- Scott Burnside, NHL
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There may be hope for the Florida Panthers yet.
Jacques Martin, the man who failed there as a coach and later failed after being forced into the GM role, has bolted the Panthers to take over as coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
It makes you wonder just what Montreal GM Bob Gainey is thinking. If he was hoping to correct the wretched mess he created in the team's centennial season, Gainey seems to have missed the mark by a wide margin. At least if Martin's history is any indication.
We're not sure exactly what Gainey thinks Martin will bring to a Montreal team that hasn't won a Cup since 1993 and has failed to advance past the second round in that same span. Maybe it's more of the same mediocrity?
In the 14 years he's been an NHL coach, Martin's teams have missed the playoffs or been canned in the first round 10 times. Only once did a Martin-coached team reach the conference finals; that was in 2003, when the Ottawa Senators were beaten in seven games by the eventual Stanley Cup winners from New Jersey.
Martin was nominated for the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year four times and won it once. So if Gainey is looking for someone who will produce regular-season victories but is incapable of winning in the spring, he has found his man. If Martin has failed to produce anything resembling a winner on the ice, he certainly seems to have mastered off-ice politics, another quality that should have given Gainey pause before hiring him.
After being fired by the Senators after yet another playoff loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2004, Martin joined longtime friend and mentor Mike Keenan in Florida and was at least partially responsible for having Keenan fired, ultimately assuming the GM's role there in the fall of 2006.
After again failing to lead the Panthers to the playoffs in 2007-08 as both coach and GM (the Panthers have failed to grace the playoff dance since 2000), Martin was forced by ownership to hand over the coaching duties to rookie Pete DeBoer.
In yet another curious move by the befuddled franchise, it allowed Martin to stay on as GM even though he had no experience in performing that job. DeBoer proved himself to be a more than capable coach, but Martin distinguished himself this season by failing to bring star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester under contract, then failing to deal him at the trade deadline.
Although he had three more years on his contract with the Panthers, Martin bolted for the Montreal job, leaving the Panthers to search for a new GM less than a month from the NHL draft. Nice.
But given Martin's track record, his departure might be the best news the moribund Panthers have had in a long time.
Bill Torrey, the architect of the New York Islanders' Cup dynasty and the first president of the Panthers, helping guide them to the 1996 Stanley Cup finals, will oversee the search for a new GM. He said Monday that he is looking for a GM who will work closely with DeBoer, removing any speculation that DeBoer's job is in any jeopardy.
That's good news for DeBoer and long-suffering Panthers fans.
Torrey, 74, will need to find someone who can quickly deal with the Bouwmeester situation, assessing whether the defenseman can be enticed into staying (surely the landscape is more attractive with Martin gone) and, if not, trying to peddle his rights at the draft.
Among those Torrey can be expected to consider are Les Jackson, who Sunday was moved out of a co-GM position with the Stars when Dallas hired Joe Nieuwendyk as GM. Jackson's skill as a talent evaluator is first-rate, and he understands the needs of a franchise in a nontraditional market.
Broadcaster Pierre McGuire, who was reportedly a finalist for the Minnesota Wild GM position recently filled by Florida Panthers front-office alum Chuck Fletcher, might be an interesting candidate for a team with almost no profile in the community.
Neil Smith, who once upon a time worked in the Islanders' system before moving on to build the New York Rangers' Stanley Cup team in 1994, also would like to get back in the business.
David McNab, assistant GM in Anaheim, also is considered a top GM candidate.
There is also Randy Sexton, who was assistant GM to Martin, knows the needs of the team well and has proved himself loyal to the franchise. That is a quality Martin was incapable of in the end.
Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
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