Gerard Gallant was a coach of the year finalist last season after guiding the Florida Panthers to a division title and the best regular season in franchise history.
He made it through 22 games this season, before the Panthers decided change was needed.
The Panthers fired the former Detroit Red Wings player on Sunday night, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press. The move was made after the Panthers’ 3-2 loss at Carolina — one that dropped Florida to 11-10-1, good for only 10th in the Eastern Conference.
General manager Tom Rowe will take over as coach, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the moves. Gallant was under contract through the 2018-19 season, having signed an extension back in January.
The postgame routine turned into something most unusual Sunday night.
Gallant spoke after the game as always, talking about how five poor second-period minutes out of 60 was the team’s undoing against the Hurricanes, a game where Florida wasted an early 2-0 lead. Shortly after that is when he apparently was told of the dismissal, and Gallant then waited for a taxi after his luggage was unloaded from the buses that were to carry the Panthers to the airport.
They went one way. He went another, and became the first NHL coach to be fired since this season started.
Florida has clearly struggled at times this season, though it has also been injury-ravaged. Jonathan Huberdeau has not played yet this season and isn’t expected back for several more weeks, Nick Bjugstad and Jussi Jokinen have missed significant amounts of time and Alex Petrovic is now expected to miss up to two months with an ankle injury.
Plus, Jaromir Jagr has just three goals so far this season — after leading the Panthers in scoring a year ago.
Rowe becomes the Panthers’ 14th coach, and the fifth person to be behind the Florida bench in the last five years. Florida next plays Tuesday night in Chicago, the second game of a six-game trip for the reigning Atlantic Division champions.
Rowe was promoted to general manager before the season, and coached the Panthers’ AHL teams in San Antonio and Portland, Maine in recent years. Rowe started last season in Portland, then was brought to the Panthers as Associate GM under Dale Tallon on Jan. 1.
Rowe was then promoted to GM in mid-May.
Gallant was 96-65-25 in parts of three seasons with the Panthers. Many team officials were not immediately available for comment, since the team was traveling from Carolina to Chicago.
Sportsnet first reported the firing.