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Does Gerard Gallant's firing open door for return to Red Wings?

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Red Wings fans on social media long have endorsed the idea of bringing back former player Gerard Gallant as the team’s head coach.

The chances of that happening just got better, if general manager Steve Yzerman were inclined to go that route.

Gerard Gallant, who played nine seasons with the Red Wings, was fired Wednesday as the Vegas Golden Knights coach.

In a shocking development Wednesday morning, the Vegas Golden Knights fired Gallant — who coached Vegas to incredible heights as an expansion team — and hired Peter DeBoer.

To add a another level of strangeness, DeBoer and his San Jose Sharks eliminated Vegas in the second round of the playoffs last season, thanks in large part to a controversial penalty in Game 7.

Gallant, 56, coached Vegas to a 24-19-6 record this season — Tuesday’s loss in Buffalo was the Knights' fourth consecutive — but the Golden Knights are tied for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference entering Wednesday's games, and are only three points from the Pacific Division lead.

Also, adding another head-scratching element to the story, Gallant is scheduled to coach the Pacific Division in next week’s All-Star Game format, since Vegas was the division leader when the head coaches were announced Jan. 3.

Before taking Vegas to the second round last spring, Gallant coached the expansion Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final two years ago before losing to Washington.

The outcry to bring back Gallant — who was a linemate and teammate of Yzerman’s with the Wings — will be loud, especially with the Wings under coach Jeff Blashill in the middle of a terrible season.

Gallant spent nine of his 11 years as a player in the NHL with the Red Wings, who selected him in the sixth round of the 1981 NHL draft. A forward, Gallant collected 467 points (207 goals) with the Red Wings from 1984-93. He had four consecutive 30-goal seasons from 1986-90.

“They were positive memories,” Gallant told The Detroit News in March 2018 about his time with the Wings. “I had nine years here, at The Joe. It was excellent.

“I enjoyed every minute of it. The organization was top-notch.

“And, when I first started, the team was really bad and, when I left the team was real good.”

The Wings currently have the worst record in the NHL with a 12-32-3 record.

Blashill is under contract for this season, with the team holding an option to retain him for one more season.

But with the team struggling as it has, and Yzerman a new general manager who retained Blashill, speculation has been rampant it’s unlikely Blashill will continue beyond this season.

Blashill, in his fifth season, is the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL. Blashill talked about that fact after a practice last week.

“I wouldn’t have known that until you said it,” Blashill said. “It’s not something I’ve spent any time thinking about. In the end, I look at it on a day-to-day basis, to be the very best I can be and try to help this team be the very best they can be.”

The race to pick up Gallant, if the Wings decide to go that way, will be intense.

In the immediate future, Dallas (with former Red Wings assistant general manager and player Jim Nill), slumping Colorado, Montreal and New Jersey could be looking to make coaching changes with Gallant suddenly available.

More teams, such as Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and Calgary, could be looking for new coaches this spring or summer, if playoff expectations aren't met.

It's unclear if Gallant will take time off, or would rather jump back into the fray immediately.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan