Pick of the litter: Panthers hire Gerard Gallant as coach

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The Florida Panthers have found their man to lead the team.

The team announced they’ve hired Gerard Gallant to be the new head coach. He was an assistant coach for Michel Therrien with the Montreal Canadiens the past two seasons and is a former Columbus Blue Jackets head coach.

Panthers GM Dale Tallon had glowing words for Gallant in the team’s press release.

“We are pleased to welcome Gerard as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers,” said Tallon. “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.”

The Panthers chose Gallant out of a field of hopefuls that included recent Carolina Hurricanes hire Bill Peters, former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, and former Stanley Cup winner Marc Crawford among others. Crawford just verbally agreed to return to his job in Switzerland.

Gallant has a lot of experience behind the bench as both an assistant and a head coach.

He worked as an assistant for three seasons in Columbus before ascending to the top job for parts of three more seasons. He’s also been an assistant with the New York Islanders as well as the Habs.

More importantly for the current Panthers roster, he was head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL and led them to back-to-back Memorial Cup titles. His best player on those teams? Panthers young stud forward Jonathan Huberdeau.

Gallant has a very young roster to work with in Florida headed up by Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Erik Gudbranson. He’ll have his hands full in getting this green team together and trying to get back to the playoffs.

The team will formally introduce Gallant at a press conference on Monday.