The list of candidates for the head coaching job with the Florida Panthers became longer Monday when General Manager Dale Tallon received approval from the Montreal Canadiens to speak with assistant coach Gerard Gallant. Gallant, like Tallon, is a former player having played in 615 regular season games, and 58 playoff games in the NHL. Gallant has coaching experience at many different levels, having coached in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, as well as serving as both an assistant and head coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders (assistant) and Montreal Canadiens (assistant).
Gallant spent seven years with the Blue Jackets – two of them as their head coach, where he compiled a 56-76-4-6 record in 142 games with a very mediocre roster. While he didn’t find much success in Columbus, he was very successful in the QMJHL, guiding the Saint John Sea Dogs to three first place finishes, three league final appearances, two QMJHL championships and one Memorial Cup.
As a player, Gallant spent his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings, and played one game for the Tampa Bay Lightning. One reason that Tallon is likely interested in Gallant is that he’s hopeful he can transform his style of play into the style of play for the Florida Panthers. Gallant played much bigger than his 5′ 10′” frame, scoring 211 goals, adding 269 assists for a combined 480 points. Gallant scored 30 or more goals in four consecutive seasons for the Red Wings, and as I remember him, was a pain in the rear to play against.
Gallant played with snarl despite his lack of size, and was never afraid to mix it up, as he served over 1,600 penalty minutes during his career. He could bring a toughness behind the bench, an element that the Panthers desperately need, thus making him an attractive potential choice.
Another reason Gallant is getting an opportunity for the opening is that he coached Panther forward Jonathan Huberdeau in juniors. Huberdeau scored 177 points in 104 games with Gallant as his coach, and after last year’s sophomore slump, Gallant may be the right choice to inject some confidence back into the young and promising forward.
The question remains however does Gallant have enough of the coaching experience at the NHL level that Dale Tallon is looking for? Tallon obviously is searching for a successful coach who has won, who has a philosophy that fits what the organization wants, and a coach that is not only good with veterans, but is good with young players as well. The development of the youth on this team is imperitive to any success this organization is going to have.
With the draft coming closer, and the Stanley Cup Final beginning on Wednesday, the time to make the announcement is almost here. Most major news items don’t come during the Cup Final, yet one wouldn’t be surprised if during an off day during the series, the Panthers steal the headlines.
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