Life comes at NHL coaches fast after disappointing seasons.
Gerard Gallant walked into the news conference room at the New York Rangers‘ practice facility on May 3 and said, “I’m fine, I’m fine.” Speculation about his job status had swirled in the media — traditional and social — after the Rangers followed up an all-in trade deadline by blowing a 2-0 lead to the rival New Jersey Devils in a first-round elimination. Could he really go from Jack Adams Award-nominated coach of a conference finalist to unemployed in the span of a year?
“I can’t believe I have to answer some of these questions about me getting let go or getting fired, brought up by the media. Disappointing,” Gallant said.
In a way, he was right. Gallant wasn’t fired. He wasn’t let go. Two days after defiantly defending his record as a coach — “If I can’t stand by my record, and not just my record here, I think there’s something wrong” — he had a “mutual parting of ways” with the Rangers, with another year and a team option left on his contract.
Again, life comes at NHL coaches fast. Almost as fast as it does for coaching candidates.
“Once a vacancy happens, the tendency is that guys want to get their names on a list, like ASAP. But everyone needs to take a deep breath because every situation is different,” said Neil Glasberg, president and CEO of PBI Sports & Entertainment and a respected agent who represents coaches.
After a coach is fired, Glasberg connects with the general manager who will oversee the next hiring to get a sense of what that team is looking for — assuming it knows, which isn’t always immediately the case.
“It’s always a question of fit. That’s how this business works. It’s a three-letter word that means so much,” Glasberg said. “Fit in terms of experience, in personality, in where they are in their careers, in their ability to match with the roster. And fit in terms of having won before.”
That’s something Glasberg pushes with clients: proof of concept. “Having won is different than knowing what it’s like to win,” he said.
As of Thursday morning, there are five coaching vacancies in the NHL. More could come as teams are eliminated, expectations aren’t met and new general managers settle into their jobs. Here’s a look at which teams needs a coach, what they are looking for … and some incredible speculation surrounding that Rangers job.
NHL coach carousel: Who fills this year’s vacancies?