Tom Rowe Loses First Game As Florida Panthers Head Coach

Tom Rowe Loses First Game As Florida Panthers Head Coach
Photo: © Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
After a 2-1 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last night, former Florida Panthers general manager Tom Rowe is off to a 0-1 start in his new role as head coach.

This past Sunday, the Panthers (now 11-10-2) controversially fired their head coach, Gerard Gallant--the same coach who led the team to their second playoff berth in 15 years and helped them rack up 103 points and a 47-26-9 record for the best season in franchise history last year. The Panthers also fired assistant coach Mike Kelly.

Both coaches were dispatched by the Panthers administration immediately after last Sunday's 2-3 letdown to the Carolina Hurricanes. Some reports say Gallant was forced to take a cab to the airport by himself after the loss.

The Panthers offered a perfunctory explanation via press release: "In seeking to earn a second consecutive playoff berth and bring a Stanley Cup to South Florida, we believe that new leadership is required immediately," Panthers chairman, owner and governor Vincent J. Viola said.

Since the search for a new head coach won't officially begin until the end of the current season, Rowe relinquished his general manager duties, which have been transferred to his assistants, to replace Gallant in the interim.

The appointment marks Rowe's first stint as a NHL head coach, but not his first time behind the bench.

Rowe kicked off his NHL coaching career with the Carolina Hurricanes as an assistant coach from 2001-04, and then worked several years as a head coach in the AHL--a chapter he closed with a 218-165-43 record. From 2012-13, Rowe spent time overseas with the KHL as the head coach of Yaroslavl Lokomotiv.

Immediately prior to joining the Panthers organization, Rowe served as the head coach of the team's AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, and then the Portland Pirates. On Jan. 1, 2016, he accepted an associate general manager role with the Panthers, and quickly earned his title change in the following offseason.

Many have criticized Gallant's firing as premature, citing last year's success and this year's injury-riddled roster (Alex Petrovic, Jaromir Jagr, Jussi Jokenin, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Nick Bjugstad are all sitting out with various health issues). But a deeper dive tells a tale of conflicting opinions among management on how to run a successful hockey program. According to ​Sun Sentinel ​Panthers beat writer Dave Hyde, it boiled down to a clash between analytical (Dale Tallon, the Panthers' president of hockey operations) and old-school (Gallant) approaches.

Nonetheless, general dissent in the hockey community won't bring last year's Jack Adams candidate back--the Panthers will have to grind through the season under new coaching leadership and face an uncertain future in the offseason.

Perhaps Gallant will find a new home with the nascent Vegas Golden Knights, which recently kicked off their search for their inaugural head coach.
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