The morning after the Florida Panthers’ 2-1 win against the New York Rangers, defensemen Nick Boynton found his bags packed and a car waiting to take him to the airport. He had been sent home for disciplinary reasons by head coach Pete DeBoer and general manager Jacques Martin.
Boynton had been benched for the 3rd period of the game on Thursday, and apparently not been given adequate reasons. After the game (in which the Panthers scored twice in the 3rd period to earn the 2-1 win), Boynton confronted DeBoer about the benching. Apparently, voices were raised and insults hurled, despite the team having just won an incredibly important game. The next morning, Boynton was on his way home.
From head coach DeBoer’s perspective, this move had to be made. A player put himself above the team. He cared more about his playing time then about the team’s victory. One can certainly understand the frustration of being benched and not being told why. While a head coach is not obligated to tell a player anything, a certain level of professionalism and communication is expected. But the timing of it just smells of ego. It was a huge win for Florida, who is battling the Rangers, as well as a handful of other teams, for playoff position. Had Boynton come up to DeBoer and simply asked why he’d been benched, I’m sure he would have been given an answer. Had he waited until the morning skate and brought it up, it would have ended there. Instead, from all accounts, Boynton stormed Pete DeBoer, and hurled expletives at the head coach. Even Boynton admitted to such. The end result was the end of the road trip for Nick Boynton.
This could not have come at a worse time for the Panthers. In the midst of a grueling 10 game stretch and 5 game road trip, the Panthers are in a fight for the playoffs. Losing a top 4 defenseman now hurts, badly, as witnessed by the Panthers 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the New Jersey Devils this afternoon. For a team who was gelling so well lately, to risk the chemistry now stings. Boynton is well liked in the locker room. He’s been solid on the blue line this year, and never appeared to have a selfish itch. Now, he is likely headed out of south Florida. Nick Boynton wants to remain a Panther, but told Steve Gorten of the Sun-Sentinel Friday, “I don’t imagine I’ll be here,” referring to the near future. “I don’t know that they want me if they sent me back like this.” Jacques Martin has left it up in the air, simply stating, “We sent him home for the weekend for disciplinary reasons and we’ll deal with it after.”
With Jay Bouwmeester already on the trading block, it’s hard to imagine Florida would part with two of their top four defensmen with playoff hockey so close. This is a situation that will certainly garner interest going toward the March 4th trade deadline.