December 3, 2016 | 10:24am ET
By Josh Brewster
ANAHEIM, CA -- From Calgary to Florida and beyond, the machinations of
NHL brass dominated the week's events.
Gerard Gallant paid the price for a mediocre 11-10-1 start by the
Florida Panthers when he was canned from his position as coach.
Immediately, the "analytics vs. old school" argument reared its head,
with good reason this time.
Panthers' management, under new owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, had
already kicked GM Dale Tallon up to President and installed Tom Rowe
as GM. Rowe is now serving as interim head coach. Rowe was the first
American player to score 30 goals in the NHL (1981 w/Washington), and
coached in the AHL and KHL.
Rowe's Assistant GMs, Eric Joyce and Steve Werier, have reputations as
analytics guys. Joyce served as an Army Captain in Operation Iraqi
Freedom III, has a degree from West Point and Harvard's Kennedy
School. Werier is an attorney who has specialized in entertainment and
international law. Commitment and intellect is in no short supply
between these two.
Gallant's former boss in Columbus (and fellow native of Prince Edward
Island), Doug MacLean, launched a revealing tirade after the news.
"Wasn't gonna work," MacLean said on Sportsnet 590 The Fan, sneering
that the Panthers are set up to be the "analytics dream team of the
Gallant's new bosses were younger, with advanced degrees and
non-hockey backgrounds, seemingly cut from the mold that expects
Cubs/Red Sox-like results from intense study of analytics. Analytics
are here to stay, like them or not, and there is no black and white
result here, only grey. The thing to consider is whether such analysis
for baseball, a game of stops-and-starts, is a whole different animal
than a fluid, fast game such as hockey.
The impact of Florida's new brass was felt over the summer when the
Panthers dealt away defensemen Erik Gudbranson, Dmitri Kulikov and
Brian Campbell, bringing aboard Keith Yandle, Jason Demers and Mark
Pysyk. Have to wonder what Gallant thought about those moves. As the
season began, injuries to Jon Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and Jussi
Jokinen did not help Gallant's cause, plus Alex Barkov and Jaromir
Jagr have had trouble finding the net until recently.
Making the matter more hard core, Gallant and his luggage were taken
off the team bus and left waiting for car service (or was it a taxi?)
that was well documented after the Panthers were beaten in Carolina.
Management and coach were evidently not on the same page after a
103-point season, a first-place finish in the division, Gallant's
second place finish in the Jack Adams voting for coach of the year
plus a rare playoff round. That's a delicious drama for hockey fans to
Have to wonder what the numbers say about that situation? How does one
quantify a slap to the face?
A Breath of Fresh Burkie
We hear less of Brian Burke in the media these days in large part
because he's upstairs in the President of Hockey Operations role while
Brad Treliving is the Flames' GM. It's always refreshing to hear from
Burke when matters of honor are at hand.
After rumors surfaced that the Flames were considering trading
23-year-old defenseman Dougie Hamilton, Treliving issued a firm
Not enough for Burke, who is all about The Code amongst executives.
"This one idiot GM made a call asking, 'Would you move him for a dozen
sticks,' or something," said Burke, who backed up his GM while
refusing (for now) to name names (also code).
"(Treliving) told them we weren't looking to trade him and said, 'The
next time you have a stupid idea like that save yourself a quarter and
don't call.' Next thing you know that GM told another he made an
offer. Then another GM called and asked if he was up for grabs and we
"We expended three very high draft picks (one 1st and two 2nd round
picks) to beat out about 12 other teams... we clearly covet him,"
"He's 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, he's a right-hand shot and a great kid. He
skates like a deer, he can shoot the puck and make plays. We really
like him. So, 'Oh ya, lets move him somewhere. Let's get rid of him.
There are a lot of those guys in the National Hockey League.'"
Burke's bombast, candor and passion is legendary.
Shortly after winning the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007,
left wing Dustin Penner received an offer sheet (5YRS/$21.25) from the
Edmonton Oilers that was too good to refuse. Declining to match the
offer, Burke went off. Burke thought that the excessive money given to
Penner after just two NHL seasons was out of line. It was about honor
to him, a basic respect for the other clubs in the League.
"For the colossal stupidity of what the Edmonton Oilers did this past
summer, if I had run my team into the sewer like that, I wouldn't
throw a grenade at the other 29 teams and my own indirectly," Burke
said of then-Oilers GM Kevin Lowe. "So I have no intention of speaking
to him any time soon."
Burke wasn't done.
"I told him I'd rent a barn. I picked the address and the time and I'd
fight Kevin Lowe."
Gotta love the brutal honesty of Burke in a world of sensitivity
Related: Labor Pains
The news broke today that the NHLPA rejected the NHL's offer of
Olympic participation in return for three more years of labor peace.
No surprise, other than the colossal balls it took for Gary Bettman to
float the offer.
Fans Have Balls
When the Vegas Golden Knights unveiled their name and logo, a large
gathering of fans met under a desert evening sky to celebrate. While
Owner Bill Foley, GM George MacPhee and Bettman sweated out a tense
opening replete with video glitches and delays, all the fun was not
sucked out of the room. There's always the booing of Bettman to while
away the time.
Think of it: As Bettman participated in the announcement that the city
of Las Vegas (that's "Vegas" to you) would receive its historic first
major pro sports franchise, the NHL Commissioner, who was integral to
the expansion to Vegas, the fans booed.
Talk about balls.
Josh Brewster is a Columnist for The Fourth Period
and the host of Anaheim Ducks' postgame radio show since 2006. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.