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Andrew Brunette Reflects On Not Getting Panthers HC Job: ‘It Was Heartbreaking’



Photo of Andrew Brunette by David Russell for Nashville Hockey Now

For the first time since being let go following the 2021-22 season, Andrew Brunette is returning to Amerant Bank Arena as an NHL head coach for a team other than the Florida Panthers.

Brunette was the interim head coach of that 2021 Panthers team that had a league-high 58 wins and 122 points, and captured its first-ever Presidents’ Trophy. But he wasn’t retained during the offseason as the team instead hired former Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice, and Brunette took an assistant coaching job with the New Jersey Devils.

At the time, the move was a bit surprising given the Panthers’ and Brunette’s regular-season success (he was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award), and the way Brunette rallied the team after head coach Joel Quenneville resigned seven games into the year after he was linked to the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual assault scandal.

And though he landed on his feet one season later with his first full-time head-coaching gig with the Nashville Predators, it didn’t lessen Brunette’s initial disappointment with how his run with the Panthers ended.

“It was obviously heartbreaking,” Brunette told Florida Hockey Now’s Colby Guy on Thursday. “I loved that group, but kind of like a player, they don’t want you anymore, so you move on. With New Jersey, I thought it was a great opportunity with a good young team, a fast team, and kind of wanted to learn off Lindy (Ruff) if I was going that road. I had a wonderful experience (in Florida, and New Jersey too) and I grew and became a better coach from that experience.”

Brunette is still held in high regard by many of the Panthers players he coached during that 2021-22 season, many of whom sung his praises when the team traveled to Nashville in late January to face Brunette for the first time as an opposing head coach.

“He is a players’ coach, likes being around the guys and having a good relationship with them,” Panthers forward Sam Bennett said at the time. “I know everyone enjoyed having him here when he filled in as a head coach for us. He is a good coach.”

Under Brunette, that 2021 Panthers team won a franchise-record 13 straight games. Now, Brunette has his chance to rewrite the Predators record books as a win over or overtime loss to the Panthers on Thursday would give Nashville it’s 16th straight game win a point, marking a new franchise record.

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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