Originally created 05/04/04

Panthers talk to Martin about coaching job



MIAMI -- The Florida Panthers have met with former Ottawa coach Jacques Martin about becoming the team's fifth coach in three years.

Panthers general manager Rick Dudley said Monday he met with Martin last week and plans to speak with him again about the position. Martin also visited South Florida and met with team owner Alan Cohen.

Martin spent 8 1/2 years in Ottawa until he was fired April 22. He was the NHL's longest-serving coach at the time. Dudley expects Martin to be in high demand, possibly getting offers from Phoenix, Columbus and the New York Rangers.

"He's going to look at all his options," Dudley said. "I don't think he's going to jump into anything."

But Dudley emphasized that interim coach John Torchetti is still the front-runner for the Panthers job.

"This is a situation we felt we had to look at," said Dudley, who was general manager in Ottawa and worked with Martin during the 1998-99 season. "We have a very good relationship and we thought it would be prudent to talk to him. And we do have interest."

Martin, 51, won 341 games with the Senators and led them to four 100-point seasons and three division titles.

Even though the Senators came within a victory of the Stanley Cup finals last year after posting the league's top regular-season record, Martin otherwise had little success in the playoffs.

Ottawa failed to get past the opening round in five of its eight postseason trips. Martin's playoff record was 31-38, and the Senators were eliminated by rival Toronto in four of the past five years - including this season.

Nonetheless, Dudley points to the job Martin did taking a young and talented team - much like the Panthers now - and turning them into an Eastern Conference "juggernaut."

"They flourished under him," Dudley said.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have had nine coaches in 12 seasons. They were 10-12-4-1 under Torchetti, who replaced Dudley as coach in February.

"John still remains the front-runner," Dudley said. "It just seemed appropriate to talk to Jacques and see where it goes."

Florida was 5-8-2 this season under Mike Keenan before he was fired Nov. 9. The Panthers then went 13-15-9-3 with Dudley behind the bench.