The Florida Panthers appear to finally have their man behind the bench. An NHL source told Murph’s Musings early Thursday evening that the former Canadiens assistant coach and head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets would likely be named the new bench boss of the Panthers, possibly as early as Friday morning. According to the source, Gerard Gallant and former Penguins coach Dan Byslma had become the two finalists for the job and the belief was that Gallant was going to be the choice.
The Summerside, P.E.I. native just finished his second season with Montreal after being hired as an assistant coach on June 15, 2012. Gallant, 49, began his coaching career in 1995-96 with the Summerside Capitals of the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MJrHL) leading the team to the Royal Bank Cup in 1997. He then became an assistant coach with the IHL’s Fort Wayne Komets and moved on to the AHL’s Louisville Panthers in 1999-00. On July 18, 2000, he was hired as assistant coach with the new Columbus Blue Jackets franchise. He would be named head coach of the Blue Jackets in June, 2004. He was let go by Columbus on November 13, 2006. The following season, Gallant joined the New York Islanders organization as an assistant to Ted Nolan.
Gallant’s greatest success as a coach came during his tenure as head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL from 2009-2012. In his first season behind the Sea Dogs’ bench, he led his team to a franchise record 53 wins and 309 goals scored and earned the regular season title. He was named the QMJHL as well as the CHL Coach of the Year while taking the Sea Dogs to the President’s Cup final. Gallant’s second season, in 2010-11, was even more successful as his team tied a league record with 58 wins and repeated as the QMJHL and CHL Coach of the Year. The Sea Dogs won a second straight championship and a President’s Cup before capturing the Memorial Cup, becoming the first Atlantic Canadian team to win the trophy. In 2011-12, Gallant and his Sea Dogs earned yet another QMJHL title with a league-leading 50 wins, 15 losses and three shootout wins and a second consecutive trip to the Memorial Cup. Over three seasons at the helm of the Saint John Sea Dogs, Gallant’s record sits at an amazing 159 wins, 34 losses and nine overtime/shootout losses. With Gallant at the helm the Sea Dogs set a QMHJL record as they became the first team ever to have three consecutive 100-point seasons.
As Panthers head coach he would be reunited with his former Sea Dogs star and rising Panthers star Jonathan Huberdeau.