**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
I was grocery shopping when the news broke Wednesday morning and my phone started pinging with text messages.
What I thought was unthinkable and improbable had happened. The Golden Knights had fired Gerard Gallant.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Especially with the news they had hired Peter DeBoer to replace Gallant.
The man everyone knows as Turk was done wrong. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This was George McPhee’s call and Bill Foley signed off on it. I guess the guy who guided his team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 suddenly forgot how to coach.
The Knights claim this was a performance-based decision, not some off-ice situation like Bill Peters or Jim Montgomery. The team has been struggling for stretches since October as injuries and subpar play from certain individuals have contributed to a frustrating season for everyone.
But keep in mind while this team technically started the day on the outside looking in for the playoffs, the Golden Knights are three points out of first place in the Pacific Division. A week ago, they were at the top of the division. So to think this is a knee-jerk reaction by McPhee is ludicrous.
I don’t believe Gallant had lost the locker room. Some of you have indicated on Twitter that the team wasn’t playing hard and the blame for that goes to the head coach. A couple of you think Gallant was too loyal to certain players, one being Cody Eakin.
To me, this has been brewing for a while, not in the last week. McPhee may have had ideas on who should be playing and perhaps Gallant resisted his suggestions. Maybe Misha Donskov and his hockey analytics staff had given Gallant data that he refused to acknowledge and implement, much like he did in Florida which ultimately led to his demise with the Panthers. Maybe Gallant and goaltending coach David Prior didn’t see eye-to-eye. Remember, McPhee hired Prior before he hired Gallant, and that was a move made outside the norm. Perhaps Prior and Gallant never got fully comfortable working together.
Again, this is all speculation on my part. It could be all of the above, or none of it. But from having been around this team since Day One and having gotten to know Gallant pretty well, I know virtually all his players liked playing for him, respected him and wanted to win for him. David Perron, who was on the inaugural team in 2017-18, said as much on Twitter the other day that he loved Turk.
Now maybe there’s a guy or two who if you hooked him up to a polygraph machine might say they didn’t care for Gallant. But the majority loved him, play hard for him and tried to win for him. But there have been protracted slumps that have impacted this team’s performance.
Alex Tuch is having a miserable season. Ditto for Nate Schmidt. William Karlsson is going through a major goal-scoring slump. Eakin has struggled. Cody Glass’ development has been slower than hoped for. Even the goaltending, both from Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban, has been inconsistent.
You want to hold Gallant accountable for that? Go ahead. But you can’t sit everyone who is underachieving (especially when you are as cap-strapped as the Golden Knights are.)
GM Kelly McCrimmon held a press conference in Ottawa prior to the Golden Knights practice.
"We are in the unique position where we are right in the mix. This isn't a case where the bottom fell out and we were left with no choice. Proactively it was our belief that this is what was going to be the best thing for our organization." -Kelly McCrimmon
"He relates well with players. He's an intelligent guy. His teams have always had strong special teams. He's been to the Stanley Cup Finals with two different teams. He's enjoyed a lot of success in the NHL as a coach and w/ this opportunity, he'll continue to do that."-McCrimmon
"As a manager, sometimes you have a feeling that something isn't the way you need it to be or want it to be. We feel we've underperformed a little bit, and that's not to pile at the foot of Mike and Gerard but sometimes you feel a change is needed." -McCrimmon
DeBoer is expected to join the team later tonight or tomorrow and coach them in tomorrow’s game at the Ottawa Senators. Assistant coaches Ryan Craig, Ryan McGill, Dave Prior, and Tommy Cruz are expected remain with the team.
Are you pleased with the Golden Knights decision to fire Gerard Gallant and hire Pete DeBoer?
Recap: For the first time in seven games the Golden Knights would not allow a first period goal. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 13 of Buffalo’s shots on net. It was a scoreless tie after the opening 20 minutes.
Tomas Nosek would break open the scoring with his 6th of the season. Chandler Stephenson drove to the net and Nosek picked up the early goal 1:55 into the 2nd period. Two costly penalties would spoil Vegas’ lead. Max Pacioretty was called for what looked to be a clean check, and then the Golden Knights would take a too many men bench minor. Both would result in power play goals for Buffalo. The visiting team trailed 2-1 after two periods.
Vegas tied the game 1:43 into the 3rd period on a power play goal by Reilly Smith. However, the Sabres would regain the lead on a nifty goal by Buffalo captain Jack Eichel. Gerard Gallant pulled Fleury with 2 minutes remaining but the Sabres would backhand a long distance empty net goal and won the game 4-2.
