Here's a cheat sheet of five things you need to know in the week that was across the NHL.
Geoff BurkeGeoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Gerard Gallant gets the boot
The Florida Panthers became the first team to make a coaching change this season, firing Gerard Gallant earlier this week. It was a surprising move, given that Gallant coached the Panthers to a team-record 103-point season and a division title last year (and was 96-65-25 in two-plus seasons in Florida. In hindsight, however, there were several reasons why it maybe shouldn’t have come as such a shock.
Though the Panthers dealt with injuries and aren’t that far off in contention (they were 11-10-1 at the time of Gallant’s firing), they also came into the season with high expectations after a big offseason and couldn’t seem to gel through a quarter of the year.
They also made big changes to the front office after last season, including giving the general manager who hired Gallant (Dale Tallon) a kick upstairs in order to bring a more analytical approach to team-building — which apparently caused a disconnect in organizational philosophy between the coaching and the front office levels.
Firing a proven coach just 20-something games into a season after he was a Jack Adams Award finalist is an awfully quick trigger. That means that the Panthers likely went into the season doubting whether Gallant was their guy, given their revamped approach. The guy they hired to replace Tallon as general manager, Tom Rowe, will now also replace Gallant behind the bench.
Even if you want to make the argument that the Panthers were better off cutting the cord on a coach that didn’t fall in line with their approach, there’s not much of an argument against the fact that they could have approached the optics better. They fired the guy on the road and left him waiting outside to take a cab home.
Robert MayerRobert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Dougie Hamilton is apparently *not* being shopped
With the Flames’ slow start to the season, there has been a healthy amount of speculation that Calgary may be willing to part ways with defenseman Dougie Hamilton, despite the fact that he’s just 23 years old and Calgary used three high draft picks to acquire him from Boston a few summers ago.
It was rumored that Toronto Maple Leafs were looking to make a major push for the defenseman. However, Flames president Brian Burke, who is notorious for being one of the best quotes in hockey, made sure to set the record straight in authoritative fashion.
“This is one where it’s very frustrating where you have to deal with leaks. And when as soon as one of the teams that in the mix in the leaks is the Toronto Maple Leafs…now it’s an army of leakers, an army of people who have no goddamn idea what they’re talking about who will happily go on and say the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing this and they’re doing that. This is one where we think we can trace the leak. Our GM [Brad Treliving] got a call from a team who shall remain nameless — at least for now, if this goes on much further I’m probably not going to remain nameless – and said ‘would you move Dougie Hamilton?’ and Tre said no.
“We expended a tremendous amount of assets to get this player. We’re really happy with him. He’s a quality guy. He’s 6’5. He weighs 237 lbs. He’s a right shot. He skates like a deer. He’s a good hockey player. Yeah, let’s move him. Let’s get rid of him. It’s not hard to get guys like that. So, we told this team – and by the way, the offer they made was insulting – so we told the team, no, we’re not moving him and next time you have an idea that stupid just save the quarter, don’t go to the payphone. That team started telling teams ‘yeah, we made an offer on Hamilton.’ Now it’s a rumor, it’s got legs, right? It’s almost like ‘well, they must be moving him.’"
There’s a lot to unpack in that statement. The obvious takeaway is that the Flames apparently aren’t very interested in dealing Hamilton unless it yields them a MASSIVE return. (Burke said it would require “20 first-round picks.”)
But how about him saying that Hamilton “skates like a deer?” As someone who has watched “Bambi” several times, that does not sound like a compliment.
Also, I absolutely love the line “next time you have an idea that stupid, just save the quarter - don’t go to the payphone,” though I’m not sure what year Burkie thinks he’s living in. On second thought, envisioning NHL general managers sneaking off to negotiate trades via payphones like major sketchballs is pretty amusing.
Sergei BelskiSergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jack is back!
Jack Eichel made his season debut with the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday after an ankle injury suffered just prior to the season forced him to miss the team’s first 21 games. And he made his presence felt immediately, recording a goal and an assist in the first period of a 5-4 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Having the 20-year-old Eichel back in the lineup should be absolutely huge for Buffalo. The former No. 2 overall pick is one of the league’s brightest young stars and should inject some firepower and life into what has been an absolutely atrocious start to the season for the Sabres.
Prior to his return, Buffalo ranked dead-last in the NHL in team offense, averaging just over 1.8 goals per game (the only team under 2.00 GPG), and were last place in the Atlantic division. If Eichel can produce at a similar (or improved) clip rate as he did last year (24 goals and 56 points) then they’ll at least be a little fun to watch.
Marc DesRosiersMarc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Garret Sparks finds himself in overblown controversy
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie prospect Garret Sparks found himself in some hot water this week when a screenshot of vulgar private message he posted in a closed Facebook group directed “violent and sexist language toward a user.”
While that seems quite ugly without context, other members of the group came to the defense of the 23-year-old Sparks after he was suspended indefinitely for violating the team’s social media policy.
According to several group members, Sparks’ angry message was in response to a member of the group mocking another individual who happened to be disabled. When the disabled member was not able to defend himself, Sparks allegedly stepped in and stood up for him. While that may not completely excuse the level to which Sparks’ temper flared, context is certainly important here.
The organization said that they’ll review the situation this week and figure out how to proceed.
John E. SokolowskiJohn E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Golden Knights already battling opponents?
Las Vegas’ expansion team unveiled its name and logo last week, declaring their intentions to be known as the Vegas Golden Knights once they officially enter the league starting in 2017. It was rumored that owner Bill Foley wanted to originally call the team the Black Knights — after his alma mater at West Point — but had some legal pushback. The Golden Knights were born instead.
But, as it turns out, they weren’t able to avoid all controversy after all. The U.S. Army’s Parachute Team, which has been called the Golden Knights since the 1960s, is not totally sure they’re okay with sharing the name. An Army representative says that they’re “reviewing the situation” and figuring out a way to proceed.
Even though there’s literally a zero percent chance anybody confuses a parachute team with a hockey team. Let’s all just move on.