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Panthers’ Coaching Changes Can Help Or Hurt Canadiens

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Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens fans should be paying close attention to the coaching changes that began Sunday for the Florida Panthers.

Per ESPN and NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, the Florida Panthers fired assistant coaches Ulf Samuelsson and Derek MacKenzie on Sunday. Tuomo Ruutu will remain on the Panthers coaching staff.

How does this and whether or not the Panthers shed the interim tag from and keep Andrew Brunette as head coach affect the Montreal Canadiens?

Five days before the March 21 NHL Trade Deadline, the Montreal Canadiens traded defenceman Ben Chiarot to the Panthers in exchange for forward Tyler Smilanic, a first-round pick in 2023 and a fourth-round pick in 2022 previously acquired from the New York Rangers. Not only did the Canadiens acquire a first round pick in what NHL draft experts have predicted to be a very deep draft, but that 2023 pick is unprotected. So depending on how the Panthers’ coaching changes affect their play on the ice, the Canadiens have a good chance to make a significant impact on their prospect pool in the first round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

As Weekes indicated in the tweet above, there has been no indication of whether or not the Panthers are leaning towards keeping Brunette or bringing in one of a plethora of head coaches that have become available over the last two months.

“No word on commitment nor contract for Jack Adams Finalist HC Brunette after franchise’s best season,” Weekes added.

This past week, 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.

On Sunday though, a source indicated to Montreal Hockey Now that Bruce Cassidy, who was fired by the Boston Bruins last Monday, could be set to speak to the Panthers on Monday, if he hasn’t already.

Back to the Montreal Canadiens though and their unconditional 2023 first rounder they got from the Panthers for Ben Chiarot. We’ve seen this potential script before for the Florida Panthers moving on from a head coach despite his recent success. Anyone remember 2016? After now-New York Rangers head coach had led the Cats to, what at the time was their best record in franchise history (47-26-9) and their first playoff appearance in three seasons, they fired Gallant 22 games into the season despite the fact they were still over .500 at 11-10-1.

The Panthers would not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs again until they lost in the 2019-2020 qualifying round under then-head coach Joel Quenneville. They had two straight first round exits after that under Quenneville before he was forced to resign this past season for being part of the Kyle Beach sex scandal cover-up by the Chicago Blackhawks. Brunnette then took over and went 51-18-6, led the Panthers to their first playoff series win since 1996 before being swept by the defending, back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions, Tampa Bay Lightning.

If the same turmoil that ensued when the Panthers cut ties with Gallant ensues if they do the same with Brunette, the Montreal Canadiens could benefit in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Or a new coach, like say Bruce Cassidy or Barry Trotz could come in and leave the Canadiens picking later in the first round. Either way, the Panthers’ coaching soap opera is worth watching for Habs fans!

 

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