The last three Florida Panthers head coaches arrived on the job with no NHL head coaching experience, so naturally, after running through that trio in just four years, GM Dale Tallon listed experience as a major priority this time around. That in mind, all signs pointed to the recently-ousted Dan Bylsma.
Save dollar signs, of course, which is why the cash-strapped Panthers went in a different direction, announcing Saturday that Gerard Gallant would be the 13th head coach of the franchise. From the Panthers:
“We are pleased to welcome Gerard as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers,” said Dale Tallon, in a release. “He is an individual with tremendous character, integrity and a strong passion for the game and has experience as an NHL head coach. Gerard is an excellent teacher and motivator who possesses the leadership qualities and hockey knowledge that are necessary to lead our team.”
Note that Tallon stressed Gallant's experience, just to underscore that the Panthers may have gone with the discount option, but they still found what they were looking for.
Gallant has some previous experience coaching at this level. He was the head coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets for the better part of three years, and for the past two years, he's been serving as an assistant coach for the Montreal Canadiens, who, you'll recall, did quite well this postseason.
His time with the Saint John Sea Dogs seems pertinent as well, and not just because they won two QMJHL championships under Gallant's leadership, but because they were led on the ice by Jonathan Huberdeau, who now plies his trade for the Panthers. It's a reunion!
And it couldn't come at a better time. After winnning the Calder trophy in his first season, Huberdeau fell victim to the sophomore slump, posted just 28 points in 69 games last season. But Gallant seems to know how to get the best out of Huberdeau. If he can do that, then this hire will be worth it.
If he can't, however, people are going to talk, most notably about how the Panthers coveted Dan Bylsma, but didn't have the green to bring him in. With that narrative now fully in place, there's a lot riding on Gallant's success. If he doesn't work out, one has to wonder if the Panthers even have the money to be competitive.
Gallant will be formally introduced to the media on Monday.