As the offseason approaches, remember this name: Gerard Gallant. No, Gallant isn't another upstart coach out of junior hockey like Pete DeBoer or Guy Boucher. Instead he's a former NHL bench boss who found a head coaching job and ran with it. And by all accounts, he should be ready to take his winning ways back to North America's premiere league.
Gallant currently helms the powerhouse Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. His team not only captured the Memorial Cup last season but also remains very much in the running for a repeat this year. In fact, Gallant has done nothing but win since coming to New Brunswick.
His first few stints in the NHL didn't quite go according to plan. The former Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wing left wing became the third head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets and endured a losing record due to a makeshift roster. Winning 56 out of 142 games certainly doesn't look great but we'll give him a pass since, well, it was the Blue Jackets. Gallant took the job in the middle of the 2003-2004 season and was relieved in November of 2006, only giving his team a full year-- with a decent 35-43-4 record in the always competitive Central Division-- behind the bench.
Following his termination, Gallant moved on to another winning-impaired organization in the New York Islanders as an assistant coach. And considering Ted Nolan was the head coach that year, team brass cleared the decks following a disappointing season. In hockey limbo, Gallant would take a season off before getting another head coaching job-- the very same position he holds today.
And boy has Gallant been fantastic since taking the helm of the Sea Dogs. His team made the QMJHL President's Cup Finals in 2010 before taking junior hockey's greatest prize last year. Considering his dominating roster currently employs 11 draft picks it would be hard to bet against Gallant's squad. But more importantly, he is preparing his kids to win and play in the NHL.
Good to see that Gallant has a finger on the sport's pulse.
But after this season, win or lose, there will be changes in Saint John. Last season's draftees Nathan Beaulieu, Jonathan Huberdeau, Zack Phillips, Tomas Jurco, and Ryan Tesink could all get a long look from in NHL training camp while the 2010 class of Charlie Coyle, Stanislav Galiev, Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault, and Stephen MacAulay are all likely to play in the AHL next season.
More importantly, Gallant could choose to leave with his players for the big leagues. Fred Poulin of The Hockey Writers explained, via Twitter, that Gallant would be a great fit with the Montreal Canadiens. By that same token, the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Washington Capitals are all looking for the right fit and, by all accounts, it could be Gallant.
Gallant is as ready as ever to bring his winning ways to the NHL. The question now is not where, but when.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.