The Florida Panthers decision to fire head coach Gerard Gallant earlier this season was met with harsh criticism in some circles of the hockey community. It was widely assumed the dismissal was a reflection of the new front office structure’s belief in analytics, something the former player and long time coach may not have been completely on board with, as opposed to Gallant’s coaching ability. Gallant is known as an old-school coach who values “intangibles” and other traits not ordinarily appreciated by analytically-driven front offices and it was assumed this generated a disconnect between management and the bench boss. However, according to Gallant his termination had little to do with his feelings on analytics and likely had more to do with his stubbornness, as Pierre LeBrun of ESPN wrote recently:
“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 …”
Gallant, like many coaches, actually did utilize information provided to his staff by the team’s analysts and described analytics as “a tool.”
“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.”
Of course it should be noted that while Gallant admitted to utilizing analytics, it can be inferred from his comments that it was done to assist with lineup decisions and on-ice strategies, leaving open the possibility that he didn’t necessarily agree with analytically-driven decisions made by the front office with regards to player acquisitions. It’s certainly possible Gallant voiced his displeasure over certain moves the front office made over the summer and that led in part to his dismissal.
Nevertheless, despite how it turned out in Florida, Gallant is respected within the industry and it’s likely he will have his choice of head coaching jobs this summer, assuming he isn’t offered and subsequently accepts a job prior to the offseason.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division:
- Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun examines the Senators recent decision to scratch forward Bobby Ryan, and wonders what the “bigger picture” is with the player and Ottawa. Brennan points out that Ryan, a four-time 30-goal scorer, ranks 12th on the team in scoring and theorizes his lack of production may have served as justification for the benching. However, as the scribe points out, Ryan’s ice time, or rather the lack thereof, has likely led to the 29-year-old right winger’s lackluster output. Ryan currently ranks eighth among Senator forwards in overall ATOI (Average Time On Ice) and is seventh on the team in power play ice time. For his career, Ryan has registered just more than one-quarter of his points on the power play but this season has just one goal and three points on the man advantage. Brennan wonders why the Senators, who rank 22nd in the NHL in goals, would not find a way to get one of their most skilled players more ice time. Ultimately, as Brennan writes, the situation is one that bears watching for the rest of the season.
- The Boston Bruins, and in particular David Backes, were undoubtedly pleased to come away from St. Louis with a 5 – 3 win over the Blues. However the victory didn’t come without cost as the team lost right-shot blue liners Colin Miller and Adam McQuaid to injury during the game. As Jason Brough of Pro Hockey Talk writes, the losses of Miller and McQuaid forced the B’s to finish out the game with just four defenders. After the game, Claude Julien could provide no information other than the two were being evaluated by the team’s medical staff. Today the team announced that Miller is doubtful for tomorrow’s contest in Nashville. If he can’t go the Bruins could insert either John-Michael Liles or Joe Morrow into the lineup with the other available to draw in if McQuaid is ruled out.