Analysis: Panthers should look to Cunneyworth to replace Martin as coach

With Jacques Martin on his way out as coach of the Florida Panthers – it’s up to him whether he’ll stay on as GM – the list of potential replacements is already unfurling itself.

And the best candidate may be one already attached to the organization.

Randy Cunneyworth has groomed scores of NHLers for both Florida and the Buffalo Sabres as coach of the American League’s Rochester Americans, who were jointly affiliated with both teams before a falling out with Buffalo this year.

Part of the reason the Sabres were able to graduate talent such as Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville so seamlessly was because of the work Cunneyworth put in as an AHL coach. On the Florida side, David Booth and Kamil Kreps are two emerging talents who honed their craft in upstate New York.

Now, there have also been rumblings Ottawa could be interested in Cunneyworth’s services. In fact, he was a prime candidate last season, but the Sens went instead with John Paddock. And we all know how that turned out.

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Would Cunneyworth rather go to a team that spurned him once before?

Despite a lack of playoff pedigree, Florida at least gives the former NHLer a chance to put his own stamp on a team that is young and on the incline.

And in grooming prospects such as Anthony Stewart and Stefan Meyer, Cunneyworth already has an inside perspective on where the team is depth-wise going into next season.

Before internal strife between the Amerks and Sabres (and the fact Buffalo has called up every prospect possible in the past two years) helped fry Rochester’s current season, Cunneyworth’s teams were very competitive and he was always lauded for his ability to prepare players for the NHL.

The Panthers could jump on the same tired Pat Quinn/Bob Hartley/whoever-else-was-just-fired carousel, or they could give a proven developer his first NHL coaching position.