Gerard Gallant’s QMJHL Success Bodes Well for Panthers’ Future

After an extensive coaching search that began in late April, former Montreal Canadiens assistant Gerard Gallant has been named the Florida Panthers’ new head coach, the team announced today.

“We are pleased to welcome Gerard as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers,” General Manager Dale Tallon said in the team’s official press release. “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.”

Gallant becomes the 13th head coach in franchise history, replacing interim coach Peter Horachek who was relieved of his duties on April 29.

Over nearly a two-month span, the Panthers conducted a coaching search worthy of its own reality television show as the team interviewed as many as 12 candidates before deciding on Gallant. In winning the job, Gallant beat out former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and former Avalanche coach Marc Crawford who were both considered to be finalists for the position.

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Lyle Kossis: Why Dan Bylsma Would be the Perfect Coach for the Panthers

Editor’s Note: Lyle Kossis of Pensburgh took the time to write why he believes Dan Bylsma, former head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, would be an ideal fit for the Florida Panthers vacant coaching position. Be sure to follow Lyle on twitter: @LyleKossis

News broke this week that Dan Bylsma interviewed for the head coaching job with the Florida Panthers.  Dale Tallon was quoted as saying that Bylsma “interviewed strong,” and that he was being seriously considered for the job.  With Bylsma so close to the head coaching job in Florida, I’d like to take a look at why he makes sense for the Panthers.

When Bylsma took over the Penguins in 2009, they had just come off a Stanley Cup Final appearance and had expectations to win the Cup that year.  The problem was that Michel Therrien—seemingly against all odds—had coached a team led by Crosby and Malkin to 10th place in the Eastern Conference.  That put them outside the playoff picture and in a position that was unacceptable to management.  So they took extreme action and fired Therrien (a coach they just signed to a three-year deal) and replaced him with Bylsma.

One of the best things Bylsma did is that he made wholesale changes to the system and got the players to buy in almost overnight.  One of the ways we can tell this is by looking at the team’s possession totals.  In 2007-2008 under Therrien, the Penguins were one of the worst possession teams in the league, sporting a 46.51% FF in score-close situations, which bested only three other teams.  The Penguins went on their playoff run thanks to hot goaltending and high shooting percentages, but the problem persisted the following year.  The Penguins were again an awful possession team under Michel Therrien in 2009, and they were drowning because the percentages didn’t break in their favor.

Bylsma’s changes were extreme—as were the results.  As Nick Emptage has noted, in “terms of increasing puck possession, the best coaching changes since 2007 would be Michel Therrien to Dan Bylsma in Pittsburgh (46.3% Fenwick Close to 52.6%).”  To put those numbers in different terms, a 46.3% Fenwick Close would place the Penguins among the five worst teams in the league that year; their jump under Bylsma to nearly 53% would place them comfortably in the top six.

Aside from getting his message through quickly and winning the Stanley Cup (no big deal), Bylsma instituted a system that saw the Penguins routinely finish among the elite teams in terms of puck possession.  They maintained this superiority through 2011-2012, coming back down to Earth in the lockout-shortened season when the team had to adjust to life without Jordan Staal.  But this year they were back on the right track in terms of puck possession until the team went on a historic run of injuries.

Some Panthers fans could worry that Bylsma only looked like a good coach because he got to coach elite talent.  But in 2010-2011, the Penguins lost Crosby and Malkin for the second half of the regular season and had neither of them in the playoffs.  Yet the Penguins still finished the year as a really good possession team, and finished 4th in the conference in terms of playoff seeding.  The Penguins were also victimized by injuries in 2012 and 2014, but that never stopped Bylsma’s team from qualifying for the playoffs.  Apart from Crosby and Malkin, Bylsma knew what he was doing.

The Panthers have elite talent of their own, of course. With Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Jonathan Huberdeau, Bylsma will have plenty of players to shape as time goes on.  The mandate will no doubt be to turn this team (and those players) into possession monsters who can start reliably out-scoring and out-possessing the opposition.  Fortunately, Bylsma seems to get through to the young guys.  Early on his tenure with the Penguins, Bylsma was known as a high-energy guy, a persona which meshes well with young talent.  That article quoted Jordan Staal as saying that “[e]very morning it seems like [Bylsma’s] got about 10 cups of coffee in him. He’s an exciting guy to meet in the morning.”  Staal had more to say:

“I’m usually not a morning guy, but with him, every day seems like a new day and there’s something new to learn. He takes ownership to do that and get everyone else on the same page and be excited about learning and getting better. It’s exciting to drive to the rink and know that’s what you’re coming to.”

The ideal scenario for the Panthers is that this level of enthusiasm carries over and begins to permeate a team that has not found themselves in playoff contention as often as they would have liked. With young players on their roster—a la Jordan Staal in 2010—the potential is there for Bylsma’s message to get through.

