Despite a subpar sophomore season with the Florida Panthers, 2013 Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau still looks like a star in the making. Few players have the level of skill and craftiness that the former Saint John Sea Dog possesses. It is also important to remember Huberdeau just turned the ripe old age of 21 this past week. If the Panthers want to become a winning franchise and help Huberdeau develop into an elite NHL player (the two are linked) bringing in his former coach in junior hockey might be the best way.
Gerard Gallant is now an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens, but before taking the gig with the Habs, he was the head coach of the Quebec Major League’s Saint John Sea Dogs. In Saint John, Gallant coached a team led by Huberdeau to two straight Memorial Cup appearances and transformed the Sea Dogs into a truly elite team, and one of the preeminent franchises in junior hockey.
Recently, the Panthers have been given permission to interview Gallant about their vacant head coaching position. It would be of great benefit to everyone for the Panthers to get a deal done with Gallant as quickly as possible, because he is the right man for the job.
Not coincidentally, many of Gallant’s former pupils have achieved success in the NHL at a young age. The aforementioned Huberdeau is the most notable, but Charlie Coyle, Tomas Jurco and Nathan Bealieu all played in the Stanley Cup playoffs this year and all of them are barely 22 years old.
Gallant’s coaching experience is not limited to junior hockey either, as he was previously the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets when they were far from the up-and-coming team they are now. Having NHL experience (as bad as it may have been in Columbus), coupled with coaching young players into winners, makes Gallant a round peg in a round hole.
The fact the Panthers hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft further cements the need for Gallant. There will be another young player who will need a coach that can bring them along and show them ropes of how to win. The Huberdeau connection is the most prevalent, but far from the only reason Gallant should be the next head coach of the Florida Panthers. If the Panthers are serious about ending this eternal rebuilding process, Gerard Gallant is the man for the job.