As a general rule, most NHLers don't comment on what goes on behind closed doors of a dressing room, and for good reason: working relationships can be irreparably damaged, intentions publicly misconstrued, or worse. Most of us would volunteer a healthy right arm to know what went down between Olli Jokinen and then-coach Jacques Martin during their "feud" from a few years back, but each has downplayed the accusation and treated the subject as Old News, as have the players from that era. Fire extinguished.
In an article published today in The (Vancouver) Province, author Tony Gallagher - interviewing former Cat Keith Ballard - drops this nugget on unsuspecting Florida fans:
It's hard to know for sure why (the trade) came about but certainly one of the contributing factors may have been the screaming match, or matches, (Ballard) had with Florida coach Peter DeBoer during their closed-door meetings that became so bellicose last year.
...wait for it...
The Panther players are quick to let everyone know, of course, because DeBoer is extremely unpopular with most of the Florida players because he largely treats them like juniors.
No one other than Ballard is specified by name, though use of the term "most of the Florida players" leaves little room for speculation. That one of them likely wore #16 before his trade to Boston goes without saying.
Perhaps attempting to dial down the rhetoric, Ballard explains the potential reasoning for his own personal corner in Coach Pete's doghouse:
"There's no doubt I had a poor year (...) and he was riding me hard. He was trying to get more out of me and I felt I had more to give, that's the coach's job. And there were a couple of meetings. There were a couple of yelling matches, yes. And, yeah, the other guys heard them. We had our differences, and it got loud but I don't think it was anything more than a coach trying to get more out of a player."
Whatever. He and his salary are gone, DeBoer's on the hypothetical Short Leash, and the club's culture is changing - albeit slowly. Still, it's tough not to dwell on the "treats them like juniors" charge, if there's any truth to it.
Given the numerous lousy individual performances last season, perhaps they deserved such an approach. If that was indeed the case, it didn't work too spectacularly. Could anything have saved them?
In any event, it's he said-she said at this point. DeBoer would do best to ignore it entirely and move on.
UPDATE: DeBoer has refuted the story. What else could he do?