Mike Kitchen, assistant coach of the Florida Panthers, has chosen to opt-out of the NHL’s Return to Play program. This announcement came Monday afternoon. He is not the first person to opt-out, however, he is the first coach.
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Mike Kitchen Opts Out
“It was a difficult decision to say the least, but the right decision for me and my family.” Kitchen said. The Panthers Twitter page announced that it supported the decision.
The 64-year-old clearly had a lot to think about when making this decision and it clearly wasn’t an easy one. For the safety of him and his family, it’s a decision that can be respected. The Panthers will be moving onto the play-ins and will no doubt keep him in their minds.
Kitchen joined the Panthers coaching staff this season. Mike Kitchen has been an assistant coach in the NHL for the majority of the last thirty years. He has also been a head coach for parts of three seasons, back in the mid-2000s. He has prior experience with Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, a reason Kitchen came to the Panthers for this season. There is no word yet on who will be filling in for Kitchen.
The Panthers will play a qualification series against the New York Islanders when the season resumes. They will certainly feel the loss of Kitchen, however, with a trusted head coach in Quenneville, they will certainly look to bounce right back.
The series should be a closely contested one between two teams that have different outlooks. The Panthers struggled to keep pucks out of their net this season. However, the Islanders struggled to put pucks in the net. The high-flying Panthers offence will be in tough against a stingy Isles defensive group.