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Catching Up With Coach DeBoer

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers recently caught up with Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer, asking him about his summer, the team's signing and player movement and of course, the 2009-10 season.

Head Coach Peter DeBoer led the Cats to their second best record in franchise history (41-30-11, 93 points) in only his first season behind the bench.
First off, how has your summer been and how've you spent it?

DeBoer: My family and I have been spending time at a cottage on a lake in Southern Ontario since mid-June. (laughing) The weather has not been that great, but it beats the heat and humidity in South Florida. We're just relaxing and spending time together right now.

My kids start school at the end of August, so we will be back in a few weeks. I am very excited to get our guys back in camp in September and I sense that the players are looking forward to getting going again.

Having looked back on your first season as a head coach in the NHL, do you plan to do anything different  in your second year?

DeBoer: Every year is a learning experience and I feel much more comfortable entering training camp from a coaching perspective this season. While I probably won’t make any major changes, I think I have a better understanding of the grind of the schedule and how it is important to find that balance between practice time and allowing your players enough time for rest and recovery. As a new coach last year, I had to get to know our personnel and they had to get familiar with my coaching style. We don't have to go through that next year. I know the majority of our guys and know what they are capable of and they in turn know what I expect.

Talk a little about the importance of the David Booth signing.

DeBoer: David had a career year last year and he undoubtedly will play a major role in our organization’s long term success. His commitment and passion for the game is unmatched and he has really become a fan favorite. He's a hard working player who will most likely play on our top line and will be counted on to score goals and contribute at both ends of the ice.

The Panthers acquired Steven Reinprecht right before the draft, where do you see him fitting in?

DeBoer: Steve will fill the void that we had on our second line at center. He is good on face-offs, and has the ability to make players alongside of him better. He should fit in very well in the middle along with players like Cory Stillman and Michael Frolik.

Despite missing 15 games and playing a different position, Nathan Horton still netted 22 goals during the 2008-09 campaign.
How much will that addition help Nathan Horton, since he played a lot at center last season?

DeBoer: Nathan didn't play his natural position last year and I think he did a good job trying to adapt to the center position. He will be more comfortable and productive next year returning to wing, while playing with David Booth and Stephen Weiss. That being said, Horton missed 15 games due to injury last season and still scored 22 goals for our club.  He is still is a relatively young player who possesses a lot of offensive upside.

Speaking of Michael Frolik, what do you expect from him next year?

DeBoer: Michael is a talented young player who had an exceptional rookie season. We are counting on him to continue to develop and expect him to play on one of our top two lines next season.

How do you see your defense shaping up next season?

DeBoer: Keith Ballard, Jordan Leopold, Bryan McCabe and Bryan Allen will all be responsible for absorbing some of the minutes that Jay Bouwmeester played. Leopold is solid, mobile puck moving defenseman who plays well in all three zones. Additionally, we added Ville Koistinen who played behind three very good d-men in Nashville (Hamhuis, Suter, Weber). We will also count on contributions from some of our young prospects such as Keaton Ellerby, Jason Garrison and Dmitry Kulikov. Our defense ranked second in the NHL scoring 49 goals last season and we expect a similar output from our blue line next season.

Do you feel comfortable with Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen as your pair in net?

DeBoer: We feel we have two very good netminders that will push one another throughout the season. Clemmensen played very well stepping in for an injured Martin Brodeur last year and we are confident that we will not miss a beat with him in net. We finished in the Top-10 in the NHL in goaltending last year and we are confident we will meet or exceed these expectations next season with Vokoun and Clemmensen in net.

How important is a fast start for the team this upcoming season?

DeBoer: Well, we saw what happened last year when we got off to a slow start, we were trying to play catch up all year long and we don’t want that to happen again.

It is important to note that we posted a 34-19-10 record after Nov. 24, which was fourth best in the Eastern Conference and still missed out on the playoffs. I'm confident that that our players are now familiar with my coaching style and systems and we will avoid a slow start to the season.

What are your expectations for the team this year?

DeBoer: Our expectation, much the same as last year is to be playing meaningful games in March, April and May. While we fell short of the ultimate goal of making the playoffs, we feel that we took a step in that direction last year and are confident that we will make even bigger strides this season and we want to build on that.

Last question for you. How important is the Panthers fan support?

DeBoer: Fan support is absolutely critical, the players and the coaches could feel a buzz in the community last March during our playoff push. We want to have that same feeling at the BankAtlantic Center when we drop the puck in October for our home opener against the Devils.
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