Some folks might still be apprehensive because Bylsma was fired, and the lingering question would be: why hire a coach who just failed?  I don’t think that that should be a concern.  Bylsma is not a toxic former coach like John Tortorella, who seems to destroy the offensive potential of his teams and bring the Rangers (and now the Canucks) clearly out of contender status.  I think that Bylsma was largely a victim of a less than ideal roster and practically unattainable expectations in Pittsburgh.

Those issues are less of a concern in Florida, though, which means the scene is set for the Panthers to become a force in the Eastern Conference.  If they select Bylsma as their next head coach, they’ll be well on their way.

Dan Bylsma Watch: Panthers Interview Former Penguins Head Coach

As soon as the Pittsburgh Penguins announced the hiring of new General Manager Jim Rutherford, all eyes and ears of Panthers faithful were waiting for the inevitable news that Dan Bylsma has been relieved of his coaching duties.

For days, it has been rumored that the Florida Panthers may have interest in the Stanley Cup winning coach and the winningest coach in Penguins history. Since day 3 of his firing, Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel reported that Tallon reached out to Bylsma.

Here we are on day 6, and Darren Dreger finally confirmed what most of you had hoped for.

Whether it’s Bylsma, Marc Crawford, Gerard Gallant or Ron Wilson, if all goes well, look for the Panthers to announce their new head coach sooner rather than later.

 

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Who Is The Right Coach For The Florida Panthers?

Good things come to those who wait.  Haste makes waste.  One of those two phrases will come into play here with the Florida Panthers as their search for a head coach continues. As of Friday, we learned that general manager Dale Tallon has interviewed as many as 10 candidates for the head coaching position with Gerard Gallant and Ron Wilson being the most recent. Now that Dan Bylsma has been let go by the Pittsburgh Penguins, it is believed that Dale is, or has already reached out to him. Adding Bylsma and Wilson to an already long list of candidates shows that Tallon is doing his due diligence in his search for the right man to lead this team. Even assistant coach John Madden has a remote chance for the opening. That being said, who really is the right man for the job?  And will this extensive and thorough search prove to be a valid one?

Without naming names at this juncture we can all state our wishes for the type of coach we think is a good fit.  Everyone knows that the previous three coaches had no NHL experience.  Peter DeBoer, Kevin Dineen and Peter Horachek all had some success at levels below the NHL, but unfortunately that success never really translated to the big league.  The last Panther head coach who had experience was Jacques Martin who did so well as a head coach he was fired, only then to be hired as the GM.  All that manuever did was prolong the tailspin the organization was in.  That ownership group is long gone, and new owner Vincent Viola is here now to right all those wrongs and put a winner together.

Yet South Florida hasn’t been a great market to attract coaches recently, and many of the one’s available seem to have some skeletons in the closet, which isn’t uncommon.  That includes Marc Crawford, Ron Wilson, Gerard Gallant, and even Bylsma. However as we all know, most coaches have a short shelf life, unless your name is Barry Trotz, who was apparently the only choice for the Washington Capitals.  While each of the aforementioned names, as well as some others have done well at various levels, the next choice must be the right choice.

We can give a Gallant a second chance, or a Bill Peters a first chance.  These are two names who’ve been successful in the minors, but not at the NHL level, or haven’t had an opportunity yet.  No offence to either candidate, but haven’t the Panthers done enough of that? Men like Crawford and Bylsma have won Stanley Cups and have experience, but one is well-traveled (Crawford), and the other has kinks in his armour (Bylsma). Ron Wilson has won over 600 games, but doesn’t trust young players, and has a very acerbic personality.  And let’s face it, after all is said and done, the one you want, may not want you…….

As we head into what is likely the home stretch in the decision making process it’s important to choose a coach that has the ability to take this team to the next level.  There can be no middle ground in this whatsoever.  This coach needs to be good with rookies, and young players since we have so many. He must also have the respect of the veterans who may sometimes need to be the buffer for the younger players.  This next coach must know how to win, be hungry to win again, and be able to get his players to go to the wall for him and each other, game after game.  The best examples of that are Darryl Sutter with Los Angeles and Joel Quenneville with Chicago.  They hold their players accountable, are respected, and know how to win.  They are capable of making in-game adjustments that lead to success.  Their players believe in them, and the system that they bring.  You think it’s easy to coach a team of superstars?  It’s not as easy as rolling four lines.  It takes much more than that and both Darryl and Joel have demonstrated they are more than capable of stirring the drink.

The occasional fan likes to see someone given a chance, and see a fresh face.  That’s nice and is a popular choice many times.  While the dedicated, or diehard fan wants a more stern approach with someone who will crack the whip when needed.  The Florida Panthers future is riding on this decision.  While South Florida has a lot to offer anyone as far as its weather and no state income tax, those aren’t necessarily trade offs if the team can’t produce a winner.

