Martin offered chance to keep job as Panthers GM

Updated: April 12, 2008, 12:33 AM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Jacques Martin is no longer the Florida Panthers' coach. His status as general manager is still up in the air.

Martin has filled both roles since the 2006-07 season. He will leave the bench after three years and has been offered the chance to concentrate on his front office duties, the team announced Friday.

Another bad move

Nice job by the Florida Panthers to further deepen their hold on "worst-run franchise" in the NHL honors. Jacques Martin, a coach who failed to get the Senators beyond a conference final during his nine years in Ottawa and failed to get the Panthers into the playoffs for three straight seasons, is out as coach.

But Martin will remain as GM, a post where he has accomplished little and has almost nothing on his résumé to suggest he has the tools be a successful NHL GM. Worse for the hapless Panthers, according to TSN analyst Bob McKenzie, Joe Nieuwendyk, the classy longtime NHLer who was acting in an advisory role for the Panthers after he retired, has left the team.

Team officials did not respond to requests for confirmation, but we can only assume Nieuwendyk believed the team is headed nowhere fast, which has pretty much been its destination for more than a decade.

So, assuming Martin remains as GM, who does he hire to replace himself as coach? Interesting question.

What about Pat Quinn, who gave Martin a job as assistant coach on the Canada's Olympic and World Cup of Hockey teams? Quinn also schooled Martin four straight times in the playoffs, when Quinn was coach in Toronto. There's also Bob Hartley, a veteran of the Southeast Division and former Stanley Cup winner who has a long history with Martin. And, of course, there's Pat Burns, who has recently resurfaced and will be an assistant to Ken Hitchcock for Canada's entry at the World Championships in Quebec City and Halifax in May.

-- Scott Burnside

"Over the past few days both Jacques and I have spent significant time together discussing what is in the best interest of this franchise," team owner Alan Cohen said in a statement. "It is now up to Jacques to decide if he wants to remain with the club as our general manager, where he would continue to play a vital role in helping to ensure the future success of our organization."

Martin's decision is expected next week, according to the release.

Cohen and assistant general manager Randy Sexton did not immediately return e-mails from The Associated Press.

The move was first reported by The Miami Herald. The newspaper also reported that Martin was in Rochester, N.Y., the home of the Panthers' American Hockey League affiliate, on a scouting trip.

Florida went 38-35-9 to finish with 85 points, nine behind Southeast Division champion Washington. The Panthers haven't won a playoff series since 1996 and a playoff game since 1997. They haven't reached the postseason since 2000.

Martin went 110-100-36 as Florida's coach. He was one of three coach/general managers in the NHL. The other two, Ottawa's Bryan Murray and Atlanta's Don Waddell, also are expected to relinquish one role this offseason.

Martin spent 8˝ years in Ottawa until he was fired April 2004. He was the NHL's longest-serving coach at the time. He landed his first NHL head coaching job with the St. Louis Blues in 1986.

After one season as the Panthers coach, he became the general manager when Mike Keenan quit shortly after trading star goaltender Roberto Luongo to Vancouver. Martin filled that hole last offseason by acquiring All-Star Tomas Vokoun from Nashville, but has been criticized for not adding a topflight scorer.

With pressure from ownership to make the playoffs, the Panthers started slowly this season, with five losses in their first eight games, and kept playing erratically. Then Florida lost forward Richard Zednik when captain Olli Jokinen accidentally slashed his neck with his skate during a Feb. 10 game. Zednik recovered, but the team spiraled.

The Panthers blew three straight games in the final period in February and lost six of seven to close out the month. Jokinen, Florida's career scoring leader, had only five goals in the 22 games that remained after the accident.

The team rallied in March for the third consecutive season, going 8-3-1, but again that wasn't enough.

Although both parties publicly denied a riff, there were questions about Martin's relationship with Jokinen throughout the season. Jokinen's agent did not immediately return a phone message Friday and the player didn't respond to an e-mail.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press