Last night, as I covered in a quickly written and alcohol-fueled piece, Florida Panthers GM Tom Rowe fired head coach Gerard Gallant after an 11-10-1 start and promoted…himself? Yep. Tom Rowe is now the GM and interim head coach. The Panthers organization is stressing the term “interim” so who knows what that means.
Admittedly, I knew absolutely nothing about Tom Rowe before he was promoted to GM back in January and, up until last night, I still only knew a select few things about him. Whenever a new man gets brought in to replace a veteran head coach, a few questions always pop up: Was he a hockey player? Has he coached an NHL team before? Is he qualified to coach?
Well, I have a few answers for you.
Tom Rowe began his career in the famed Ontario Hockey League, making a name for himself as a winger with the London Knights for three years. In the 1975-76 season, Rowe piled up 94 points, including 39 goals. He had a reputation for his fast-paced, aggressive style of play.
In 1976, the Washington Capitals acquired Rowe’s rights and he was given a 12-game tryout contract. His rights were retained after these 12 games, but he spent the rest of his year with the Capitals’ AHL affiliate, Springfield Indians, where he tallied 42 points.
The next two years with the Capitals were solid for Rowe. In the 1978-79 season, he had a career-high 61 points and became the first American-born player to score 30 goals in a single NHL season. Unfortunately, this was the highlight of his career, as he spent the next few years bouncing around between Hartford, Detroit, and Washington. He retired from playing in 1984.
Rowe has had an extensive coaching career over the past decade. His first major coaching job came with the Lowell — now Albany — Devils, back in 2004. For 320 games over four seasons, Rowe served as the team’s head coach, leading the franchise to Calder Cup playoff births in three of those seasons.
From 2008-2011, he served as an assistant coach for the Carolina Hurricanes. In 2012, he accepted a head coaching position with the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
From 2013-2015, Rowe was the head coach of the Panthers AHL affiliate team. First in San Antonio with the Rampage, and then, after relocation, in Portland with the Pirates. He left midway through the 15-16 season to take the associate GM job with the Florida Panthers.
So, Is He Qualified?
Some would probably say yes. Others, no. He has a good amount of head coaching experience with top tier leagues like the KHL, but no head coaching stints in the National Hockey League. He’s served as an assistant coach and GM in the NHL, but will definitely have a lot to prove in this interim position.
Not that his playing style or career gives us a full indication on his tactics, but one would expect an offensive-minded former player to continue to let the Panthers play their brand of fast, gritty offense.
The problem will be getting his players on board. Reports are indicating that many Panthers players are fuming at the unexpected firing of Gallant. The players enjoyed playing for him and had gotten used to winning under him, so it will take a lot of work to make this a smooth transition in the organization.
And who knows how this will affect Rowe’s GM duties. GM/head coach combos don’t often happen and, when they do, they don’t usually work out that well. I made the reference in my breaking news piece last night but, Chip Kelly and the Eagles is the prime example of this situation not working.
The Panthers and their fans will have to give him a chance and hope he can keep this team on track. Remember, they haven’t had the best start, but they’re still a middle of the pack team, and should see a spark during the second half of the season when the team is fully healthy.