The Florida Panthers’ search for their next coach won’t officially begin until the end of the 2016 campaign.
After the shocking firing of Gerard Gallant on Sunday evening, a move the Panthers made official Monday, the team has stated that GM Tom Rowe will, as previously reported, serve as Gallant’s replacement. Rowe will remain behind Florida’s bench for the duration of the 2016-17 campaign on an interim basis. It also leaves the door open for him to remain the coach beyond this season.
For Rowe, it marks a remarkably fast climb through the franchise.
He served as the club’s AHL coach, first with the San Antonio Rampage and subsequently with the Portland Pirates, from Nov. 8, 2013 until Jan. 1, 2016. He relinquished his coaching duties on Jan. 1, 2016, however, as he accepted a promotion, mid-season, to an associate GM role with the Panthers. He was promoted to GM -- taking the reins from Dale Tallon, who is now the team’s president of hockey operations -- during Florida’s off-season front office shuffle that caught some by surprise, and now Rowe becomes the dual GM/coach of the club.
However, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the GM duties will mostly fall by the wayside as Rowe steps behind the bench. Current assistant GMs Eric Joyce and Steve Werier will likely take on the GM duties from here on out with the aid of Tallon, and Rowe said in a release that he’s dedicated to his duties as coach for the time being.
"My focus is solely on turning our season around, fixing our special teams and securing a playoff berth," Rowe said.
When it comes to the firing of Gallant and assistant coach Mike Kelly, Panthers owner Vincent J. Viola said it was a move made because the team believes “new leadership” is necessary to pave the way for the franchise’s second-straight playoff berth.
Gallant led the Cats to their first post-season appearance since 2011-12, which was Florida’s second trip to the playoffs in 15 years, and Gallant’s Panthers posted the best season in franchise history by accumulating 103 points with a 47-26-9 record in 2015-16. The Panthers were 11-10-1 to start the current campaign.
"Today is a hard day,” Tallon said. “Gerard and Mike are good men and talented hockey coaches. We thank them for their contributions in the community, for their work developing our young players and in helping to turn around the culture.”
Rowe steps into the Panthers’ coaching gig with no prior experience as an NHL head coach, but he does have experience behind an NHL bench as part of Paul Maurice’s staff with the Carolina Hurricanes from 2008-09 to 2010-11. He remained with the Hurricanes in 2011-12 as a scout before moving on to coach the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in 2012-13.
Over the course of his coaching career in the AHL, Rowe posted a 218-165-43 record. His best season came in 2004-05 with the Lowell Lock Monsters, whom he led to the second round of the post-season.
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