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Sunday Coffee: New Man In Charge

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Randy Sexton congratulates first-round pick Dmitry Kulikov (Getty Images)

"I had the opportunity to audition for the job, but quite frankly I didn't spend one second worried about what was right for me. I thought if I worked hard and did a good job that the results would speak for themselves and I think the results have spoken for themselves." - Randy Sexton

For more than 12 weeks the Panthers underwent an extensive search to find a general manager. But it obviously became apparent the past several weeks the right man for the job was already inside the organization.
 
Randy Sexton, who had led the Panthers hockey operations since the departure of Jacques Martin on June 10, was named the General Manager early Friday, and it proved a popular decision inside the organization and with fans.
 
            Sexton showed his chops and earned the job in the four months since Martin left town to take up residency behind the Canadiens bench. The former CEO, president and GM of the Senators, Sexton guided the Panthers through what was the most important time of the off-season – just weeks before the NHL Entry Draft and free agency.

            His first major move? Trading a prospect to Phoenix for second-line center Steven Reinprecht. The playmaking 10-year veteran has topped the 40-point mark four times.
 
            When Sexton took control, the Panthers had four defenseman under contract and one of them was Jay Bouwmeester, who had a foot out the door. Sexton went to Montreal and dealt Bouwmeester’s rights to Calgary for defenseman Jordan Leopold and a third-round draft pick.
 
            He then returned to South Florida for free agency where he signed unrestricted defenseman Ville Koistinen, goaltender Scott Clemmensen and Leopold, and improved the depth and quality of the team's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate by signing forward Jeff Taffe and defenseman Clay Wilson.
 
            Sexton wasn’t done. He preached patience after July 1, saying there would be solid players available and looking for jobs before training camp started. Sure enough, he created competition by bringing in veteran defensemen Martin Skoula and Christian Backman for tryouts before signing 30-point defenseman and shot blocker Dennis Seidenberg to a one-year deal shortly after camp started.
 
            If that wasn’t enough, Sexton worked to make sure young Russians Dmitry Kulikov and Evgeny Dadonov were out of their Russian deals and signed and sealed to join a growing list of Panther prospects in North America.
 
            Sexton is a no-nonsense guy. He was instrumenteal behind the successful effort to win Ottawa an NHL franchise in 1990, and he’s been instrumental in guiding the Panthers and building them these past four months.
 
            He not only deserved the job as GM, he earned it.
 
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
 
            “He’s a 102 years old and he doesn’t want to waste his body,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau on Mike Knuble taking off morning skates.
 
            “Although the first few years were tough at times, the decision to rebuild, with draft picks and young players, it’s what the team needed to do, leading us in the right direction, getting us to the Stanley Cup, and I truly believe that by doing that back then, it got us to our goal. And though, like I said, it was tough at times, it sure did pay off at the end.” Joe Sakic during his retirement speech.
 
Vincent Lecavalier (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
A DIFFERENT VINNY
 
            Lightning coach Rick Tocchet told the St. Pete Times last week that he sees a “different” Vinny Lecavalier this season.
 
            “It’s his attention to detail, the way he’s running the team, the room,” Tocchet said. “When we have off-ice workouts, he makes sure everybody’s in there.”
 
            Lecavalier says it’s an “important year for us.”
 
            “We want to change things, and I think everybody is really stepping up their games in the locker room to make this team better.”
 
            Panthers make their first trip to Tampa Oct. 12.
 
Mike Keenan (AP Photo/Jeff McIntosh,CP)
IRON MIKE OPENS UP
 
            Mike Keenan, who remained mum this summer on his firing in Calgary, spoke last week on Toronto’s AM640. Keenan called his dismissal a “little impatient” and said he had no idea he wouldn’t be back for the final year of his contract.
 
            “No, I didn’t. Particularly when you look at the context of the season,” he said. “We had more wins than Vancouver and the last 10 games we played shorthanded and ran into cap problems and had a plethora of injuries. I’m not sure if (the firing) came from (Flames president) Ken King or (Flames co-owner) Murray Edwards…there wasn’t a lot of explanation. I didn’t ask for one. The business part of it is unexplainable at times. You take your medicine, you move on, you try to dust yourself off and away you go.”
 
NOTES
 
            If he stays healthy, Paul Kariya scores at least 20 for the Blues…Not to cause panic for Canadien fans, but the Habs were 7-20 going into the weekend with Andrei Markov out of the lineup…Joe Sakic’s retirement leaves Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson as the NHL’s longest-serving captain. He got the ‘C’ in 1999….During Thursday’s Montreal-Toronto game, 18 players were with different teams the previous season…The Hockey News predicts the Bruins and Sharks will win their conferences this season, but the Flyers will take home the Stanley Cup. Last year, The Hockey News predicted Montreal and Detroit to win their conferences and the Red Wings to win the Cup…ESPN’s Barry Melrose has the Blackhawks winning the Cup…Martin Skoula, who spent training camp with the Panthers, signed a one year deal with Pittsburgh…The Panthers were scheduled to return back to South Florida at 5:30 a.m. After traveling to Carolina Friday before opening their home schedule Saturday at BankAtlantic Center against the Devils and then in Tampa Bay on October 12, the Panthers will get a break, playing only one game in eight days…
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