Amid a disappointing 11-10-1 start to the season after twenty games, the Florida Panthers, the former Atlantic Division champions, have fired head coach Gerard Gallant in a somewhat surprising move.
Expectations were high for the Panthers coming into the season, marred by the fact that top players Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad went down with injuries in preseason games, out long term.
However, Panthers joint owners Vincent Viola and Doug Cifu hold a “win now” mentality with the team, aspiring to win a Stanley Cup within the next three years. The Panthers traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina on sunday to face off against the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite building up a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Panthers ultimately fell 3-2 in what appeared to be the owner’s final straw with Gallant.
The way the Panthers lost, giving up three consecutive goals, proved to be the proverbial nail in the coffin for Gallant. “We just said we were going to be making a coaching change.” General Manager Tom Rowe continues, “We didn’t go into a whole lot of detail. We just said the inconsistency of the team and we wanted to take the team in a different direction.” Rowe will take over as the head coach of the team as he formerly coached the Panthers’ minor league affiliate team, the Springfield Thunderbirds.
Gallant reportedly had multiple disagreements with team management over the summer regarding the direction of the team “There was a philosophical divide,” Rowe said. “We wanted to develop a team and build a team that was fast, that moved the puck quickly that attacked the offensive net, pressure the puck in all three zones. Gerard and I talked about it. He said he wanted to get a little more size. We decided to go in a different direction. Were we on the same page every day of the week? No … [We] had a philosophy that was different and that did weigh into the decision.”
The Panthers now sit at tenth place in the Eastern Conference, but just two points out of a playoff spot, which is why the head coaching change comes as a surprise. Gallant is a very popular coach among the hockey community, who are seemingly upset at his dismissal.
“You can’t fire a coach right after he has been nominated for coach of the year, can you? But the Panthers canned Gallant. For no justifiable reason,” said hockey pundit Pierre LeBrun. He refers to Gallant’s nomination for the coach of the year award in the preceding season.
It will be an interesting finish for the Panthers this year, with time still remaining in the season for a playoff push. The Panthers play next on Saturday, December 3rd, in Ottawa against the Senators,