In the midst of an organizational overhaul, the Calgary Flames are seeking more than just a general manager. After news that Darryl Sutter had been relieved from his coaching duties, the Flames suddenly had more gaps to fill in their staff. After thorough exit interviews and an investigation by hockey operations, the organization decided to cut their loses on Sutter’s contract extension and look elsewhere. To most, the departure of Sutter was expected and long overdue.
It’s almost certain that the team will hire a general manager prior to a new head coach—leaving the coaching hire to the hands of the new GM. That being said, it’s never to early to speculate on who the Flames may bring on board
Going, going, Gallant
After a trade deadline that landed the New York Rangers Patrick Kane, the Cup contender saw another early exit from the playoffs losing to their rival—the New Jersey Devils—in seven games.
Although it wasn’t an overall poor performing season for the Rangers, the team showed spurts of lowered play and what some suspected a disconnect between Gallant and his coaching staff.
Gallant received his walking papers almost immediately after the series ended. This would be the third time Gallants been fired in the last seven years.
Gallant’s NHL resume—part one
Prior to Gallant’s three quick stops in Florida, Vegas, and New York, the hard-nosed coach got his first opportunity in 2004 with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gallant held his position through the 2004–05 lockout and the entirety of the 2005–06 regular season. In November of 2006, Gallant was fired and ultimately replaced by NHL veteran coach Ken Hitchcock.
After his opportunity in Columbus, Gallant bounced around in assistant positions until being named the head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL in 2009.
Gallant’s major junior resume
Gallant saw his most success at the major junior level, winning a Memorial Cup in 2011. Who played on that 2011 Championship team you ask? Oh just the Calgary Flames’ highest paid player in franchise history: Jonathan Huberdeau.
Gallant won the CHL coach of the year twice in both 2011 and 2012 before leaving major junior for the pros once again.
Gallant’s NHL Resume—part two
Gallant served as an assistant coach for the Montreal Canadiens from 2012–2014 when he was named the head coach of the Florida Panthers. Yet another Huberdeau hint.
The Florida Panthers
Florida Gallant really spread his wings and opened up the width of the ice on the offensive end, implementing a system that saw Huberdeau as a centrepiece, similar to the Saint John’s offence that won the duo a Memorial Cup.
Gallant’s tenure in south Florida was brief but successful. In 2015–16 the Panthers set a then-franchise record of 103 points in the regular season and Gallant was nominated for the Jack Adams Trophy. The following season Gallant was fired after a 11–10–1 start to the season.
The Vegas Golden Knights
The following offseason, the expansion franchise in Las Vegas named Gallant as the first head coach in Vegas Golden Knights history. Gallant saw immediate success with the Golden Knights, taking the team to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. Gallant again earned himself a Jack Adams nomination.
Gallant had another short stay in Vegas after the team’s historical inaugural season, as he was ultimately fired in early 2020.
The New York Rangers
Finally, in June of 2021, Gallant was hired as the Rangers head coach and subsequently fired this season. Gallant was the first coach in Rangers history to coach his team to consecutive 100-point seasons. Oh right, he was once again nominated for the Jack Adams—the third nomination in Gallant’s career.
Gallant’s fit in Calgary
Gallant comes with tons of upside and ticks a lot of the boxes the Flames are looking for. He’s offensive minded, has a winning a track record, and had a strong relationship with Jonathan Huberdeau—the centrepiece of this next phase in Calgary Flames hockey.
The glaring issue with Gallant is his short stays. Not making it past three seasons with a single franchise while being one of the winningest coaches in hockey over that time period is a major red flag.
Much has been said about Gallant’s numerous departures from teams over the last 10 years but a common theme has been his unwillingness to change. Sound familiar?
Much like Darryl Sutter, Gallant is very headstrong and can have a “my way or the highway” attitude. Rumours of clashes with management and his coaching staff in New York mirror what we saw with his exit in Vegas two years prior. In Gallant’s defence, the Vegas Golden Knights have earned a reputation in their young history of being one of the most ruthless and unloyal franchises in pro sports.
Beyond Gallant’s off-ice issues, he’ll turn 60 this year and with much of the Flames future being held in the hands of the current Calgary Wranglers roster, a younger coach that can really connect with young players seems to be what the Flames are favouring.
Although there’s lots of upside to Gallant’s creative offensive game and winning track record, his personality could clash with the rest of the organization the same way Sutter’s did.
The other factor associated with Gallant is his price tag. With Darryl still on the books for two more years you’d think the Flames will target a lower price tag on their next head coach.
Gallant could come in and lead the Flames the Presidents’ Trophy and take this team to the playoffs his first season in all seriousness. But after three stints that saw Gallant succeed and then be cut losoe, history seems to be repeating itself. Furthermore Gallant’s resistance to adjust strategically and with line combinations in the playoffs has been noted as his biggest downfall by insiders. Like we discussed earlier, his way or the highway.
Overlying all of that is the fact Gallant might just want to sit back in his hometown of Summerside P.E.I., sip some cold ones and get paid by the Rangers to do so. The team still owe the coach $7 million in salary over the next two years.
As attractive a candidate as he is, it’s just not the fit for the new regime Calgary Flames.