After seven years, Gerard Gallant will again be in charge of an NHL bench. The former Columbus Blue Jackets head coach was hired by the Florida Panthers for their open head coaching job, the team announced on Saturday afternoon. The team will introduce Gallant at a press conference on Monday morning.
"We are pleased to welcome Gerard as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers," said team general manager Dale Tallon in a 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 has been an assistant coach in Montreal since 2012, and prior to that he was a wildly successful head coach with the QMJHL's Saint John Sea Dogs. Gallant led the Sea Dogs to a first-place finish in all three seasons he was their head coach. They made the QMJHL final each year as well, winning the league title twice and the Memorial Cup once. More importantly, he coached current Florida forward Jonathan Huberdeau in Saint John, and the idea is that Gallant's guiding hand will again help the young star at the NHL level.
Gallant coached the Blue Jackets on two different occasions, first in 2003-04 and again from 2005-07. He was an assistant coach with Columbus and with the New York Islanders, as well as with several other minor league and junior teams.
It seemed to come down to a decision between recently-fired Pittsburgh Penguins boss Dan Bylsma and Gallant. Reports indicated that the Panthers were indeed talking to Bylsma about the vacancy and that there was mutual interest, but ultimately one of two things happened: either Bylsma flat-out turned it down, or he asked for too much money.
I'm told Dan Bylsma was offered Florida Panthers head coaching job, but turned it down. Gerard Gallant will be introduced Monday.— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) June 21, 2014
Happy for Gallant as that's a gig he can grow with. But seriously: that's Bylsma's job if the economics had worked for FLA— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) June 21, 2014
Now, with the Carolina Hurricanes having named Bill Peters their coach and Willie Desjardins the apparent winner in the race for the Vancouver Canucks opening, the last head coaching vacancy in the NHL is in Pittsburgh. And, well, Bylsma obviously isn't going back there. The Penguins are still paying Bylsma, though, and he's surely at the top of the list for any coaching jobs that might open up in the middle of the 2014-15 season, so he won't be out of work long.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have their man. They're certainly in rebuilding mode in Florida, and it won't be a short turnaround, but Gallant seems in for the long haul.