Peter DeBoer never played in the NHL, despite being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs as the 237th pick in the 1988 Entry Draft. Although he had relatively successful stints in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the International Hockey League (IHL), he retired after the 1991 season.
Within three seasons, DeBoer was behind the bench coaching the Detroit Junior Red Wings for the 1994-95 season. Even though he coached the team for seven seasons, winning coach of the year once while boosting the league’s best record several times, the franchise didn’t win a championship.
Eventually, he took a job with the Kitchener Rangers, turning around a losing franchise into Memorial Cup champions in just one year. Furthermore, as hosts of the 2008 tournament, the Rangers won another title, capping off one of the greatest seasons in OHL history. Interestingly, the head coach with a law degree from the University of Windsor was the architect of one of the more successful periods in club history.
DeBoer Lands First NHL Head Coaching Job in 2008
After all the success in the OHL, the Florida Panthers called DeBoer to be their head coach for the start of the 2008-09 season. As the bench boss, the team did not qualify for the playoffs in his three seasons as he finished his tenure with a 103-107-36 record in 246 games.
Unfortunately, the Panthers let DeBoer go with one year left on his contract. However, he was not unemployed for long, as the New Jersey Devils hired him to be their new head coach in 2011. Interestingly, during his first season in New Jersey, he started his legacy of leading teams to the conference final, with the Devils advancing to the Stanley Cup Final that year.
During the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs opening round, the Devils faced off DeBoer’s former team, the Panthers, in a thrilling seven-game series. Eventually, Adam Henrique scored in double overtime to win the series, giving the head coach his first Game 7 victory.
Unfortunately, the Devils never recaptured the magic from DeBoer’s first season, failing to qualify for the playoffs in the next two seasons. Ultimately, the team released him 36 games into the 2014-15 season.
DeBoer Heads to the West Coast in 2015
Unsurprisingly, DeBoer remained unemployed for only a few months before the San Jose Sharks called and gave him the head coaching job. During his first season, he led the franchise to their only Stanley Cup Final appearance, losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Interestingly, in the second round against the Nashville Predators, DeBoer improved to 2-0 in Game 7 contests, thanks to a 5-0 win that propelled the Sharks back into the Western Conference Final. Although San Jose failed to win the Stanley Cup, DeBoer grew his legacy by leading his second different team to the Conference Finals in his first year on the job.
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Statistically, the Sharks improved every season with DeBoer behind the bench, securing 98, 99, 100, and 101-point campaigns, but never recaptured the success from his first season. However, during his final playoff drive with the team, 2018-19, he improved his Game 7 to 4-0 with wins over the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round and then over the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. Unfortunately, he was relieved of his duties just 33 games into the following season.
DeBoer Leads the Golden Knights to Back-to-Back Final Four Appearances
Almost one month after leaving San Jose, DeBoer landed the head coaching job with the Golden Knights. Although he was only on the job for 22 games, Vegas finished first in the division and advanced to the Western Conference Final for the second time in three years.
Unsurprisingly, DeBoer led his third different team to a conference championship series in his first season, picking up an additional Game 7 win along the way. While playing the Vancouver Canucks in the second round, the Golden Knights secured a 3-0 victory in Game 7 to advance to the final four again.
Statistically, DeBoer improved his record to 5-0 in Game 7 situations in the following season. During Vegas’ first-round matchup with the Minnesota Wild in 2021, the Golden Knights rolled to a 6-2 victory, giving their head coach an impressive 6-0 record.
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However, despite all the successes, which include losses in back-to-back Western Conference Final, DeBoer is the only coach in Golden Knights history not to qualify for the playoffs. After finishing fourth in the Pacific Division in 2021-22, Vegas released him in May 2022.
DeBoer Returns to the Conference Final with a New Team in 2023
Interestingly, less than one month after being fired from the Golden Knights, the Dallas Stars hired him to lead the team. Ultimately, his first season in the Lone Star State resulted in a Central Division title, an appearance in the Conference Final, and another Game 7 victory.
During the Stars’ second-round matchup against the Seattle Kraken, the team secured a 2-1 victory in Game 7, allowing their head coach to remain undefeated (7-0) in winner-take-all contests. Unsurprisingly, the Stars drew the Golden Knights as an opponent in the third round, the team previously coached by DeBoer.
Although there has not been a winner in the 2023 Western Conference Final, DeBoer’s fingerprints are all over the makeup of both franchises competing for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. Even though there have been hundreds of head coaches in NHL history, DeBoer has had one of the most unique and successful runs ever without winning a championship.
Except for the 2021-22 season, DeBoer has led a team to the Western Conference Final in three of the last four seasons. And, if we stretch the dates back a little further, he’s guided five teams, three different franchises, to the final four in the last eight seasons.
Since 2011-12, DeBoer has coached a team to the final four on six occasions while advancing to two Stanley Cup Final appearances. Furthermore, outside of his days with the Panthers, his teams have only failed to qualify for the playoffs three times in the last 12 years. Realistically, he’s failed to coach in the postseason in just six of his 15 years in the NHL.
Even though DeBoer has yet to win the Stanley Cup, he’s found other ways to get his name in the headlines, whether being undefeated in Game 7 or leading four different franchises to the Conference Final. Ultimately, winning a Stanley Cup would cement his legacy as one of the game’s greatest coaches. However, it is safe to say that he remains one of the league’s most underappreciated head coaches who brings out the best in his lineups at the most critical times of the season.