The Vegas Golden Knights were not exactly having the type of season they would have hoped but few people probably saw the move coming the team made on Wednesday. In shocking twist, the Golden Knights have decided to fire Gerard Gallant — the first coach in franchise history. The organization then announced Gallant will be replaced former San Jose Sharks coach, Peter DeBoer.
Golden Knights assistant coach Mike Kelly has also been relieved of his duties.
General manager Kelly McCrimmon released the below statement on the move:
In order for our team to reach its full potential, we determined a coaching change was necessary. Our team is capable of more than we have demonstrated this season. We would like to thank Gerard and Mike for their service to the Vegas Golden Knights. They were both instrumental to the success we have enjoyed in our first two-plus seasons and we wish them all the best moving forward.
Gallant’s Legacy in Vegas
It’s going to be hard for any coach, including DeBoer to live up to the legacy left behind by Gallant who took a team of expansion drafted leftovers to a 51-24-7 regular season, helped them battle through the post-season and took them all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season. A team with a chip on their shoulder, no expansion team had ever shown the kind of success that Golden Knights team had in the history of sports.
Since that day, the Golden Knights have added a number of star players via trade and free agency, lost a few of the key pieces in that run and not seen the same level of production. Many may argue the team has gotten lost in the desire to add big names and hefty prices, taking them away from what made them a success in the first place.
Still, even with the massive changes in roster personnel, the team was successful. The Golden Knights once again made the playoffs in 2018-19 with a 43-32-7 record. Ultimately, they lost in the second round to a DeBoer-led San Jose Sharks but by then, teams knew what the Golden Knights were capable of, were better prepared for their style of hockey, their incredibly loud fan base and the team could have been a little less motivated having settled into no longer being the underdog, yet they didn’t.
This season, unfortunately for Gallant, his team was in a slide. Having lost four games straight and sitting just outside the playoff picture, the organization wasn’t used to this kind of struggle. Golden Knights insider Gary Lawless tweeted the decision has been called completely “performance based.” and McCrimmon was concerned the team had regressed under his watch. The move is not being met with a lot of confidence by Vegas fans.
One follower wrote, “Somebody in Vegas better get in touch with the real world. I thought Florida was dumb to let Gallant go; but, Vegas’s move has given the word new meaning. Bad & DUMB move, Vegas!” Another said, “Wow what a mess up by Vegas 3 pts out of first place.”
That’s the interesting part in all of this. The Golden Knights are not at all out of the playoff conversation, only sitting outside of it because they’d lost four in a row. A coach like Gallant, in most other situations, would have been given a chance to right the ship, especially considering what he’d done for the team in the previous two seasons.
Why Peter DeBoer In Vegas?
Meanwhile, DeBoer is now on his fourth NHL team as coach. The two-time Stanley Cup finalist has never won the Stanley Cup but does have a .550 winning percentage over an 855-game career as bench boss.
When it came to the decision to hire DeBoer, McCrimmon said:
In Peter DeBoer, we have a proven, experienced head coach who we believe can help us achieve our ultimate goal. We are excited to welcome Peter and his family to the Vegas Golden Knights organization. We look forward to a strong finish to the 2019-20 season with Peter at the helm and a successful tenure in the seasons to come.
The question now is, ‘Did the Golden Knights react too quickly?’
This isn’t to suggest DeBoer is a poor coach. Instead, Gallant is a very good one and it’s a bit of a shock the franchise didn’t let him try to work his way out of the this likely temporary funk.
By the way, this now makes seven coaches that have been fired this season alone. In other words, over 20% of the coaches in the NHL this year have been removed from their positions. Clearly, something is in the water and te Golden Knights are the latest to fall victim to a popular trend that proves NHL GM’s have lost their minds.
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