The Florida Panthers have reportedly made a coaching change — minutes after a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.
Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported on Twitter that Gerard Gallant has been relieved of his duties as head coach following the team’s 3-2 loss to journeyman netminder Michael Leighton and the Hurricanes.
(The initial report has since been confirmed by George Richards of the Miami Herald.)
Update: The Panthers made the move official on Monday morning.
The news comes as a surprise, not just for its timing so quickly after a game. Last season, Gallant was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award after helping guide the Panthers to their best regular season in franchise history. They lost in the first round, but their showing in the regular season set high expectations on the ice for this team moving forward.
This season? He didn’t make it to the beginning of December, with the Panthers, a team that began dealing with injury problems right away, holding a record of 11-10-1 and two points out of a Wild Card spot in the East.
To be sure, it’s a polarizing decision within the hockey community. (See: Twitter)
Tom Rowe, who was named general manager in May, will now take over as head coach.
This move follows a hectic offseason for the Panthers. There were plenty of changes and big re-signings when it came to on-ice personnel, but the franchise underwent a seismic and controversial shift with its front office and scouting department.
Gerard Gallant would never admit it (at least not before Sunday), but he hated seeing Erik Gudbranson traded. In a cap world, someone had to go. Losing him and Willie Mitchell changed the complexion of the blue line. Gallant valued Gudbranson’s game, how hard he could make it on opposing forwards. But Florida’s front office values a different kind of defender, and with one season remaining until his free agency, they weren’t going to ante up for Gudbranson’s skillset.
That, as much as anything else, is why Gallant (and close friend Mike Kelly) are no longer on the Florida bench. There was plenty of anger in the NHL community over the dismissal. There were a lot of surprised and angry texts from people I rarely hear from. Gallant righted a wayward ship and won a franchise-record 47 games last season, getting them to the playoffs for the second time in 15 years.
The Panthers are on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.