I’m kinda late on this, but it’s not like anybody reads what I write here anyhow.
This past Saturday, Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon announced his hiring of Gerard Gallant as the club’s Head Coach, intending to insert the Canadian tactician behind the bench for the upcoming campaign. Having bounced around on the NHL coaching circuit, Gallant-a former sixth-round selection and alternate captain of the Detroit Red Wings-most recently served as Michel Therrien’s assistant in Montreal, also logging time with the Islanders. In terms of technical experience at the game’s highest level-a crucial prerequisite vocalized by Tallon during the Cats’ search-the former NHL All Star Second Teamer manned the helm of the Columbus Blue Jackets for parts of three seasons, leading an otherwise sh***y team to 56 wins in 142 games before being fired in favor of some dude named Ken Hitchcock.
A tidbit worthy of note, Gallant accrued time as a Major Junior coach during the 2009-2012 seasons, hopping aboard the St. John’s Seas Dogs in the QMJHL. His time there proved fruitful; leading the New Brunswick-based hockey club to three first-place finishes, three league final appearances, two QMJHL championships and one Memorial Cup, his successful stint at the Harbour Station proved to be his springboard back into the NHL. During this time, Gallant mentored a then-budding superstar by the name of Jonathan Huberdeau, the very same playmaking wizard that would go on to take the NHL by storm, seize the Calder Memorial Trophy, and then proceed to effectively disappear in a sophomore slump marred by the lingering effects of offseason hip surgery.
One would hope that being reunited with his former coach could spark Huberdeau back into form; the spry left-winger is evidently over-the-moon about the hire, citing the influence that Gallant had on his game during his junior years. The puck cannot stop there, however; a coach can’t be hired solely to please a slumping young star. The self-described offensive coach has been painted as a “teacher and a motivator” by Dale Tallon, and as “a guy who is intense and into the game…who keeps you up throughout the game” by the aforementioned #11. Thank God for small favors, because save for 29 games during the entire season it looked like the dam team left to go buy hot dogs and beer during the first two periods of play.
From what I’ve seen on social media, reviews on the hire range from cautious optimism to absolute Hulk-like bouts of rage; however, if Gerard Gallant truly fits the bill-if he is everything Tallon and Huberdeau crack him up to be, if he can motivate a roster who’s leaders never led-the Panthers may finally have found a winner.