spent seven years with the Minnesota Wild working in several roles, including assistant coach, assistant general manager, director of player personnel and special assistant to the general manager.
Brunette played for Quenneville during his final NHL season before eventually coaching under him. He’s run Florida’s power play and seen his overall responsibilities grow during his three years in Florida and has a very good idea of what kind of systems the team has been successfully running, and the familiarity could be a key. Zito and his staff may want to keep the boat as steady as possible, and an adjustment to Brunette would likely be very subtle compared to bringing in someone from the outside.
Kinnear been with the organization for several years, he’s familiar with the players and understands the systems they’ve been running.
He’d been an American League assistant coach for over a decade before Florida hired him to be their AHL head coach for Springfield in 16-17. He’s been running Florida’s AHL bench ever since.
Kinnear got a taste of NHL coaching when Quenneville had him join the team in the Toronto playoff bubble in 2020, working with the extra skates and watching and analyzing games from the pressbox.
It’s also worth noting that there could be smooth transition in Charlotte if Kinnear leaves, with former NHL head coach and Stanley Cup champion Dan Bylsma now an assistant with the Checkers after being hired by the Seattle Kraken earlier this year.
Potential new hires
Of the several available head coaches with NHL experience, Tortorella would appear to make the most sense on paper.
The resume is solid. He’s coached 1,383 NHL games, has won a Stanley Cup and led teams to the postseason 12 different times.
Torts also has a history of success with Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and a previous working relationship with Panthers GM Bill Zito from when they were all with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Like Torts, Boudreau has tons of experience not only coaching in the NHL, but leading teams to the postseason.
Unlike Torts, Boudreau doesn’t have a Stanley Cup ring. He’s led teams to the playoffs in 10 of his 13 seasons behind the bench, but only make it out of the second round once.
He also had an odd exit from his last job in Minnesota, and some hockey experts are no longer sold on Boudreau as the solid NHL coach he once held the reputation of.
Still, you can’t argue all the success and consistency in leading teams to the playoffs, and perhaps the Panthers have the roster that would help him see it all the way through to the promised land.
Out of the box options
For years Gronborg has been mentioned as a possible NHL coaching candidate, but no one has pulled the trigger on hiring a coach from outside North America since the early 2000s (Google Ivan Hlinka and Alpo Suhonen if interested in going down that rabbit hole).
Longtime coach of the Swedish national team, Gronborg has had success at every level, and it seems like a matter of time before an NHL team gives him a look.
He’s currently the head coach of ZSC Lions in the Swiss National League, so unless Gronborg built an NHL out into his latest contract, this would likely be an offseason hire if Florida goes that route.
He’s currently head coach of the Finland national team and like Gronborg, has a vast reputation as one of the best international coaches out there.
Jalonen has two IIHF World Championship gold medals under his belt. He’s also got experience coaching at a very high professional level in a major hockey market, spending two years behind the bench of Jokerit Helsinki of the KHL.
Considering how much Finnish talent there is now in the NHL, particularly in South Florida, it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility for Zito to have his eye on Jalonen.