Surprisingly the Vegas Golden Knights fired head coach Gerard Gallant on Wednesday. The decision sent significant ripples into the hockey world, as he was not someone thought to be on the hot seat. Now that he is essentially a free agent, teams will definitely be lining up for his services. As reported by THW’s own Jim Parsons, there is already speculation that the Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars, and the new expansion team in Seattle have interest in the suddenly available bench boss.
It’s not surprising to me that Seattle would be in the mix, as Gallant is no stranger to expansion franchises having just completed his stint as the first head coach of the immensely successful Golden Knights. If I was general manager Ron Francis, I am on the phone right now talking to him about a potential position. It’s practically a no-brainer in my mind.
So, let’s take a look at three reasons why Seattle needs Gallant behind the bench when their inaugural season in the NHL gets underway in 2021-22.
Gallant Has Been There, Done That
One of the biggest reasons he should be in Seattle is the most obvious one, he’s been there before. Experience in the NHL is one thing, but experience building a team out of nothing is another. Coming into his first season as head coach of the Golden Knights, he had never been part of an expansion team, so he had to learn on the fly. Now that he’s experienced all the highs and lows of coaching that type of team, nothing will come as a surprise to him in Seattle.
Not only does he have the experience, but he also had immediate success with the Golden Knights. In his first season with the team, they won the Pacific Division with 109 points and went on a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Finals where they ultimately lost to Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
An expansion team making the playoffs was impressive in of itself, but making a convincing run to the Stanley Cup Final was almost unheard of in the history of the NHL. Bottom line, he’s been through it before and had success, so there’s a high probability that he can do it again. This time, he may have even more tricks up his sleeve.
Gallant’s System Works
Gallant’s arrival in Vegas wasn’t a run-of-the-mill new coach situation. The players that were selected in the expansion draft and came to the team via trades and free-agent signings had never played together before. Granted, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith played together on the Florida Panthers, but for the most part, the team was an entirely new entity. Preseason and training camp marked the first time these players ever played as a unit.
For a team to have immediate success, the system had to be easy to understand and fit the players he had at his disposal. When the season got underway, the Golden Knights established a clear identity almost immediately. They were hard on the forecheck, quick in transition and could play any style presented to them. Opposing teams had problems matching their work ethic on most nights as they quickly became known as a very hard group to play against.
Gallant’s system never wavered and the players trusted it and trusted him. The biggest reason for the Golden Knights’ early success was the system, period. The players trusted each other as well and were motivated right from the beginning to become a contending team.
They embraced the “Golden Misfits” moniker coined by James Neal and were out to prove everyone wrong that an expansion team could not have immediate success. Though for the belief to work, the system has to work first, and boy did it work to the tune of a Stanley Cup Final appearance in their first season in the NHL.
Gallant is a Proven NHL Head Coach
Gallant is a proven head coach in the NHL and a players coach to boot. He’s also won a Jack Adams award and if you go around the league, it’s difficult to find someone that has a bad thing to say about him. Former Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller, who now plays for the Buffalo Sabres was shocked when he heard about him being dismissed.
That happened? I didn’t know if the guys were kidding or not. I’m completely shocked. When I was there, he was a fantastic coach, a players’ coach. Everybody loved him…I’m sure he’ll have another job soon. Tough to see that piece of their puzzle go.Former Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller
Playing on an expansion team comes with enough challenges, getting along with your head coach should not be one of them. Seattle needs to start their franchise off on the right foot, and hiring a coach that has a positive history with his former players would do just that. The players coming in would immediately know what they are getting into, just by his reputation alone.
In addition to this, he’s also had a lot of recent success in the NHL as a head coach. Over the course of his two and a half seasons with the Golden Knights, he had a regular-season record of 118-75-20 along with an 18-15 record in the playoffs.
Overall in almost nine years in the league, he has a 270-216-4-51 record, which translates to a .545 winning percentage. His resume is impressive in both statistics and intangibles, making him a great candidate to lead any team looking for a new bench boss.
Lots of Options for Gallant
Despite being an obvious fit in Seattle, the timing may not be ideal for the new franchise. The team does not start play until the 2021-22 season, so they are in no rush to hire a head coach. Gallant may not want to wait that long to coach another team either. There is a lot of turmoil in the coaching world this season, so there are definitely options out there for him. His phone will not be quiet that’s for sure.
Regardless, the sudden availability of a coach of Gallant’s caliber and experience with an expansion team is a rare occurrence. Francis needs to make the call and get the coach that is a perfect fit for his new team. The stars have aligned, let’s see if he’s awake to see them before it’s too late.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.