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Answering Your Questions

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)
In less than two months, Peter DeBoer will lead his first NHL training camp as head coach of the Florida Panthers.

DeBoer, 40, begins his NHL career after spending the past seven seasons with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), leading the team to 297 victories and a 2003 Memorial Cup championship and an appearance in last year’s Memorial Cup finals.

A native of Dunnville, Ontario, DeBoer has amassed 539 wins in the OHL, was Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2000, and was a member of Team Canada’s coaching staff for t he 2005 gold medal-winning junior team.

DeBoer recently sat down with to answer questions from Panther fans.

From Brock Murphy in Pelham, Ontario: Have there been former coaches that have taught you important skills that you use today?

DeBoer: “I had the fortune of playing for a lot of great coaches during my playing career and you take a little bit of the best qualities from all of them, and that’s been my approaching, including Ron Wilson, who I played for, Paul Maurice, Tom Webster… John Hart, my first coach in junior hockey. He was great, too.

Tom from England: A large factor in the team’s disappointment has been the poor starts. How much of an emphasis do you intend to put on the importance of getting a great start?

DeBoer: “A lot of emphasis. It’s very important. You don’t have to look any further than the Ottawa Senators last year and the start they had. (Despite) the way they finished they still had an opportunity to play in the playoffs because of the lead they built up early. Points get more and more difficult as the season goes and it’s critical for us to have a good training camp and get off to a good start.”

Question from several different parties, including the Montanini’s in Sault Ste. Marie, Alex in Miami, and Gerardo in Lauderhill: “How do you go about changing the atmosphere, the culture, of not being in the playoffs? Has the attitude been bred into players?

DeBoer: “You know what, in speaking with the players in the summer and having the opportunity to sit down with some of them, I’m not concerned about that. These guys are sick of not playing playoff hockey. They all want to be playing meaningful games in March, April and May, and they’re going to do whatever they have to do to make sure we’re in a competitive situation to do that.

“The job I’m leaving (Kitchener Rangers) they missed the playoffs three of the previous four seasons. We went on to play in the playoffs seven years in a row. I've been in those situations before and, in the NHL, there’s a lot of parity. It’s not an easy thing to do, playing in the playoffs in March and April. But I can tell you I’m very confident the players will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.”

Question from Rodrigo at Disney: What was the most important factor in your decision when signing with the Panthers?

DeBoer: “I just felt it was a fit, the fact of being the young coach and having a mentor like Jacques Martin in the GM role. Having a familiarity with a lot of the young players, from Nathan Horton to Stephen Weiss, from Gregory Campbell to Brett McLean. And I saw it as a team with upside, and it’s going to be my job and the staff’s job to realize that upside.”

Question from Len Gould: He’s glad Wade Belak is in a Panther uniform and wondering what your philosophy is on the aggressive side of hockey?

DeBoer: “You know what, it still plays a role in hockey until they remove fighting from the game. It plays a part. You have to be in a position where your team is not going to be intimidated. I feel Wade Belak is one of the best in the business in knowing what that role is about.”

Follow-up from Gould: What’s your thoughts about Tanner Glass?

DeBoer: I know a little about Tanner, too, sure. Tanner fits in with a group of young players who are going to come to camp and try to make this team. I’m going in with an open mind. We want to be a tough team to play against this year, and whatever players can help us achieve that goal will be in the lineup.”

Question from Scott Snowden: What are your thoughts about diving?

DeBoer (laughs): “I hate it. I think the NHL has taken some measures to remove it from the game, thankfully before it got to the levels of soccer matches and some of the things you see on the world soccer stage. I don’t think it’s a major issue in the game. I’m glad we all recognized it early enough to nip it in the bud.”

Question from Eric Swartz in Tequesta: Last season the Panthers had one of the lowest numbers of goals for in the conference. How do you plan to improve this?

DeBoer: “Goals scored are a result of getting pucks to the net and playing in the offensive zone. In order to do that, you have to win battles and put pressure on the other team. That’s going to be our mindset.”

Follow-up from Snowden: How do you plan to reduce the number of penalties and injuries, two factors that hurt the Panthers?

DeBoer: “Well, again, if you have the puck and the other team is chasing you, you’re not going to take as many penalties. If the opposite is true, and you’re sitting back and the other team has the puck and you’re in pursuit, I find your team penalties will go up. I think the two will go hand-in-hand. I think if we play the way we want to play, if we’re aggressive and have the puck, I think the penalties will diminish.

“Injuries are a part of hockey. Every team deals with them. That’s where you have to utilize your depth.”

Question from Tuomo: What kind of system do you play?

DeBoer: “If he’s got a day to sit down I can explain it to him. (laughs). The system is based upon the mindset of attacking and puck pursuit and taking away time and speed from the other team. That’s what our system is based around.”

Question from Dylan, 16, of Tamarac: Wondering what Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard and Cory Stillman will bring to the team?

DeBoer: “I’m hoping a little bit of experience with Stillman with his two Stanley Cups. That's some invaluable winning experience. Boynton and Ballard bring some stability and are some guys who can move the puck out of our end quickly.”

Question from David Saunders:
Any thoughts on what kids might be ready to play. Shawn Matthias? Michal Repik? Michael Frolik?

DeBoer: “The nice thing about a new coach is you go in with an open mind and a clean slate. There’s jobs available. There’s a lot of kids in the Panthers system who have great reputations at lower levels. We’re going to give them all an opportunity.”

Question from Lars in Germany: Are you planning on keeping the Sunrise Express (Horton, Weiss and David Booth) together?

DeBoer: “I’m aware of the success and chemistry those guys had. At the same time our goal is to win games, not just have one line being productive. We’re going to look at whatever combinations we have to in order to get wins.”

Question from several parties about Nathan Horton: Can Horton be a 50-goal scorer? Has he reached a plateau? Is too much expected of him?

DeBoer: “I think people expect too much from all young players. Nathan has the ability to be as good as any player in the league. People have to remember he’s still 22, 23 years old. The Sidney Crosby’s of the world who do it at 19 come along once every decade. Nathan has accomplished an awful lot and put up some great numbers considering his age. I feel he’s just starting to come into his own.”
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