Vegas’ record drops to 24-19-6, losing their 4th in a row. The team travels to Ottawa to face the Senators on Thursday night. Game time is scheduled for 430PM. (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: Coming later tonight. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center
The line change that led to the 4th loss in a row.
SinBin.vegas Podcast from Moneyline Sports Bar at Park MGM
Ken’s Three VGK Stars *** Mark Stone ** Alex Tuch * Reilly Smith
That one hurts. Completely outplayed the Sabres for the entire game.
Following the Golden Knights run to the Stanley Cup, they had some decisions to make. Two of their top six scorers were set to become free agents. David Perron had just put up 66 points and remains the only Golden Knights to record a 50 assist season, and James Neal scored 25 goals including instrumental ones every step of the way in the magical first season.
When the clock struck midnight, technically 9 AM on July 1st, 2018, both Perron and Neal walked away from the Golden Knights signing with St. Louis and Calgary respectively.
Both Neal and Perron expressed interest in staying but eventually signed contracts longer and more expensive than what the Golden Knights were comfortable with. Perron signed a four year $16 million ($4M AAV) deal while Neal got a five year $28.75M ($5.75M AAV) contract.
Negotiations are always secretive and often the details never come to light. But yesterday, Perron took to Twitter to give us a little insight into his experience negotiating with George McPhee while under contract with the Golden Knights.
never got an offer after trade deadline from VGK… yes my heart is in St Louis, but it also is in Vegas for how much I loved the year we all had together there. Still very happy the way it turned out(cup) but dont make me look like I wanted to leave…no grudges on my part btw
The Golden Knights found themselves in a three-goal hole late in the 1st period against the Blues. It felt like the sky was falling until Vegas stormed back to win the game 5-4 in overtime.
Three nights later, once again, Vegas saw 3-0 on the scoreboard, this time against Pittsburgh. Back-to-back games falling behind by three felt improbable, yet once again they stormed back only to come up a bit short.
A couple nights later, it happened again! 3-0 turned to 4-0 against the LA Kings and it’s officially reached epidemic levels.
Then, Saturday. 1-0 in the 1st. 2-0 in the 2nd, and what do you know in the 3rd, 3-0 again for the fourth straight game.
The Golden Knights lost again. Again they fell behind in the 1st period, again they watched the lead grow to a number they wouldn’t be able to overcome, and again they salted away a pair of points at home they really should have won.
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion as to what’s going wrong, but personally, I’m sick of the intangible excuses that are being made for this team. Tonight’s game was not about a lack of effort, a sense of complacency or any other unmeasurable factor people want to throw around. Instead, tonight was a full display of all that is wrong with the Golden Knights.
It starts with forward depth. This team doesn’t have enough of it. When Cody Glass and Jonathan Marchessault are out they don’t have the horses to fill their roles. And it would be a problem if there were any two of the top nine forwards missing.
Because of it, they’re forced to move Alex Tuch up to the 1st line to play out of position and on a line he has never fit on despite playing 13 prior games with Karlsson as the center. Some line combinations don’t fit, especially when you are playing one player out of position on his off-wing. That’s okay, but when a team is built in a way in which they literally don’t have another option outside of William Carrier, who has been exclusively a 4th liner until 2 weeks ago, it becomes a problem.
That then bleeds down to the 2nd line. The best 2nd line the Golden Knights can make is Paul Stastny between Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. It’s a line that has proven to work time and time again, including an unreal start to the playoffs last year, but isn’t truly an option currently because it leaves the bottom six far too bare. So, that forces Chandler Stephenson, to fill a role higher in the lineup that most teams would prefer. Stastny moves down in an attempt to put a bit more skill and vision with a pair of wingers who have proven they can’t be relied upon to score.
Finally, you are left with a 4th line that can certainly do the job of a standard 4th line, but must be expected to do more because there’s not enough scoring above them.
When they need an extra player, they turn to Nicolas Roy, Valentin Zykov, or Keegan Kolesar. All fine players, but none can be expected to score at the NHL level, especially when playing alongside other non-scorers Cody Eakin, Ryan Reaves, William Carrier, and Tomas Nosek.
This is a risk the front office took when they chose to go down a path this offseason of offloading talented forwards for a prospect and a bushel of picks as opposed to attempting to bite the bullet and unload some overpaid role players. When healthy, the team has plenty of offense, when not, they’re short.
Which leads to the next problem. Defensive scoring. With Nate Schmidt having a bit of a down year to this point, the only legitimate offensive threat is Shea Theodore. He may end up outscoring the rest of the Golden Knights blue line combined. If the forwards were putting up three or four goals a night, it would be fine to have a defense focused on defending, but while missing players, the team needs some chip in from the defensemen. At the moment, they don’t have the guys to do it. Nic Hague may eventually become more of an offensive weapon, but while he’s getting his feet wet in the NHL, making sure his defensive game is under control is more important. Brayden McNabb, Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill, and Nick Holden are all acceptable NHL level defensemen, but between them, there’s one season of more than 30 points and they’ve played a combined 35 years in the NHL. So expecting to get anything more than they’ve already given to this point is unrealistic.
