Tonight the first domino in this year’s NHL coaching carousel has fallen, and it was definitely a surprising one.
The Florida Panthers suffered a 3-2 loss tonight at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. The loss comes a day after beating one of the league’s hottest teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets. So the timing is a tad puzzling as well, on the road after taking a win during back to back games against two hot teams. The math doesn’t really add up there.
Either way, Gerard Gallant is out as their head coach, while GM Tom Rowe will take over behind the bench for the time being.
The move isn’t only confusing fans, but it’s getting some scrutiny from some respected hockey minds. Here are some tweets from the night:
While most of the hockey world may think this is a bad move, I can tell you there is one group out there that is loving this news: George McPhee and the Vegas Golden Knights may have just found a perfect head coach to start their franchise. It would make sense for Gallant as well, who could take the rest of the year off (and get paid) while working with Vegas on a once in a lifetime chance to build an expansion roster.
Either way, this definitely seems like a move that was made because of some tension behind the scenes with Gallant and upper management/ownership. Not necessarily all because of the on ice product. Bob McKenzie confirmed that in his tweet, saying it was a philosophical divide between coaching and management.
It should also be noted that Florida fired one of Gallant’s assistants as well.
Last year, the NHL saw two coaches fired mid-season. Todd Richards was let go in Columbus and replaced with John Tortorella in October, the Blue Jackets continued to struggle despite the change. While the Penguins relieved Mike Johnston in early December and replaced him with AHL coach Mike Sullivan, a move that led them to the Stanley Cup.
Time will tell how this move will affect the Panthers, but based on the feelings of the players, one has reason to believe it might not turn their season around.
I don’t think the coaching moves are done in the NHL by any means, we could see another firing before the new year hits. Here are some NHL bench bosses currently sitting on the hot seat:
Willie Desjardins, Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are 9-11-2 this season, and even after a hot start, have looked like a cellar dweller for the majority of the season.
Not only do they sit 3rd last in the Western Conference, but they are dead last in Goals For %. Their possession numbers are fairly average compared to the rest of the league, and their PDO is super low (96.81), so based on those metrics there is a reason to believe they may improve a little over the course of the year. But this team doesn’t come close to passing the eye test. Even though Desjardins doesn’t have the best group of players in front of him, I think it’s safe to assume he isn’t the coach of the future for the Canucks and I think it’s more of a matter of when will he be let go, not if.
Jack Capuano, New York Islanders
Only 3 coaches have currently been with the same team for longer than Capuano has been in Long Island/Brooklyn (Tippett, Julien, Quenneville). But with the way things have been going for the Islanders, you have to think change is coming.
They brought in Andrew Ladd to replace Kyle Okposo and seemed like they were a team ready to go for a long playoff run. They had a strong goalie in Jaroslav Halak, a well-rounded defense, and a fairly deep forward group. Yet things haven’t clicked as they sit dead last in the league with only 6 wins and 16 points, and it doesn’t look like they are improving.
Captain John Tavares has come out publicly to say he doesn’t want to see Capuano let go, but you have to wonder how long the team can go without someone taking some sort of heat for it? If Capuano goes I wouldn’t be surprised if GM Garth Snow is right behind him.
Glen Gulutzan, Calgary Flames
The Flames do have 21 points this year and are only 4 points out of a Pacific Division playoff spot, but you can see things aren’t exactly gelling in Calgary.
It has only been about a quarter of the season, but the Flames are in the bottom 10 in goals against and for a team that was supposed to have a loaded defense and a strong #1 goalie, that just isn’t good enough.
I would like to see the Flames give Gulutzen a little more time to try work the room, but like we learned tonight, we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, so nothing should come as a surprise with the Flames coaching situation.
Have a coach you think will be next? Let us know on twitter @BelowTheIce or on Facebook!