With the first round of the NHL playoffs in
full swing and all of the excitement surrounding them, some fans may have
missed some important news at the conclusion of the regular season. We’ll recap
the coaching musical chairs and front office changes that took place once the
season ended just in case you may have missed something. There were a total of 11
coaching changes in 2016/17 with five changes being made during the campaign
and six more announcements after it ended.
We’ll start with the Florida Panthers since they
fired Gerard Gallant back in late November after 22 games when they had an
11-10-1 record. This came even though Gallant led the team to a record 103
points the year before and finished as runner up in coach-of-the-year voting.
He was replaced by general manager Tom Rowe, who had earlier taken over the GM
duties from the displaced Dale Tallon. Florida went 24-26-10 under Rowe and
missed the playoffs by 14 points and finished 22 points lower than last season.
Rowe was relieved of both his coaching and general manager’s duties when the
season ended. Tallon was reinserted as the GM and the club is still in the hunt
for a new head coach. Rowe is still under contract for three more years though
and will be given a front office job.
The Los Angeles Kings dismissed head coach Darryl
Sutter at season’s end even though he led the club to a pair of Stanley Cups in
his five years behind the team’s bench. These are the only two titles the
franchise has won. However, he also failed to make the playoffs twice in the
last three years, including this year. Sutter wasn’t the only one the Kings cut
loose though as general manager Dean Lombardi also lost his job. Lombardi has
been replaced by former Kings’ defenceman Rob Blake who will also serve as
vice-president while Luc Robitaille is the team’s new president. Sutter leaves
as the Kings’ most successful coach ever with a record of 225-147-53.
The Vancouver Canucks were another west coast
franchise which got in on the action as they weren’t satisfied with the job Willie
Desjardins has done for the club over the past three seasons. They missed the
playoffs the last two years under Desjardins and have reached the postseason
just twice in the last five campaigns and believed a change was in order.
General manager Jim Benning managed to keep his job for the time being though
even though the club finished 29th out of 30 this season at 30-43-9.
Desjardins went 109-110-27 while in Vancouver. Assistant coaches Perry Pearn
and Doug Lidster were let go along with Desjardins.
Lindy Ruff of the Dallas Stars was another head
coach who was sacked at the end of the season after four years behind the bench.
Ruff went 131-85-30 with the Stars, but still failed to make the playoffs this
season at 34-37-11 after they looked like Stanley Cup contenders last year.
With stars such as Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp in
the lineup it’s easy to see why management was disappointed this season. The
Stars have already filled Ruff’s spot as they hired Ken Hitchcock as his
replacement. Ironically, Hitchcock himself was fired earlier in the season as
the St. Louis Blues let him go while he was in the midst of his sixth season
with the club. Hitchcock coached Dallas from 1996 to 2002 and won two
President’s Trophies and a Stanley Cup with the team. He said before the
2016/17 that it was going to be his last year as a head coach, but apparently
changed his mind to rejoin Dallas.
We now come full circle as we get back to Gerard
Gallant, who was the first coach fired this season when Florida let him go.
Gallant was named as the inaugural head coach of the new Las Vegas franchise,
the Vegas Golden Knight. General manager George McPhee made the announcement on
April 13th. The Knights are the 31st NHL franchise and
will begin play in the 2017/18 season. The 53-year-old Gallant, a former player
with Detroit and Tampa Bay, has also been a head coach with the Columbus Blue
Jackets and an assistant coach with the New York Islanders and Montreal
Canadiens. His head-coaching record reads 152-141-31.
Labels: Ian Palmer