Recap: The Golden Knights hosted the Blue Jackets got their last home game of their seven game stand. Vegas took two penalties in the 1st period and one ended up costing them the first goal of the game. It was the sixth straight game that Vegas allowed the visiting team to score first. Columbus lead 1-0 after the opening 20 minutes.
The Blue Jackets doubled up their lead 2:06 into the 2nd period. Vegas would try and play catch up for the rest of the middle frame. The Golden Knights were awarded two power plays but couldn’t convert. They continued to trail Columbus 2-0.
Vegas struggled again to generate any offense, and Columbus took advantage. The Blue Jackets stretched their lead to 3-0 deep into the 3rd period.
Vegas’ record drops to 24-18-6 and remain with 54 points. The Golden Knights hit the road and next play on Tuesday in Buffalo. Start time is scheduled for 4P. (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: The Golden Knights just didn’t have it on this night, once again chasing a game after conceding first for the 5th straight game. Offensively they couldn’t generate much against a stingy Columbus defense and the Blue Jackets capitalized on a couple of opportunities. Vegas looked frustrated throughout as they had a hard time getting extended offensive zone time and rarely created more than once chance per possession. It’s a frustrating way to end a homestand that started out so promising. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Columbus Blue Jackets at T-Mobile Arena
Steve Carp’s Sunday column on William Carrier’s elevated role
Ken’s Three VGK Stars *** Paul Stastny ** Shea Theodore * Alex Tuch
8 points in a 7 game homestand is not acceptable. Puts a lot more pressure on the upcoming 8 game roadie, can't come back without a point per game at the least.
1st period problems have been evident throughout the entire homestand with the Golden Knights allowing 13 goals in the opening frame in the last six games. However, that’s been a temporary problem. There’s a bigger problem that’s been going on all year, and it’s reared its ugly head these last three games.
The Blues, Penguins, and Kings all scored at least three straight on the Golden Knights. In 13 separate games, Vegas has allowed the opposing team to score three or more consecutive goals. They are 2-10-1 in those games, and 1-6-1 at home.
Allowing 3+ consecutive goals 10/08/19: 4-3 loss vs Boston – 4 straight 10/15/19: 5-2 loss at Nashville – 4 straight 10/21/19: 6-2 loss at Philadelphia – 4 straight 10/25/19: 6-1 loss vs Colorado – 4 straight 11/02/19: 4-3 OTL vs Winnipeg – 3 straight 11/13/19: 5-3 loss vs Chicago – 5 straight 11/27/19: 4-3 OT win at Nashville – 3 straight 12/08/19: 5-0 loss vs NY Rangers – 5 straight 12/12/19: 4-2 loss at St. Louis – 3 straight 12/27/19: 4-3 loss at Anaheim – 4 straight 01/04/20: 5-4 OT win vs St. Louis – 3 straight 01/07/20: 4-3 loss vs Pittsburgh – 3 straight 01/09/20: 5-2 loss vs LA – 4 straight
Recap: The 1st period was completely lopsided to the visiting team as they lit up the scoreboard. The Kings scored four times in the opening 20 minutes. Malcolm Subban had trouble stopping the flurry of LA shots. Vegas trailed 4-0 after one period.
The Golden Knights outshot the Kings 24-4 in the 2nd period and would get two past LA goaltender Jack Campbell. After 40 minutes Vegas trailed 4-2.
Vegas was awarded the first power play of the game 13 minutes left in the 3rd period. They couldn’t convert on the man advantage and would fall eventually fall 5-2.
Vegas’ record drops to 24-17-6 and remain tied with Arizona for first place in the Pacific Division. The Golden Knights will host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. Game time is scheduled for 7PM. (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: An absolutely atrocious 1st period, again. The 3rd straight game the Golden Knights were a complete trainwreck in the 1st and it cost them their second straight game. Sure, the 2nd and the 3rd Vegas destroyed the Kings, but it’s too little too late. There’s one more game in the homestand, they better not give up a 1st period goal. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Los Angeles Kings at T-Mobile Arena
Probably something about all the 1st period goals, but we’ll see.
Ken’s Three VGK Stars *** Too Little ** Too * Late (There were some good players, but if you fall behind by four, it doesn’t really matter.)
Golden Knights keeping the pedal down to start the 3rd. Campbell is having a solid game in there.