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Panthers name Massena native Morris as assistant coach

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The NHL’s Florida Panthers announced the hiring of Massena native and former Clarkson University head hockey coach Mark Morris as one of their two assistant coaches Monday.

Morris, who had recently left an eight-year stint as head coach with the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs after his contract was not renewed, joins Mike Kelly as the new assistants under head coach Gerard Gallant, who was named last month. It’s Morris’s first NHL coaching job.

In a recent story in the Watertown Daily Times Morris, 56, said that at the end of the 2012-13 season, he was offered a three-year contract to stay with Manchester, the Kings’ AHL affiliate.

“At the time I asked if I could re-assess after (this) season and just take one year,” Morris said in the story. “That’s the way things played out.”

Assistant coach John Madden and goaltending coach Robb Tallas fill out the Panthers’ staff.

“We are pleased to welcome Mike and Mark to our coaching staff,” said Florida executive vice president and general manager Dale Tallon in a statement released by the team. “They bring to our club a wealth of hockey knowledge and experience and will be the perfect fit to work together with Gerard, John and Robb.”

Morris, 56, went 338-224-66 with Manchester and added a 35-50 mark in the postseason. He owns Manchester’s franchise record for most games coached (552), regular season wins and postseason wins. The Monarchs reached the playoffs seven out of eight seasons under Morris. Manchester won the AHL’s Eastern Conference championship last season, setting a franchise low in losses with 19.

Morris helped mold several of the players who moved on to the Los Angeles Kings’ Stanley Cup championship teams from 2012 and 2014, something that he figured would be an asset in his job search.

“I’ve gotten to know quite a few people in the business. There’s obviously some interest in what I bring,” Morris told the Times for a story that ran on June 30. “I think the lure of attracting somebody from a team that’s won two (Stanley Cups) in the last three years carries some clout.”

Morris compiled a 306-156-42 record with Clarkson between 1988-2002 and remains the program’s winningest coach. He is the only coach to win more than 300 games at both the professional and collegiate levels.

Before coaching Manchester, Morris was a special assistant coach/interim strength and conditioning coach for the Vancouver Canucks and served as an interim assistant coach for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League.

Kelly, 54, spent the last four seasons working with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, serving as head coach and general manager (2012-13) and director of hockey operations/associate head coach (2009-12). Working alongside Gallant, the duo led the Sea Dogs to three first-place finishes.

The Panthers finished second to last in the NHL last season with 66 points. They have not won a playoff series since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996.

Brian Skrudland, who was an assistant coach last season, will return to his role as director of player development for Florida.

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