The last time around, when he was fired unceremoniously by the Florida Panthers, Gerard Gallant spent 137 days as an unemployed bench boss, scooped up by the Vegas Golden Knights roughly four and a half months after he was handed his pink slip. And, hey, all said and done, that’s a fairly quick turnaround. But after his shocking firing Wednesday – he was shown the door by Vegas amid a four-game losing streak – it seems unlikely that Gallant’s current stay on the sidelines will be quite as long.
No doubt, that’s in part because of Gallant’s track record in recent years. During his time as coach of the Golden Knights, he molded the expansion franchise into a winner overnight, guiding them to the most successful expansion season in NHL history and a Stanley Cup final berth in Year One. However, a short stay on the unemployment line also appears a sure thing because the coaching carousel this season has been rotating at lightspeed and is seemingly generating enough centrifugal force to fling coaches who’ve ended up on the outs into any vacant post that has opened up. Case in point, Gallant’s replacement, Peter DeBoer, was canned by the San Jose Sharks five weeks ago. Similarly, John Hynes spent five weeks without work before he was hired by the Nashville Predators, who handed Peter Laviolette his walking papers in a corresponding move.
So, with Gallant’s phone guaranteed to be ringing at some point in the days and weeks – frankly, maybe even the hours – that follow, the question becomes one of his next destination. But where will Gallant eventually end up? There are several potential landing spots, but we’ve highlighted six likely homes for the out-of-work coach.
Full marks to interim coach Geoff Ward, who has the Flames operating better than they have all season. Calgary’s .690 points percentage is the third-highest in the league since Nov. 27, when Ward coached his first NHL contest against the Buffalo Sabres. However, barring Ward somehow guiding these Flames to the Stanley Cup, there’s every reason to believe Calgary is going to explore the options available on the coaching market at some point. If Gallant is still available when that times come, he seems as though he could be a great fit for a couple of reasons.
With the puck-driving results the Flames have proven capable of posting, the personnel seems ripe for another coach whose system is predicated on many of the same on-ice tenets former coach Bill Peters preached. Gallant desires his team to play a similar style, though faster paced. Speaking of which, Johnny Gaudreau playing under Gallant is intriguing. All speed and skill, Gaudreau, who is struggling this season, could flourish with the right coach at the helm. There are plenty of other offensive options with whom Gallant could work some magic, too.
After the 2019-20 campaign, current Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton will have one season remaining on his pact. Given the results he’s produced through the first 114 games of his tenure in Chicago, however, it seems difficult to imagine him sticking around for the long haul or even beyond next season. But his potential sitting-duck status goes beyond the years left on his deal. Not only has the Blackhawks’ defensive zone performance been ghastly – admittedly, that also reflects poorly on the blueline GM Stan Bowman has assembled – but Colliton’s clubs have thus far been middling and nothing more. His 51-48-6 record won’t cut it for an organization that grew used to post-season action and hasn’t seen the playoffs in what will surely be three seasons.
That’s where Gallant comes in. With a far-less talented group in Florida, he was able to coach the Panthers into the playoffs. In Vegas, he was able to pull the most out of several castoffs who came to the Golden Knights and prospered. Given the high-end skill players and the rough-around-the-edges types on the Blackhawks roster, Gallant might have what it takes to turn the team into a winner again. If nothing else, one imagines Chicago would be far more competitive – and give their goaltenders far more help – than they are right now.
Much like Ward has done since taking the interim reigns in Calgary, Dallas’ Rick Bowness has had a nice start to his time as the Stars’ coach. It’s his first gig as the lead dog behind the bench in 16 years, but the 10-4-1 record is enough to suggest that there will at least be a conversation about keeping Bowness in the top job beyond the end of the season. Where that goes, who knows, but if the Stars decide that they want to go a different direction, Gallant seems as good a candidate as any.
There is another similarity between Ward’s and Bowness’ interim roles and the possibility of Gallant replacing them, as well, and that’s the potential for the more offensive-minded coach to pull more out of the premier offensive players. In Dallas, that means Tyler Seguin, of course, but also Jamie Benn. For the second season running, Benn is on pace to experience an offensive downturn, but he had some of his best years when it was run-and-gun in Dallas. If Gallant could tap into that and open up the Stars offensively, maybe Benn’s pricy deal becomes much more palatable.
DETROIT RED WINGS
No coach is in a position as unenviable as Jeff Blashill. Granted, he hasn’t done much to save his own skin and the Red Wings are on pace to post some genuinely awful and potentially era-worst numbers, but it’s hard not to feel for a coach who has to know he’s all but certain to get the axe at season’s end.
That said, there’s no team on this list where Gallant’s hiring makes as much sense as it does in Detroit. Consider the following: of the 615 games Gallant played in the NHL, 563 were spent with the Red Wings. Every single one of his seasons in Detroit, too, was spent alongside Steve Yzerman, who just so happens to be the Red Wings GM. Connect those dots and there’s every reason to believe Detroit, who are going to be in need of a new coach in the near future, will put in a call to Gallant.
Removing the former-player-comes-home narrative from things, though, there’s legitimate reason why Gallant would be a quality hire. Again, he’s done well with other team’s castoffs and he could get the most out of some of the faces in Detroit. He has also got plenty of experience coaching young players. He won two CHL Coach of the Year awards, two QMJHL titles and a Memorial Cup.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Since stepping behind the Devils bench in the wake of Hynes’ firing, Alain Nasreddine has done what he can to get New Jersey back on track. Unfortunately, an 8-9-3 record isn’t quite enough to right the ship and the Devils are beyond the point of no return. This is a lost season, and given that Ray Shero is out as GM and Tom Fitzgerald is in – on an interim basis, for the time being, but with potential to stick around long term – you can be near certain that a coaching change is on the horizon.
However, what will be difficult for the Devils, particularly if Gallant has multiple suitors, is persuading him to take over a team that is set for a potential rebuild. After dealing away Taylor Hall and spending another year in the basement, New Jersey is likely to sell at the deadline and acquire picks and prospects. That means it’s likely they’re set to spend another few seasons outside the playoff picture as they look to establish a foundation upon which a winner can be built. Gallant is coming from an organization where he was coaching a Cup contender. That wouldn’t be the case for some time with the Devils.
Seattle will have a number of qualified and experienced coaches from which to choose, but there’s only one bench boss who is going to know what it’s like to build a winner from the ground up under the current expansion rules. Gallant’s understanding of the process and his insight into what an expansion club needs to win could be invaluable. Of course, Ron Francis and Co. in Seattle will already have a plan in place and maybe even a coaching hire in mind, but Gallant’s free agency will surely be cause for a conversation.
Given the way Francis built his former team in Carolina, too, it seems a philosophical fit. Gallant, as noted, coaches a possession-heavy style and system, and that gels with the way the Hurricanes played during Francis’ tenure. Coaches and GMs work best when they work in tandem, and Francis and Gallant could be a high-quality duo.
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