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Martin out as Panthers coach, asked to stay on as GM

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The Canadian Press
4/11/2008 1:41:59 PM
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MIAMI - Jacques Martin is no longer the Florida Panthers' coach. His status as general manager is still up in the air.

Martin has filled both roles since the 2006-07 season. He will leave the bench after three years and has been offered the chance to concentrate on his front office duties, the team announced Friday.

"Over the past few days both Jacques and I have spent significant time together discussing what is in the best interest of this franchise," team owner and CEO Alan Cohen said in a statement. "It is now up to Jacques to decide if he wants to remain with the club as our general manager, where he would continue to play a vital role in helping to ensure the future success of our organization."

Martin's decision is expected next week, according to the release.

Cohen and assistant GM Randy Sexton did not immediately return e-mails from The Associated Press. Cohen and Martin did not return cellphone messages.

The move was first reported by The Miami Herald. The newspaper also reported that Martin was in Rochester, N.Y., the home of the Panthers' American Hockey League affiliate, on a scouting trip.

Florida went 38-35-9 to finish with 85 points, nine behind Southeast Division champion Washington. The Panthers haven't won a playoff series since 1996 and a playoff game since 1997. They haven't reached the post-season since 2000.

Martin went 110-100-36 as Florida's coach. He was one of three coach/general managers in the NHL. The other two, Ottawa's Bryan Murray and Atlanta's Don Waddell, also are expected to relinquish one role this off-season.

Martin spent 8 1/2 years in Ottawa until he was fired in April 2004. He was the NHL's longest-serving coach at the time. He landed his first NHL head coaching job with the St. Louis Blues in 1986.

After one season as the Panthers coach, he became the general manager when Mike Keenan quit shortly after trading star goaltender Roberto Luongo to Vancouver. Martin filled that hole last off-season by acquiring all-star Tomas Vokoun from Nashville, but has been criticized for not adding a topflight scorer.

With pressure from ownership to make the playoffs, the Panthers started slowly this season, with five losses in their first eight games, and kept playing erratically. Then Florida lost forward Richard Zednik when captain Olli Jokinen accidentally slashed his neck with his skate during a Feb. 10 game. Zednik recovered, but the team spiralled.

The Panthers blew three straight games in the final period in February and lost six of seven to close out the month. Jokinen, Florida's career scoring leader, had only five goals in the 22 games after the accident.

The team rallied in March for the third consecutive season, going 8-3-1, but again that wasn't enough.

Although both parties publicly denied a riff, there were questions about Martin's relationship with Jokinen throughout the season. Jokinen's agent did not immediately return a phone message Friday and the player didn't respond to an e-mail.

Jacques Martin (Photo: Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
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