It’s been several days since the Minnesota Wild parted ways with head coach Bruce Boudreau, and general manager Bill Guerin has undoubtedly already begun thinking about who will replace him as Minnesota’s bench boss in 2020-21. There are several qualified coaching candidates available — Peter Laviolette, Doug Weight and even Mike Babcock come to mind. But the candidate Guerin should primarily focus on pursuing is former Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant.
In a move that completely shocked the hockey universe, the Golden Knights unceremoniously relieved Gallant of his duties last month. Gallant’s dismissal was particularly surprising given the Knights’ position in the Pacific Division standings. Vegas was just three points shy of the division lead at the time of his firing.
Despite his falling out with the Golden Knights, Gallant is perhaps one of the best coaches currently without a job. His track record speaks for itself, and frankly, he’s the type of coach the Wild need.
I’ve personally spent a lot of time around Gallant. Before covering the Wild as part of the Hockey Wilderness community, I had covered the Golden Knights since the team’s inaugural season. And while covering the Golden Knights, one thing was clear from the team’s very first game — just about every single player in the Vegas locker room adored playing for Gerard Gallant. He was an excellent motivator for the Knights, and much of this is due to his experience as a former NHLer (and a darn good one at that). He commands respect from his players, and whether he’s yelling at officials or giving members of the media a hard time, his no-nonsense personality makes him one of the more entertaining coaches in the NHL.
Mark Stone, while not even spending a full season playing under Gallant, had nothing but positive words for his former head coach. In fact, most players, including Stone, blamed themselves in the aftermath of Gallant’s firing.
“As players when you don’t play up to standards, changes happen,” said Stone. “We all loved and respected playing for Gerard. Especially the guys who have been here since day one. I didn’t even get a year in with him, but I loved playing for him. But like I said, when you don’t play up to expectations these things happen.”
Gallant turned an expansion team into one of the NHL’s most exciting clubs right out of the gate. Despite many of his players being castoffs from other teams, the Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final in their very first season, and Gallant’s coaching was one of the primary reasons for the team’s immediate success.
In 213 games as the Golden Knights’ head honcho, the 2018 Jack Adams Award winner went 118-75-20 with a .601 points percentage. And prior to joining the Knights, Gallant managed to turn a middling Florida Panthers team into Atlantic Division champions in 2016. Strangely, though, the Panthers fired Gallant just 22 games into the 2016-17 season.
A player Gallant became very close with throughout his years in Florida and Vegas is Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault, who was particularly emotional after Gallant’s firing.
“It’s an awful situation, just terrible,” Marchessault told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He is the reason I am an NHL player, the reason I am here. He gave me a shot in Florida. He gave me a shot with Vegas.
“We’re all professionals. We have a tight group and have to get through it together. Every guy in this room fought for [Gallant] for sure. He’s a great coach, a great guy.”
Gallant clearly knows how to form lasting relationships with his players, and there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t be able to continue that trend with the Wild.
Of course, Bill Guerin will not be the only GM hoping to hire Gallant. There’s bound to be competition for the 56-year-old’s services.
In particular, the Detroit Red Wings are almost guaranteed to be one of the teams pursuing him. For one, Gallant spent nearly a decade playing for the Red Wings from 1984 to 1993. And during his time in Detroit, he spent many of his games on the same line as Steve Yzerman — the Red Wings’ current general manager.
With current Detroit coach Jeff Blashill coaching his team to one of the worst seasons in recent memory, it’s very likely Yzerman could be in search of a new head coach this summer as well.
For all we know, Gallant could have a new job tomorrow. But if he wants to coach next season (which has not yet been confirmed), Bill Guerin would be wise to reach out to him.
“Thirty other teams should fire their coaches and hire [Gallant],” Jonathan Marchessault told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Even when he gave you shit about something, he always let you work out of it. Win or lose, he always showed up the next day ready to work and get better.
“He is an unbelievable coach. I’m sure he already has had calls about [jobs].”