At the outset of his team’s offseason coaching search, Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon made it clear that he was looking for a proven leader with significant NHL experience who would be capable of taking a young, talented roster to the next level. He saw each of those characteristics and abilities in Gerard Gallant.
The Panthers officially announced the hiring of Gallant, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens, at a press conference at BB&T Center on Monday morning.
“Impeccable character, excellent integrity, unbelievable passion for the game and just an all-around good guy and a pleasure to be with,” were the words Tallon used to describe Florida’s new coach.
A veteran of 673 NHL regular season and playoff games over an 11-year playing career who has spent parts of nine NHL seasons behind the bench as a head or assistant coach, the affable Gallant (nicknamed “Turk”) is a man who immediately commands the respect of his players.
“We have great young players in our organization,” said Tallon. “We have a lot of young players that need this type of coach.”
“You know things can turn in a hurry,” said Gallant, of the Panthers’ prospects for success next season. “That is what we plan on doing [in Florida].”
In attendance at Monday’s press conference was one of the Panthers’ young stars, forward Jonathan Huberdeau. Gallant coached Huberdeau for three years (2009-2012) during his time as head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
“Jonathan is a great kid,” said Gallant, in reference to the 2012 Calder Trophy winner. “We work well together. It’s going to be fun.” Huberdeau echoed that sentiment, noting Gallant “was a great coach for me.”
Panthers fans should look forward to seeing an exciting, up-tempo style of hockey played by Gallant’s squad. As the new coach remarked: “I’d like to see our team score some goals and be an offensive hockey club.”
The Gallant Files
A True Power Forward
A left winger who spent his prime with the Detroit Red Wings, Gallant played like a prototypical NHL power forward, despite standing 5’10” and 185 pounds. His skill and gritty, two-way style of play helped wear down opponents and open up the ice for him and his linemates.
From 1986-87 to 1989-90, Gallant notched four consecutive seasons of at least 30 goals, 70 points and 200 penalty minutes, becoming the first player in NHL history to accomplish that feat. It has not since been repeated. In the 1988-89 season, Gallant recorded career highs in both goals (39) and points (93), to go along with 230 penalty minutes, and was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team.
Over the course of his 11-year NHL career, the Red Wings’ sixth round selection in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft suited up for 615 regular season games for Detroit (1984-1993) and Tampa Bay (1993-1995), registering 480 points (211-269-480) while amassing 1,674 penalty minutes.
Behind the Bench in the Q: From Sea Dogs to Cats
On April 24, 2009, Gallant was named head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). During his three seasons with the New Brunswick, Canada based Sea Dogs, Gallant’s squads embodied his aggressive, up-tempo coaching approach. Under his leadership, Saint John set a QMHJL record, becoming the first team ever to have three consecutive 100-point seasons. The team reached the QMJHL final in each of those seasons, twice winning the title. In 2010-2011, the Sea Dogs became the first team from Atlantic Canada to win the Memorial Cup, awarded to the CHL champion. Over his three seasons in Saint John, Gallant’s team amassed a dominant record of 161-34-9.
In 2009-10 and 2010-11, Gallant won both QMJHL and CHL Coach of the Year Honors. In being named CHL Coach of the Year, Gallant joined a fraternity that includes two men who each would go on to win the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach: Alain Vigneault (Hull Olympiques/Vancouver Canucks) and Ken Hitchcock (Kamloops Blazers/St. Louis Blues).
Gallant’s Sea Dogs were led on the ice by a young left-winger from Saint-Jerome, Quebec named Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau thrived in Gallant’s system, putting up 105 points in 67 games in the 2010-2011 Memorial Cup winning season, and 72 points in just 37 games in 2011-12. The Panthers’ third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Huberdeau would make the jump to the NHL prior to the 2012-13 season, and win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie.
After his third 100-point season with the Sea Dogs, Gallant accepted an offer to join the Montreal Canadiens as an assistant coach on June 15, 2012 after the team failed to make the playoffs in the 2011-12 season. Working as part of head coach Michel Therrien’s staff, Gallant helped guide the Canadiens to a division title and second seed in the Eastern Conference in 2012-13, as the team posted a mark of 29-14-15. Relying on a cast of young players including Alexander Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and PK Subban, the Canadiens would hit the 100-point mark in the 2013-14 season and advance all the way to the Eastern Conference Final.
In addition to the Canadiens, Gallant spent parts of five seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets as assistant coach (2001-03) and head coach (2004-06), as well as two seasons as an assistant coach of the New York Islanders.
The Gallant signing kicks off a busy week for Florida as the team holds the number one overall selection in Friday’s NHL Draft.