Florida Panthers: Gerard Gallant, his Panthers tenure and the top Knights

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 29: Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant watches during an NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres at the KeyBank Center on October 29, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. Buffalo won, 3-0. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 29: Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant watches during an NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres at the KeyBank Center on October 29, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. Buffalo won, 3-0. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images) /

A glance at the Las Vegas Golden Knights position in the standings can be tough to swallow for many Florida Panthers fans.

For the basis of this piece, I will break down the Golden Knights coaching staff namely Head Coach Gerard Gallant. I wanted to delve into all Vegas angles related to the Panthers, but I quickly discovered I had plenty on Gallant alone…maybe I’ll write a future article breaking down my takes on Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, because their performances this year alone deserve exclusive attention.

Firstly, Panthers fans can come to a consensus at least on Mike Kelly (currently an assistant coach for the Golden Knights). Kelly, who was jettisoned out-of-town last year alongside Gallant, was well past his expiry date with the Panthers due to his mismanagement of a futile Panthers power play during his entire tenure in Panther land.

One can’t argue with Gallant’s success rate early on in Florida and now with Vegas. A division title with the Panthers in 2015-16, and another possibly this year with the Golden Knights, along with a likely unanimous coach of the year award this season.

The Summerside, Prince Edward Island native has an innate ability to rally a patchwork roster filled with young players sprinkled with seasoned veterans (most often with Stanley Cup experience).

Gallant can relate to today’s athlete at a very basic human understanding level, and get them to perform at a very high level. That is half the battle when it comes to coaching in today’s era. Arguably, no one has mastered that more than Gallant.

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Sure, it’s easy to say that Gallant shouldn’t have been fired on that fateful night in Carolina (of note: Jonathan Huberdeau devastating pre-season Achilles injury while the Florida Panthers scratched to a 11-10-1 start last year).

The expectations inside and even outside the organization from winning the Atlantic division the year prior was going to be an uphill climb anyways moving forward for a franchise that lacked perennial success.

Now to play devil’s advocate, very few individuals still know the full story on Gallant’s firing. A huge part to the story that the hockey media and fans fail to acknowledge when dramatically expressing their version of said story was the following:

  • Gallant simply didn’t mesh well with current management’s direction (on/off the ice)
  • Nepotism involving Tom Rowe and other management partners quickly moving up the ladder
  • Gallant’s insistent on his roster style/system versus management trending towards a fast, up-tempo puck moving style system

All of those factors plus others that the general public are still not aware of could’ve easily played a factor in Gallant’s abrupt dismissal. Those who say none of those points should be reason enough for his firing can stand on that hill. It’s a crowded hill after all!

There comes a time when a fan base has to move on. Coaches are often fired in today’s era for a multitude of reasons. You, as a fan are not always going to be a big fan of every coach that is leading your team.

Case in point, Gallant bothered me in numerous areas while behind the Panthers bench:

  • His soft-like-butter approach in post game interviews after a lackluster performance by his team. Where did the fire go that was just being unleashed towards the referee’s just one hour earlier? His non-transparency statements to the media really irked me.
  • Gallant lack of x’s and o’s details… we’ll just outwork em’. How long does that approach work for?
  • His quick trigger doghouse benching of Connor Brickley and Quinton Howden (energy guys).
  • Well below par special teams that was never corrected under his tenure. The talent was there at different points to potentially dominate in one facet of special teams or the other.

I really thought the Golden Knights were capable of 10th-12th place in the Western Conference to start the season. I knew what attributes Gallant was bringing over from the Panthers, and that work ethic would be a key characteristic of his club on a nightly basis. They have even blown away my fairly lofty expectations this season.

Next: Analyzing the impact of Evgeni Dadonov

Sure, the job Gallant is doing is beyond admirable and should be heavily applauded, but let’s see how he and his club deliver in the playoffs and the following season before he is anointed as one of the top coaches in the game today.