The Florida Panthers will have a new group behind the bench next season, led by legendary coach Joel Quenneville. Beside him will be some familiar faces, as the team announced today that Mike Kitchen, Andrew Brunette and Derek MacKenzie will serve as assistants in 2019-20. Robb Tallas will continue as Panthers goaltending coach.
This group is a bit of old and new for Quenneville, as he brings back long-time assistant Kitchen who worked with him both in St. Louis and Chicago, while also adding two newcomers to the coaching world.
Brunette, 45, spent several years in the Minnesota Wild organization after retirement, filling various roles including coach for a very short period. His stint in Florida though will represent his real first test as he tries to transition fully into the coaching circuit. A veteran player with more than 1,100 games of NHL experience, Brunette played for Quenneville on more than one occasion and developed a friendship that has lasted since his retirement. Quenneville called him a “bright, young hockey mind” in the press release today.
MacKenzie meanwhile will move directly into coaching after retiring just this year. The 37-year old served as captain of the Panthers for several years before finally giving up the “C” to Aleksander Barkov this season, due to an injury that would end his career. He played just a single game for Florida in 2018-19, and will finish with 611 in his career. Still, MacKenzie has long been ticketed for the bench. The veteran forward has been lauded for his leadership abilities throughout his career and can help young players as they transition from top scorers in junior to role players in the NHL, as he did so many years ago.