The team needs a leader behind the bench who offers guidance, and has experience at all levels and in all situations.

The list is short.  The margin for error is thin.  The future rides on this choice.

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankRekas

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Panther Parkway Radio: Bylsma Fired, Prospect Signings, Draft, Free Agency & More!

Tune in to tonight’s show where we discuss the biggest NHL & Florida Panthers news of the week!

Host: Paige Lewis

Guests: Jameson Cooper, Mike Lewis, and Mike Obrand

Topics

  • Dan Bylsma Fired
  • Bylsma a good fit for Florida?
  • Panthers made 5 off-season signings.
  • Panthers draft discussion
  • Dave Bolland a good fit for Florida?
  • Best free agents for Florida

New Episode Here

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Florida Panthers Coaching List Getting Slimmer

With the 2014 NHL draft less than 30 days from now, the list of candidates for the head coaching position for the Florida Panthers has grown slimmer. When this writer posted this article on April 30th, the list of potential candidates was fairly long, and the choices seemed fairly reasonable. Since that article was posted there were 13 candidates, and that list is now down to 9. And I’m not so sure that I like 50% of the names.

Barry Trotz was just hired by the Washington Capitals, with rumors that Claude Noel (never really a candidate) will come on board as an assistant. Peter Laviolette was hired earlier this month by the Nashville Predators, in hopes to revive their offensive game. Randy Carlyle was thankfully extended by the Toronto Maple Leafs. (We appreciate that very much!). Larry Robinson was named director of player development in San Jose, so he’s not going anywhere either. And finally, Ken Hitchcock was given an extension in St. Louis, which is a good thing since there aren’t nearly enough Shake Shacks in South Florida to keep him happy.

That leaves us with Guy Boucher, John Stephens, Dan Bylsma (pending new GM’s decision), Terry Murray, Ron Wilson, Marc Crawford, Jeff Blashill and Mike Keenan. Keenan just won a championship in his first season behind the bench in Russia, and he’s likely not leaving, so don’t get nervous, fans. Two other names who weren’t on that list who became available are John Tortorella, who was relieved of his duties after just one season with the Vancouver Canucks, and Kirk Muller, who was just hired by the St Louis Blues as an assistant coach.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said earlier that he’d like to hire an experienced and offensive minded coach. That almost rules out Guy Boucher, who isn’t necessarily all that experienced, and is a touch defensive minded. However he brings a no-nonsense attitude, which is something I believe this organEYEzation needs.  Hab fans were clamoring for Boucher to take over for Jacques Martin and with good reason.  Boucher does have many good qualities, and deserves another chance after a short-lived run in Tampa Bay with the Lightning.

The Panthers decision on the next coach is more important than what they do with the upcoming first round pick. Rumors are that Tallon is listening to offers, and he should, as long as it gets the team a proven NHL ready player. That said, the next coach should be the coach that is expected to take the team to the next level and not be a bridge till the youngsters grow up.

Tallon has also indicated he’d like to have John Madden stick around as an assistant, and will hopefully be able to influence the coach that he hires to do so. However, that may or may not be a condition of hiring, you’d have to think that a coach is going to want to name his own assistants.  But it’s not entirely out of the question.

The Panthers as we know need help with special teams, as last year’s roster failed miserably in both power play scoring, and penalty killing efficiency. The defense when playing 5 on 5 was below average, and the team struggled to score goals, and was consistently taking the first 20 to 25 minutes of each game to find their legs. All that said, this choice, and the person(s) who comes in will have their work cut out for them. The staff will have to be detailed, be able to motivate, and prepare a youthful roster that is expected to mix in some veteran leadership, and get this team to play a full 60 minutes.

The two names I keep hearing the most are Ron Wilson and Marc Crawford. They are both experienced, tough, and offensive minded. Although in the dressing room, Wilson can be a bit more “offensive” than Crawford, if you get my drift.

For my money, I wouldn’t mind seeing Crawford get the job with John Madden as one of the assistants. If Madden is able to stay on, I think that makes an interesting combination. Crawford has won before, and would be a respected coach. Madden is well liked, intelligent, and can help instill the work ethic needed to build a winning culture.

The answer to whom gets the job should be coming soon, and while it might be a waiting game to see what happens in Pittsburgh with Bylsma, it would be nice to know the fate of the Panthers sooner rather than later. You want your input from your coaching staff on the draft, and how you want to build your roster, and which free agents to go after that fit the coaching style.

There hasn’t been an offseason with this many important decisions that need to be made in quite some time.  Making the right one’s and not the popular one’s will move this team forward.

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankRekas

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

 

 

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