SUNRISE, Fla. – Another coaching change awaits the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers have decided interim coach Tom Rowe’s stint will end when their season does Sunday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. Rowe may still stay with the organization, said the person who spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because Florida has not revealed any details publicly.
Florida’s last game of the season is Sunday at Washington. The Panthers started Tuesday with the 22nd-best record in the 30-team NHL.
Rowe essentially gave up his duties as general manager to take over as interim coach when the Panthers fired Gerard Gallant in late November. It’s unclear if he would reclaim the GM role going forward. The coach on opening night in October will be Florida’s fifth in a span of less than four years, following Kevin Dineen, Peter Horachek, Gallant and Rowe.
The Panthers won the Atlantic Division last season, but did not qualify for the playoffs this year – the 16th time that’s happened in the last 19 seasons.
“Not what we wanted,” said Panthers forward Shawn Thornton, who is retiring as a player but is expected to stay with the organization. “We can sit here and make excuses with injuries and stuff. Obviously we had a tough season that way, but a lot of teams go through injuries. We had to find a way to win and we didn’t. Disappointing for us.”
The Panthers changed their roster and in some ways their philosophy after last season, and their use of analytics in shaping this team has been questioned. But this year’s team was also snake bitten by injuries, particularly with top left wing Jonathan Huberdeau missing 51 games and fellow young stars Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad also missing significant time.
“Anything less than a Stanley Cup is simple failure, but we’re going to work even harder next year,” Panthers owner Vincent Viola said last weekend.
Much of the core of this team is under contract for several seasons. A notable exception is Jaromir Jagr, the No. 2 scorer in NHL history, who is set to become a free agent.
The 45-year-old Jagr said Monday he will wait for the season to end to make any concrete decisions on his future, including whether he would sign another deal with Florida. If he plays anywhere in the NHL in 2017-18, it would be his 24th season in the league.
“I love it here,” Jagr said.
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