After an extensive coaching search that began in late April, former Montreal Canadiens assistant Gerard Gallant has been named the Florida Panthers’ new head coach, the team announced today.
“We are pleased to welcome Gerard as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers,” General Manager Dale Tallon said in the team’s official press release. “He is an individual with tremendous character, integrity and a strong passion for the game and has experience as an NHL head coach. Gerard is an excellent teacher and motivator who possesses the leadership qualities and hockey knowledge that are necessary to lead our team.”
Gallant becomes the 13th head coach in franchise history, replacing interim coach Peter Horachek who was relieved of his duties on April 29.
Over nearly a two-month span, the Panthers conducted a coaching search worthy of its own reality television show as the team interviewed as many as 12 candidates before deciding on Gallant. In winning the job, Gallant beat out former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and former Avalanche coach Marc Crawford who were both considered to be finalists for the position.
Gallant, 50, formerly served as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets for parts of three seasons from 2004-06. While in Columbus, he struggled to turn the Blue Jackets from an expansion team into a contender, going 56-76-6 with four ties during his tenure.
In addition to the Blue Jackets, Gallant also has several years of experience as an assistant coach in the NHL with the New York Islanders, and most recently the Montreal Canadiens.
Prior to joining the Canadiens staff in 2012, Gallant served as a head coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Saint John Sea Dogs for three seasons. In his first season behind the Sea Dogs’ bench, he led his team to a franchise record 53 wins and 309 goals scored en route to a regular season title. Over the course of three seasons in Saint John, Gallant amassed an astounding 159-34-9 recording, including two President’s Cups and a Memorial Cup title in 2011. Furthermore, under Gallant, the Sea Dogs set a QMHJL record as they became the first team ever to have three consecutive 100-point seasons. He was named the Canadian Hockey League’s coach of the year in both 2010 and 2011.
Gallant’s first NHL job came when his close friend and former Panthers coach, Doug MacLean, hired him to serve as an assistant coach in Columbus under Dave King. When King was fired in 2003, MacLean, then the team’s president and general manager, took over coaching duties. Midway through the 2003-04 season, MacLean stepped down and promoted Gallant to the head coaching position.
After a disappointing 5-9-1 start to the 2006-07 season, Columbus decided to part ways with Gallant. He would go on to serve as an assistant with the Islanders from 2007-09 before joining the junior hockey ranks in Saint John.
On May 15, 212, Gallant joined the Montreal Canadiens coaching staff as an assistant under head coach Michael Therrien. The Canadiens would go on to make the playoffs in both of Gallant’s seasons in Montreal.
A native of Summerside, P.E.I, Gallant was selected in the sixth round, 107th overall, by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1981 NHL Draft. He would go on to play 11 seasons in the NHL, nine with Detroit from 1984-1993 and two more with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 1993-1995. In 615 NHL games, he scored 211 goals and 480 points, while also earning 1,674 PIM.
Although he may not have the extensive head coaching experience that the Panthers had initially hoped for, his considerable NHL experience both as a player and an assistant will be invaluable assets in leading the Panthers out of the gutter and into the playoffs.
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