Yesterday we saw the Vegas Golden Knights officially announce Gerard Gallant as their 1st ever Head Coach in franchise history at T-Mobile Arena. Gallant was recently the Head Coach for the Florida Panthers before arriving to Vegas.
Here we analyze the hiring of Gallant and what it means for the Golden Knights going forward as they continue to prepare and gear up for their inaugural season in the NHL.
For Gallant he brings with him to Vegas is prior expansion team coaching experience that he acquired when he was the bench boss for the Columbus Blue Jackets. During his time with the Blue Jackets Gallant had the opportunity to coach a young an up and coming Rick Nash who at the time was in the early stages of his professional playing career in the NHL.
In the 2003-2004 NHL season he witnessed his best product in Nash score 41 goals and registered 16 assists at 57 points. For Gallant coaching the young Blue Jackets organization was a challenging experience for him as his team failed to make the playoffs in his first two seasons.
The following year after the NHL lockout was lifted he was let go by Columbus after posting a 5-9-1 record thru 15 games.
Several years later he was given another opportunity in the NHL coaching the Florida Panthers organization. The Panthers hockey club when Gallant came on as their bench boss entered their 21st season in the league.
Gallant had a rocky start in his first season with Florida when his club missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 38-29-15 record at 91 points. That year he coached some very good young talented hockey players in Aaron Ekblad, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck.
He also worked with experienced NHL veterans in Willie Mitchell, Brian Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Tomas Kopecky and Jarmior Jagr (All Stanley Cup Champions in their career).
The following season with Florida Gallant improved their record to 47-26-9 at 103 points and captured the organizations 2nd Atlantic Division Title in club history. He also took them to the Stanley Cup Playoffs where his Panthers got eliminated by a much deeper Islanders squad.
In his final season with the Panthers behind the bench his fate was sealed when he produced a 11-10-1 record thru 22 games. That led Florida to part ways with Gallant.
On April 13, 2017 Gallant was given anther opportunity at the can in coaching another expansion team in his career behind the bench with Vegas Golden Knights. Team Owner Bill Foley and General Manager George McPhee introduced Gallant as their 1st ever Head Coach in franchise history.
During the press conference at T-Mobile Arena Gallant highlighted what the process was like when being interviewed by the Golden Knights for the coaching job with the organization.
“I interviewed in mid-January and when I got the interview I felt real comfortable coming in here. I interviewed for a day and a half, and it was an unbelievable experience. When I left, this was the job I wanted,” Gallant said
Having the experience of coaching another expansion franchises made Gallant the man to lead the Golden Knights behind the bench going forward.
Gallant echoed his past failures of coaching the Columbus Blue Jackets early on in professional career behind the bench.
“Was I ready to be a head coach? I’m not sure,” said Gallant.
Given a 2nd chance with the Golden Knights Gallant hopes that he will be able to lean of his past failures and turn those into a success.
For General Manager George McPhee he expanded on the experience and what kind person Gallant is and what the organization was looking for to lead the Golden Knights behind the bench.
“I know how he coaches, I know all about his reputation. He has an outstanding reputation and knows how to get the best out of players,” McPhee said. “He is an experienced coach, has had success at multiple levels and has a great reputation amongst the players who have played for him. Experienced coaches are usually better with their second team. That was our goal.”
Also thru the press conference Gallant outlined to the Vegas community of how he would like his 2017-2018 Golden Knights squad to be built as.
“We are going to be a big, physical team” Gallant Said.
Being a physical team built on size is becoming a thing of the past in the NHL due to the game shifting to a more higher tempo around speed. In recent seasons teams like Chicago, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Tampa, and Edmonton have taken this transition to heart and it showed on the ice.
For Chicago and Pittsburgh their speed game resulted into them winning the Stanley Cup in the 2015 and 2016 season.
Earlier this week the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks faced off in the 1st round of the Stanly Cup Playoffs and the speed game was in full display.
For the Golden Knights being slotted into the Pacific Division with teams like the Sharks and Oilers to play against Vegas will need the horses to keep up.
McPhee eluded to that himself along with his team will supply the players that Gallant will coach this upcoming season.
“We’ll provide the players and Gerard coaches them,” McPhee said. “We’re not going to tell him how to coach, and I’m sure he’s not going to tell us how to find players.”
With the expansion draft approaching Gallant did indicate that his involvement in the selection process would be hands off and that all decisions made would be left up to McPhee and his department to take care of.
“Going forward its going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to have a great hardworking team and the fans are going to be excited.” Gallant Said.
That is going to be required to compete night in and night out in this league. Players can’t take shifts or nights off because if that happens it puts a strain on the coaching staff.
The Western Conference is much a different animal than the East and in his first year coaching in the Wild Wild West Gallant will get to see that and make the adjustments needed to enable his squad to be successful on the ice every night.