When the Florida Panthers promoted Tom Rowe to GM, no one had any idea why they were doing that. The Panthers were coming off a franchise record 103 point season and a great playoff series against the Islanders. However ownership thought GM Dale Tallon couldn’t finish the job. They thought Gerard Gallant wouldn’t bring them to the promised land. Now they are paying the price.
Tom Rowe did not have a good run as the Florida Panthers GM. He traded fan facvorite defenseman Erik Gudbranson to the Vancouver Canucks. While on paper, the return for Gudbranson was in favor of the Panthers. Jared McCann was projected to be a Top 9 forward and Adam Mascherin and Jonathan Ang, the draft selections resulting from the trade have been very solid. Getting rid of Gudbranson was both good and bad. Gudbranson was horrible offensively and sometimes struggled defensively. However, Gudbranson was a physical presence who stood up for his teammates and was a great guy in the locker room. Both Gudbranson and McCann have struggled in their new destinations. Dmitry Kulikov was traded to the Sabres. Kulikov like Gudbranson was a defensive defenseman. However Kulikov who was partnered with Aaron Ekblad in 2015-16 did a decent job of plugging up his defensive holes. Kulikov like Gudbranson has struggled. Mark Pysyk has done well. Rowe also made a great pick with Henrik Borgstrom. Rowe had some very good moves. Drafting the little known Borgstrom and signing Jonathan Marchessault for peanuts were phenomenal moves. Borgstrom is the best NHL ready prospect in the NCAA. I will discuss Marchessault later. However Rowe made a lot of bad decisions. The Gudbranson and Kulikov trades were bad ideas because of coach Gallant. Gerard Gallant was and is arguably a Top 5 coach in the NHL. He works best coaching players like Gudbranson and Kulikov and bringing out the best in them. Gallant was fired due to a philosophical change. This was by far the worst move in franchise if not NHL history.
Gallant is leading the new Vegas Golden Knights to glory. They will easily smash the Panthers expansion records in the next few weeks and will probably win the President’s Trophy. Leading the charge are two former Panthers. After the season was over Tallon got back. However Tallon made extremely dumb decisions like protecting Alex Petrovic over Marchessault. Here is why. Tallon thought Bob Boughner would be a Gallant-esque coach. Gallant always got the best out of his players. However Boughner is a rookie struggling to keep his head above water. While he is better than Rowe it is clear he is no Gallant. Tallon knew that Petrovic was one of the players Gallant worked well with. However, we don’t have Gallant. Boughner isn’t Gallant. He also traded Reilly Smith for peanuts. Gallant was having a really solid season before being fired considering three of his best offensive players had missed extended periods of time with injuries.
Now the Panthers are paying the price for letting Gallant walk. The Vegas Golden Knights twitter account constantly taunts the Panthers for their idiotic moves. Guess what? They deserve it. You don’t let a coach like Gallant go in that situation. In my opinion if they had kept Gallant, they would’ve made the playoffs. Gallant handled his firing professionally like he did in every other manner of his hockey coaching. He is a very likable guy. He was like a father to all the players. The team was like a ship sailing across the lake of Mediocrity. Gallant was a seasoned captain who led his crew to the island of glory. However the team replaced him with less experienced captains. Now the team is stuck in the middle of Mediocrity and the fans are getting restless. This is a punishment to management which is teaching them a big lesson. However the fans are suffering too. The loyal fans don’t deserve this. This team has almost no way out. Henrik Borgstrom and Owen Tippett will do little to change their fortunes. A drastic change is needed in the Panthers organization. Boughner or Tallon needs to go. This team needs to reset like it did at the end of 2013-14. However they need to do it quick. Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck won’t be around forever. The clock is ticking. Changes are needed. Management made stupid decisions and now they and the fans are paying the price. Hopefully a fresh start comes along. However it needs to happen soon as that window is becoming narrower and narrower with the current core.