According to scuttlebutt around the league, the Florida Panthers next coach will be one of the these four men: Marc Crawford, Tom Renney, Bill Peters and the subject of today's article Gerard Gallant. Let's take a quick look into the background of the man Dale Tallon could charge with leading the Cats out of the darkness.
A former NHL player with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, Gerard Gallant is currently an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens. Gallant joined the Habs for the 2012-13 campaign and has been an integral part of Michel Therrien's staff that has led the hallowed club to two-straight playoff appearances, including this year's run to the Eastern Conference final, after a postseason miss in 2011-12.
Gallant got his pro coaching start assisting Joe Paterson with the AHL's Louisville Panthers during the 1999-2000 season. In 2001-02, Gallant moved up the ladder, landing a spot as an assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets, working under the highly-respected Dave King. King was let go midway through the 2002-03 campaign, but Gallant stayed on to work under new head honcho, and former Florida coach, Doug MacLean. MacLean was fired 33 games into 2003-04 campaign and Gallant took over as Columbus' head coach and led the team to a 16-25-4 record the rest of the way. After a lost year due to the 2004-05 lockout, the Gallant-led Blue Jackets finished the 2005-06 season 35-43-4, failing to end the franchise's playoff drought. A poor 5-13-2 start to the 2006-07 campaign brought an end to Gallant era in Columbus, as he was replaced by the more-experienced Ken Hitchcock.
You can't keep a good man down for long, and Gallant next found himself on Long Island, first assisting Ted Nolan during the 2007-08 season and then his replacement, Scott Gordon the next year. In April of 2009, the chance to be a head coach again presented itself and the Prince Edward Island native took over the reins of the QMJHL's Saint John Sea Dogs. His tenure with the club was exceptional, with Saint John losing in the league final his first season before they took two-straight titles. In addition to the league wins, the Sea Dogs won the Memorial Cup in 2011. The fine work done in Saint John led the Canadiens to come calling when new coach Michel Therrien needed to fill out his staff.
With fourteen years of NHL and Major junior coaching experience under his belt, the former Red Wings and Bolts winger would be solid choice, in my opinion, to take over behind the Panthers bench. He has won it all at the junior level, has toiled in some similar tough NHL small-market stops, and recently been part of a successful turnaround by the Canadiens, a team that quickly went from missing the playoffs to being on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup. One other thing that could work in his favor is that he coached Panthers' Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau for three seasons in Saint John. In addition to his other attributes, with one of the Cats' brightest youngsters needing to bounce back, bringing in the coach who oversaw his development and got him rookie-of-the-year ready might be a pretty good idea.