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Escape from SoFla? Not so fast: Jacques Martin's sunset on Sunrise may say more about Panthers' intentions

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Oh, how the talk has been rosy in Montreal over the past day or so. Spirits are higher, cars are running cleaner, and hockey fans throughout the province of Quebec are standing in awe of Canadiens' general manager Bob Gainey's courageous tap on the shoulder of former Panthers GM Jacques Martin as head coach of the fabled Habs. Clearly, JM was tops on Gainey's short-list. He said so.

But c'mon, Bob...forget short-lists: was Martin on anyone's long-list of potential hires? I mean, the odds dictate that someone out there with prior NHL coaching experience must have a basic grasp of French, right? Speculation is beginning to circulate that this talent may have been the deal-maker for Gainey in hiring the ex-Cat bench boss.

Whether or not this was indeed the case is a moot issue now. It's done. The Habs wanted an ex-major league coach with a lot of regular season wins under his belt. And that's what they got. The bonus - and just wait, Montrealers...you're gonna love it - is the late-nineties-style stifling defensive system which is coming your way. Sure was fun in Sunrise for three years. 

Whatever your opinions on Olli Jokinen may be, the guy was held to 15 points less per season because of this "system".

And Nathan Horton - despite constant prodding from his new offense-first overlords - still can't grasp the thought of taking a shot on goal without having to explain his crimes against the organization for simply having (Egads!) crossed the offensive blueline. One can feel his nervousness transmitted through space and time. He's that ruined.

Think of the Wild's ex-coach/defensive mastermind Jacques Lemaire and sniper Marian Gaborik. On any other club Gabby's a dozen points higher by years' end - every year's end - regardless of the inevitable and expected groin injuries to the porcelain superstar. Make it eighteen points once he's outfitted with suitable linemates. In any event, he wasn't remaining with the club until a more offensive-minded coaching staff is installed. And even that may not be enough.

It's wonderful everyone is onboard and playing to the "system", but only one guy can win the Selke.

A few op/eds from around the hockey universe on Martin's hiring - and more importantly for followers of the Cats - what this move really says about the Panthers organization, after the super-terrific hyper-jump...

 

There was a widespread belief in hockey circles that the team would fire him anyway because of another failed season, but that would have meant an expensive contract buyout for a penny-pinching team. So you have to believe Florida "encouraged" him to look elsewhere first to avoid that scenario, long before the Canadiens supposedly contacted the Panthers for permission 10 days ago.

After all, Bouwmeester's agent said he hadn't had contact with Martin since the end of the season and neither did the representative for David Booth, the team's leading goal scorer last season. If Martin was still going to be in the job, you would think the team would have insisted he make those his priorities. Instead, they gave him permission to talk to someone else, and without requiring any compensation for it.

- CBS Sports' Wes Goldstein

 

The former Florida Panthers general manager is pretty much uncommunicative in two languages: French and English.

- Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber

 

...Why would a man who has risen to the level of a sitting general manager of an NHL team step away from that relatively cushy job to go back behind a bench?

If you’re looking for a drop dead, no doubt about it answer, you’ve come to the wrong place. No one, especially Martin, is going to address those questions, but if you want an educated guess it would be because things are so bad in South Florida that Martin the general manager jumped at the chance to be Martin the coach. This leads one to believe that Martin opted for the lesser of two evils, a decision that doesn’t exactly imply good things about the Florida Panthers today.

Now that might go against the "it’s all good" gospel being thumped by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, but there just might be something to it.

- Sportsnet's Jim Kelley, shilling for Doug MacLean

 

Considering that the Panthers authored four straight DNQs under his watch (the final one as GM after being booted from the coaching position in favor of the impressive Pete DeBoer), it's hard to imagine that Martin will be missed by the fans or the franchise. That the Panthers were willing to free him from the three years remaining on his contract extension he signed last May hints at how clearly they understood that he was simply biding his time until he found an opportunity to get back behind the bench -- as well as their own lunacy in putting a man in a position for which he apparently lacked passion.

DeBoer's not going anywhere after a season in which he earned some Jack Adams buzz, so the new GM will have to be comfortable working with someone else's man.

- Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir

 

Think about this. No smart team hires a good general manager — the most important person on the sports side — by saying his staff is already picked for him. The coach. The scouting director. On down the line.

Who besides a desperate person takes that job? Especially on a roster that's losing its best player to free agency in Bouwmeester? For an owner in Alan Cohen who's shown he has no clue how to run a franchise?

- South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Dave Hyde

 

If Martin had his ear to the ground for potential coaching jobs and the Panthers seemed so willing to allow him to pursue them, why didn’t they just let Martin go after the season, or at least shortly thereafter so they could fill the vacancy in their front office when there was a better selection of candidates?

Nobody knows the answer to that one, but now the Panthers must once again find somebody to run their hockey department on a permanent basis. Like everything Martin does in hockey, he did a good, solid job, but not a great one. He signed a bunch of players to long-term deals and made a very good coaching hire in Peter DeBoer and did a reasonably good job of restoring the Panthers' credibility after the mess Mike Keenan left. But he also watched as his team missed the playoffs after not getting something in return for Bouwmeester at the deadline.

- THN's Ken Campbell

 

Good thing JM never got around to hanging up all his pictures. I always knew he wasn't in this job for the long haul, mostly because of that. Would have taken an hour. Yet they all sat stacked up on the floor or on filing cabinets, waiting to be packed up to his next coaching address.

- On Frozen Pond's George Richards