Having relieved interim head coach Peter Horachek of his duties on April 29, the Florida Panthers have begun their search for their 13th head coach since the team’s inception in 1993.

“We’re going to interview every possible candidate, take our time and make the best decision,” Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said. “However long it takes – if we decide to do it tomorrow, it’s tomorrow. I don’t foresee that happening. We’re going to interview a lot of candidates.”

While Tallon admits that his list of potential coaching candidates is long, he made it clear that there is one critical prerequisite for the next head coach of the Panthers – NHL head coaching experience.

Hiring two veritable unknowns in Horachek and Kevin Dineen during his first three seasons with the Panthers, Tallon will now look to bring in an established name with an NHL head coaching background to take the team’s talented young roster to the next level.

“We felt that we probably needed someone with more NHL head coaching experience moving down the road,” Tallon said after Horachek’s dismissal. “The last few coaches have had no NHL coaching experience … that was the reason behind this.”

In possession of this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Tallon Hopes to fill the team’s coaching vacancy by the NHL Entry Draft which will be held June 27-28.

Though many things can change and more names may become available in the two months between now and the draft, here are several candidates that Tallon may consider during his search …

The Big Fish

Marc Crawford
Last NHL Head Coaching Job: Dallas (2010-2011)

The man who famously broke the hearts of Panthers fans when his Colorado Avalanche team swept the Cats back into obscurity during the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals, Marc Crawford may have a chance to make amends in South Florida.

With a Stanley Cup under his belt and a career record that currently sits at 549-421-100-77, Crawford certainly has the experience and championship pedigree that Tallon is seeking in his next coach.

In addition to his championship accolades, Crawford also took home a Jack Adams Award in 1995 as the NHL’s top coach in first season with the Quebec Nordiques.

Most recently, Crawford coached in Switzerland, leading the ZSC Lions to a National League A Championship title.

Barry Trotz
Last NHL Head Coaching Job: Nashville (1998-2014)

The longest tenured head coach in the NHL until his firing on April 14, Barry Trotz looks to be one of the most coveted head coaches this offseason.

During his 15 seasons in Nashville, Trotz led the Predators to the playoffs seven times, including four consecutive appearances from 2003-2008.

Compiling a 557-479-60-100 career record, Trotz’s 557 regular season victories places him 8th on the NHL’s all-time list.

Known for building formidable defenses, the Predators finished the regular as one of the NHL’s top-ten penalty killing teams in eight of Trotz’s 15 seasons in Nashville.

The Up and Comers

Guy Boucher
Last NHL Head Coaching Job: Tampa Bay (2010-2013)

NHL: DEC 11  Lightning at CanucksOne of the NHL’s hottest coaching commodities after leading Tampa Bay to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2011, Guy Boucher has been out of the league since being fired by the Lightning on March 24, 2013.

The AHL’s coach of the year in 2009, Boucher has a 97-78-20 record as head coach in the NHL.

Driving opposing coaches crazy with his 1-3-1 trapping defense, Boucher’s innovativeness and defensive mindset could be a breath of fresh air for the recently porous Panthers blue line.

Currently coaching the Swiss hockey club SC Bern of National League A, the opportunity to coach the Panthers could be Boucher’s ticket back to North American and the NHL.

John Stevens
Last NHL Head Coaching Job: Los Angeles (2011-12)

A defensive-minded coach, John Stevens took the Philadelphia Flyers to playoffs in back-to-back seasons from 2007-2009.

After being fired by Philadelphia just 25 games into the 2009-10 season, Stevens would find his way to Los Angeles where, as an assistant, he helped the eighth-seeded Kings become Stanley Cup champions.

Between his four years in Philadelphia and a very brief stint as Los Angeles’ interim head coach, Stevens has compiled a 122-111-34 record in the NHL.

Prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, Stevens was seen as a front-runner for the Vancouver Canucks job, but lost out to the recently fired John Tortorella.

The Familiar Faces

Terry Murray
Last NHL Head Coaching Job: Los Angeles (2008-2012)

One of only two coaches to lead the Panthers to the playoffs this century (the other being Kevin Dineen in 2011-12), Terry Murray certainly has some unfinished business in the Sunshine State.

Prior to joining Florida, Murray led Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup finals in 1997 where they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

In 15 NHL seasons split between four teams, Murray has amassed a 499-383-89-41 record as a head coach.

Murray is currently serving as the head coach for the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms. The Phantoms finished the 2013-14 season 13th in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.

Mike Keenan
Last NHL Head Coaching Job: Calgary (2007-2009)

The third time may be the charm for Mike Keenan who previously worked for the Panthers both as a head coach (2001-2004) and general manager (2004-2006).

An NHL journeyman, Keenan has coached eight different NHL teams over 20 seasons, making the playoffs nine times and winning a Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994.

Keenan boasts a career record of 672-531-147-36 and currently ranks 6th all-time in regular season coaching wins and fourth in playoff wins with 96.

After leading Metallurg Magnitogorsk to a Kontinental Hockey League championship on April 30, Keenan became the first coach in hockey history to win a championship in both the NHL and KHL.

About The Author

An English major with a passion for pucks, Jameson has been a credentialed media member covering the Florida Panthers for Panther Parkway since the 2012-2013 season. Although his focus rests mainly with Panther Parkway, Jameson still contributes occasionally to the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. Through player interviews and discussions it's his goal to help bring players closer to their fans through interesting stories and personal pieces. With a unique brand of humor and insight, Jameson looks to provide hockey fans with articles that not only entertain, but also educate.