After what some expected to be an awakening for the Florida Panthers, former head coach Gerard Gallant’s dismissal has only resulted in disarray and losses for the south Florida team. Gallant was fired nearly three weeks ago after a devastating loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in which the Panthers let their third-year coach go before he could even return to Sunrise.
He was one of the front office changes that occurred, the other notable one being the firing of former President of Hockey Operations for Florida, Dave Tallon. “Gallant was Tallon’s hire. Tallon was given an unceremonious kick upstairs. It doesn’t take analytics to do that math”, said Greg Wyshynski, journalist for Yahoo Sports.
Tom Rowe, the former AHL (American Hockey League) coach and Panthers general manager took Gallant’s place behind the bench. At first, people were hopeful, as Rowe’s first game went into overtime, restricting the Chicago Blackhawks, one of the NHL’s most explosive teams, to only one goal before the Blackhawks eventually scored again and won the game.
Hope swelled up as, on Dec. 1, the “Cats” forced yet another game into overtime, however actually winning this one, 2-1 against the Detroit Red Wings. According to Dave Hogg, correspondent for the NHL website, Aleksander Barkov brought victory to Rowe’s Panthers with the overtime goal, bringing Rowe’s NHL record to 1-0-1 (the first number being wins, the second number being regulation losses, and the third being overtime or shootout losses).
This generated optimism for fans and players alike. Derek MacKenzie, Florida captain, said, “It was big to get him his first win. Hopefully we’ll get him many more.”
The expectations of achievement and being able to defensively stop a team have not matched up with reality. In the eight games since Gallant’s firing, out of a possible 16 points, the team earned only seven, three of which came from overtime losses (out of four overtime games), and two came from wins, giving them a 2-3-3 record since Rowe’s promotion on Nov. 28.
Every week, Bleacher Report releases Power Rankings that analyze all 30 teams of the National Hockey League and place them into a ranking based on their performances. In week 8, which was published on the day of Gallant’s firing, the Panthers were ranked number 17, in the average range.
Fast forward two weeks later, to Dec. 12, and the Panthers have descended the rankings to number 19, which may not seem all that bad, but demonstrates an obvious regression. The week 10 power rankings also do not include a pitiful 5-1 loss against Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild.
With the turmoil and confusion that arose within the team’s front office, it is no wonder that the Panthers have been experiencing troubles on the ice. The team has stuttered to 13-13-4 record, fifth place in the Atlantic Division, barely ahead of the Detroit Red Wings, and the injuries and diminishing attendance certainly don’t help the team’s performance.
However, Rowe may be able to find a way to launch the “Cats” into the playoffs with a little more than half the season remaining.