It’s finally happening; hockey is starting back up soon! It’s something we all have been waiting for; especially in times like the present. With the season starting soon it’s time to look at what the Florida Panthers were able to do during the off season and while they made some moves player wise; the biggest changes came with the office staff for the Cats. From general manager to coaches and assistants, we hired a lot of new faces this off season. So let’s take a look at the new faces off the ice to join the Panthers.
The biggest announcement, and most welcomed by fans, came back in September when it was announced the Bill Zito would be stepping as General Manager after Dale Tallon was fired in August. Many were calling for the removal of Tallon for a couple years now and were ecstatic when the call finally came. After that came the rumors and discussions of who would take his place and I think Vincent Viola made the right choice in Zito. As assistant GM Bill Zito helped the Columbus Blue Jackets to the playoffs is five of his seven seasons with the team. He was also the GM of the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters for two seasons which saw the team capture the Calder Cup during that time. Hopefully we see the same success transfer over to the Panthers
The next announcement came in November when Ulf Samuelsson was named Assistant Coach. He had played for many teams throughout the league and then was an assistant coach for just as many. He even had a stint as the head coach of the Florida Panthers new AHL affiliate the Charlotte Checkers. While the fact that he’s bounced around quite a bit does concern me a little; hopefully he’ll fit in the Cats organization.
Ten days later we got the news of Brett Peterson being named Assistant GM. What was big about this news was the fact that Peterson is the first Black assistant general manager in the NHL. This came just days after the Miami Marlins also announced Kim Hg as the first female general manager in not just the MLB, but in all of U.S. men’s major sports. South Florida was making moves and breaking barriers, but thats not why Peterson was hired. He was hired for his skills as a player, agent, consultant, and diligent service to the community.
Shane Churla became the became the Director of Amateur Scouting; filling similar roles for the Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars, and the Phoenix Coyotes.
Then in December we got another big announcement with the addition of the Goal Tending Excellence Department. Members include Goaltending Consultant Francois Allaire, Goal Tending Coaches Robb Tallas and Leo Luongo, and Special Advisor to the General Manager Roberto Luongo. Francois Allaire has been a goaltending coach for over 30 years in the NHL and coached the likes of Patrick Roy and Roberto Luongo. Tallas while not new to the Panthers organization, he’s been a goaltending coach for the team for 12 years, has been added to this new department to work with his fellow coaches. Leo Luongo is also a familiar face to die hard Panther fans as he’s been the goaltending coach for the teams AHL affiliates for five years now and will be working in Charlotte with the Checkers for the upcoming season. Then there’s Roberto Luongo, many feel the position he fills as special advisor to the GM is just a made up position and really serves no true purpose, but I think that Luongo’s experience and mind for being a goal tender will be immeasurable to the team going forward.
The final and most recent announcement came in the form of Sunny Mehta being named Vice President of Hockey Strategy & Intelligence. Bill Zito said in the announcement “Having Sunny join the Panthers is truly exciting. He is an intelligent, talented and driven individual who will provide us with an expanded scope of analysis and accessible information. This integration of data and analytics into the fabric of our daily hockey operations will broaden our ongoing discussions and evaluation capabilities in the present and future of our franchise.” Mehta has worked with NHL and MLB teams as a data analyst.
With all these changes in the office and coaching staff we hope to see this translate into a good season, raising in attendance (once that’s able to be a thing again), and a playoff birth. Let’s Go Cat’s!
Join us next time as we look at the changes that we will be seeing on the ice with the changes in the players that happened during the off season
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