When the Florida Panthers axed head coach Gerard Gallant back in December, it was the first coaching casualty of this NHL season and an incredibly surprising one at that. Not only did it come just 22 games into the season (the Panthers were 11-10-1 at the time) but Gallant was also just a season removed from leading the Panthers to a division title and finishing as a coach of the year finalist in Florida.
Many suspected that a rift between Gallant and the club’s front office and/or ownership led to a quick-trigger divorce. Specifically, the Panthers were believed to be seeking a more analytical approach in the front office, and Gallant’s coaching philosophy may not have exactly lined up.
But Gallant recently spoke to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun and shot down the idea that a reluctance to embrace analytics cost him his job.
“It wasn’t huge about analytics,” Gallant told ESPN. “For me, analytics is certainly part of coaching, but it’s not the whole thing. In my mind, if I take a job, analytics is part of it for sure, 25 to 30 percent, whatever percentage you want to put on it. It’s definitely a tool. If you get the right information, you’re happy with that. Every coach uses analytics. We all go over the same stuff.
“I wasn’t fired because of analytics,” he continued. “I loved coaching the Florida Panthers and I’m a stubborn guy at times; maybe I said a little too much, maybe I gave my opinion a little bit too much. Maybe when they asked for my opinion, I have an honest opinion and sometimes it doesn’t help you. Maybe it wasn’t always what they wanted to hear. I don’t know where it went from there …”
It still sounds like Gallant didn’t have the greatest working relationship with the suits upstairs (clearly) but maybe — just maybe — the rumors of an organizational disconnect surrounding the value of analytics may have been overblown.
Either way, it sounds like Gallant has accepted the decision and is moving on. He sounds ready to get back behind the bench, though he says he’ll be patient and isn’t “sitting here hoping somebody gets fired in order for me to get a call.” He’s confident the right call will eventually come, as he should be.