Count Brian Campbell among those shocked to learn of Gerard Gallant’s firing in Florida.
“Surprise. Probably a lot like everyone else, it seems, was pretty surprised at what happened,” the former Florida defenseman told reporters Monday in Chicago, where his Blackhawks will host the Panthers tonight.
“Gerard’s a great guy. I liked him. I thought he did a good job there. So yeah, I was surprised, shocked. I don’t know what else to say.”
Campbell played two seasons under Gallant, including last season when the Panthers finished with 103 points and Gallant was a finalist for coach of the year.
But as we’ve come to learn, Gallant did not see eye-to-eye with management on certain fundamental issues. On Monday, interim coach Tom Rowe spoke of a “philosophical divide” that existed between Gallant and the front office.
“We wanted to develop a team and build a team that was fast, that moved the puck quickly, attack the offensive net and pressure the puck in all three zones,” said Rowe, who will relinquish his duties as general manager to focus on coaching. “Gerard and I talked about it, he said he wanted to get a little more size. And we decided to go in a different direction.”
Rowe, 60, played 357 NHL games as a forward. He’s also been a head coach in the AHL and KHL, and an assistant coach for three seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes. So it’s not like he lacks experience.
But it remains to be seen how the Panthers will respond to the coaching change. Based on Campbell’s remarks, Gallant was a popular figure among his former players. Can Rowe get better results? He’s well aware that he needs to deliver.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to get this team on track. We think we have a very good team,” Rowe said, per the Sun-Sentinel. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity. We got great hockey players and I think anybody would be excited about the opportunity. I know what’s at stake. I know the money that’s been spent on this team; I know the commitment from ownership to the front office, the coaches and the players.”
Welcome to the pressure of coaching in the NHL.