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Kitchen Enthused With New Role

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Mike Kitchen (Getty Images)
By Dave Joseph for

Mike Kitchen isn’t holding back his enthusiasm when discussing the Panthers.

“I’m excited,” said Kitchen, the former head coach of the St. Louis Blues who was named Monday the Panthers’ assistant coach by GM and coach Jacques Martin.

“Florida is a good, young team and they’ve been right there the past couple years. They’re just on the edge of breaking out, and I think that’s going to be this year.”

Kitchen, a defensemen for eight seasons in the NHL and who has coached all-stars Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis, will work primarily with Panther defensemen. It’s a job he’s anxious to start.

“I think you start with (Tomas) Vokoun,” Kitchen said. “Any team that has success in the playoffs has a workhorse in goal and I think Tomas is a top goalie. Then, on the blue line, you look at (Jay) Bouwmeester. He’s coming off a real, solid year. He reminds me of a young Chris Pronger. I’m not comparing (Bouwmeester) to him but he’s just going to be a guy who gets better and who always wants to be the best on the ice every shift, every game.

“Bryan Allen has really started to come into his own. (Ruslan) Salei is a veteran. I coached Mike Van Ryn in St. Louis, and he has a great set of wheels and great mobility.”

Kitchen, who played for the New Jersey Devils (1982-84) and Colorado Rockies (1976-81), comes to the Panthers after having spent his 18 previous seasons in coaching with only two other organizations. He was an assistant coach with the Maple Leafs from 1990-98 before heading to St. Louis, where he served as an assistant coach from 1998-2004 before becoming head coach on Feb. 24, 2004.

“I guess in this sport, with it being so volatile, to spend nine years in Toronto and nine in St. Louis is something that doesn’t always happen,” he said. “I’m just happy it’s something that’s worked out for my family.”

Kitchen and Martin have never worked together, but both have respect for each other.

“The fact he’s been with only two organizations in 18 years speaks very highly of his character,” Martin said. “He’s worked under a number of head coaches in Toronto, including Doug Carpenter, Tom Watt, Pat Burns and Mike Murphy. He worked with Joel Quenneville in St. Louis. The fact he played defense was a positive because I wanted someone to coach who had played the position. He can be more of a mentor to our young defensemen.

“Another aspect in hiring Mike was his upbeat personality. I think he can be a nice bridge between myself and the players.”

When asked about hiring someone he hadn’t worked with before, Martin replied; “I think it’s good sometimes to get someone with new ideas, fresh ideas. I also think he’ll be a good fit with (assistant coach) Guy (Charron).”

Born in Schomberg, Ont., approximately 40 minutes north of Toronto, Kitchen started playing hockey when he was five along with brothers Bill and Keith. He won the Memorial Cup in 1975 with the Toronto Marlboros and was the 38th overall selection in the 1976 Entry Draft by the Kansas City Scouts, who that summer moved to Colorado.

Kitchen eventually played in 474 NHL games. His brother Bill played with Montreal and Toronto while his brother Keith was drafted by Peterborough before an injury shortened his career.

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