SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers search for a new head coach has come to an end. Gerard Gallant was introduced as the Panthers new coach during a press conference at the BB&T Center on Monday morning.
Gallant comes to Florida after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach in Montreal, helping the team go through the kind of quick turnaround that the Panthers are hoping to achieve.
The Canadians finished dead last in the Eastern Conference the season before Gallant arrived in Montreal but won their division in his first season and came within two wins of playing in the Stanley Cup Finals this past May.
Gallant, 50, has plenty of NHL experience both as a player and a coach. He played eleven seasons with Detroit and Tampa Bay and scored 34 or more goals in four straight seasons with the Red Wings from 1986-1990.
Starting his NHL coaching career as an assistant coach on the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets in 2001, Gallant was named the Jackets’ head coach midway through the 2003-04 season and remained in that role until his firing in 2007.
After working two years as an assistant with the New York Islanders, Gallant took a head coaching job with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He led them to back-to-back QMJHL championships in 2011 and 2012 and won the 2011 Memorial Cup, a tournament featuring the best teams of Canada’s top three junior leagues.
During his tenure with Saint John, Gallant’s best player was current Panthers’ winger Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau was the NHL’s Rookie of the Year in 2013 and has said that Gallant was one of the most influential coaches he’s ever had.
“I’m excited for this,” said Huberdeau following the news of Gallant being hired by the Panthers. “He’s a guy who is intense and into the game. He keeps you up throughout the game. I think the guys are going to react to him. He wants what is best for the players.”
Huberdeau’s play under Gallant at Saint John’s led to the Panthers selecting the youngster with the third overall selection in the 2011 NHL Draft. In Huberdeau, Gallant knows exactly what he’s getting and what to expect.
“Jonathan’s a great kid,” said Gallant on Monday. “I knew the kid for three years and we worked well together. We’re going to have 23 players who are going to work hard and compete.”
Gallant joins the Panthers coming off of a pair of very frustrating seasons that saw Florida finish with the worst and second-worst records in the NHL, respectively.
Florida has made the playoffs just once in the last 14 years but have a very talented young core group of players and one of the best goalies in the league in Roberto Luongo.