The Florida Panthers have named Hal Gill as Manager of Player Development, where he will work under the tutelage of current Director of Player Development Bryan McCabe. What exactly this role will entail was explained by Dale Tallon as follows:
Gill will work closely with newly-appointed Director of Player Development Bryan McCabe in monitoring the progress and development of the organization’s prospects.
Gill was interviewed on XM-Home Ice, the NHL's satellite radio network, where he explained that he will be based out of his home in Boston, but will travel frequently to the Panthers new AHL-level home in Portland, Maine. With goalie prospect Colin Stevens currently stationed in Manchester, New Hampshire, with the ECHL Monarchs, Gil will be stopping by there as well.
He will also monitor the team's NCAA players, such as defenseman Ian McCoshen, who is playing in Beantown at Boston College. Hal explained that he had seen Panthers defensive prospect Ed Wittchow come through town with the University of Wisconsin as well. Gill is also well positioned to monitor some of the Cats youngest prospects such as forward Patrick Shea, who is spending this season at Kimball-Union Academy, in New Hampshire before attending the University of Maine. The Cats new Manager of Player Development will hit the road to spend time with the Panthers' multitude of widely spaced prospects around North America and Europe throughout the winter.
Obviously, Gill never played for Florida, and lives in New England, so his hiring by the Panthers came as a bit of a surprise. The newest member of our development team explained that he had been coaching high school hockey and looking around for what comes after NHL retirement for a 40-year old, when he spoke with old friend McCabe. McCabe ultimately got him the position with the Cats. Some Panther fans may recall that McCabe once held Gill's new role while working for Brian Skrudland, who was then the Director of Player Development.
At 6'7" and 240 lbs, Gill was never known as an offensive threat. His role was always that of a shutdown defenseman who could bring the pain when needed. Gill was bought out of his contract with Nashville in 2013, but made the Philadelphia Flyers after a PTO brought him to training camp before the 2013-14 season. He played only six games for the Flyers before calling it a career.
Gill brings with him 1,108 regular season NHL games, played for six different teams, where he recorded 184 career points and 962 penalty minutes before his retirement in 2014. He also won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009, and a bronze medal with Team USA at the IIHF World Championships in 2004. What makes the towering former defenseman perfectly suited for this new role with the Panthers? We're glad you asked.
Hal was drafted in the 8th round of the 1993 NHL draft, 207th overall, just as the Concord, Massachusetts native was preparing to travel south to attend Providence College. He would go on to play four seasons for the Friars, helping them win a Hockey East Conference Tournament Championship in 1996. Amazingly, after graduating from Providence in 1997, Gill played only four AHL games for Providence before being called up to Boston. Gill would never return to the AHL after that first season, where he played 68 NHL games for the Bruins.
Asked on the radio how he had gone from 8th round draft pick, 207th overall, to a 16-year NHL career, with only a handful of AHL games, Gill answered that college hockey is a great place to learn what your role is. As he stated, virtually all players in the NHL were standouts as peewees and bantams. They could all score, skate end-to-end through opponents, and put the biscuit in the basket. Yet, as players aged and the competition became stiffer, they learned that the vast majority would never make the NHL as offensive powerhouses. Gill unequivocally stated that it was at Providence College that he learned how to play stalwart defense, and it was that role he would excel at. It was in NCAA hockey that he discovered his role, and worked tirelessly to become good at it. It was in college, he stated, that he learned how to train, practice, and think the game in a manner which got him to the next level. As the radio hosts pointed out, the NCAA has become more and more of a feeder that provides undrafted or late round draft picks to the NHL who matured late to become great NHL players. This list includes the Panthers own Willie Mitchell, who was also drafted in the 8th round, 199th overall, and played two years at Clarkson University before his professional career.
It is great to have Gill come aboard in his new role, as he brings that thought process with him: there are hidden gems to be developed late in the draft if those players follow the right path and discover their NHL calling. Who better to assist them in that transformation than a man who followed the same path and earned a long and fruitful NHL career? As Gill stated, he can help even a smaller player like Rocco Grimaldi, as he can relate what the best undersized players did to beat him during his career. A big LBC welcome to the newest member of the player development team, and we are confident we are not alone in wishing him success!