The Florida Panthers shocked the NHL world last Sunday when, after a road loss in Carolina, they fired coach Gerard Gallant.
Gallant was coming off a year in which he led the Panthers to their best-ever regular season finish and was a runner-up for the Jack Adams Award. A Memorial Cup winner with the Saint John Sea Dogs, it looked as though Gallant was a nice fit with the young Panthers and that although the team was off to a .500 start a quarter of the way into 2016-17, they’d eventually get back on track.
But with a front office going through a great “analytics experiment” all indications were that Gallant wasn’t buying in as much as Panthers ownership wanted. So after that Sunday game against the Hurricanes, moments after going through post-game interviews with the media, Gallant was let go.
Don Cherry sounded off on the decision and how Gallant was dismissed by the team.
"I've been involved a long time in hockey," Cherry started. "I’ve seen bad firings, I’ve been fired myself. I thought in Colorado it was rather bad. I have never seen anything like this. This is the worst firing in the history of (the NHL).
"They fired the guy after the game, the players are sitting on the bus. It was a great headline I saw ‘dumped at the curb.’
Images of Gallant catching a cab himself after the game went viral on social media and led to attacks against the Panthers for how they prepared for the firing. Gallant wanted to clear up any wrongdoing by the Panthers on that front to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman on Thursday, telling Friedman that he just wanted to get out of there and not wait for the car service the organization had called for.
Gallant's firing was in the rumour mill for months and that the team was waiting for the right time, or for an excuse. Cherry went on to say that judging by other moves the Panthers had made, he could see another bad decision was coming.
"I knew they were in trouble — first of all they got an American guy down there (owner Vinnie Viola)…a West Point guy. So he surrounds himself with Army guys and now he knows everything about hockey. It’d be the same thing if Gerard told him how to fight a war. He knows nothing about hockey.
"I knew they were in trouble when (former GM) Dale Tallon was out of the country and they traded (Erik) Gudbranson, one of my favourites, 6-foot-4 eat them raw defenceman, they traded for Jared McCann, don’t get me wrong I like McCann, but he’s in the minors right now. They give away a defenceman like that and it's absolutely ridiculous that he makes his money at whatever he does like that, an Army guy, surrounded himself with American Army guys, and then fired a guy like Gerard. It is absolutely ridiculous."
Last summer, the Panthers also moved Tallon from the GM position to president of hockey operations, a shuffling that has largely been viewed as a demotion.
Friedman recently sat down with Tom Rowe, the GM and interim coach of the Panthers, to talk about the firing. You can watch that interview here.