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Gallant’s The Right Man Today, But Will He Still Be In Four Years?

The Vegas Golden Knights got it right on their first coaching hire. GM George McPhee described Gerard Gallant as an honest man and a good leader. The Creator looked like a proud Papa approving who his GM brought home to dinner (I’ll go along with the analogy, but I still think Ken is weird). Yesterday’s introductory press conference was another big moment for the franchise. Gallant’s hiring is a sign in the right direction, but that certainly doesn’t mean there’s room for concern.

My main apprehension with Gallant’s hiring is his strong emphasis on player size. Of course, every team needs to play physical, intimidating hockey but to what extent?

I think it’s harder to build a team that plays a power game the way you built L.A. and the way Boston was. It’s almost easier based on today’s players to build a team that plays faster, that can attack faster offensively but also can attack defensively. -Kevin Weeks, NHL Network

Pittsburgh is the clear example of a team built for today’s pace of game. The Penguins are one of the smallest and least physical teams and yet won the Stanley cup on speed and pressure. And it’s not just the reigning champs. Other teams are evolving to match the speed and pressure of top NHL teams. LA fired Daryl Sutter and his dedication to big, physical play to adopt a more balanced roster. Heck, Florida sent Gallant packing (literally) from Florida for this very reason.

Gallant mentioned multiple times yesterday that size was important to the style of play he coaches.

We wanted to develop a team and build a team that was fast, could move the puck quickly, pressure the puck in all three zones. Gerard and I talked about it. He said he wanted a little bit more size, and we just decided to go in a different direction. Were we on the same page every day of the week? No … philosophy was different. -Tom Rowe, Florida Panthers

If you look at NHL teams average height and weight, you’ll notice it doesn’t necessarily win games. Especially, this season. Scroll through friend of the site and spectacular columnist James Mirtle’s size chart. You’ll notice some of the biggest teams spit the bit this season. Colorado, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Dallas and Buffalo were all in the top five in either weight or height. Playoff teams Pittsburgh, Chicago, Montreal, Ottawa and Boston are all in the bottom percentile of the league in both body measurements. 

Another concern was Gallant’s willingness to process his style with the players McPhee opts to bring in. George has talked about a “fun” brand of hockey. A fast, high scoring, skillful, talented style, not necessarily the tough, strong, physical style Gallant has utilized about in the past. McPhee may have even dropped a hint that it’s something he has his eye on.

Basically the way we work is we’ll provide the players and Gerard coaches them. We’re not going  to tell him how to coach and and he’s not going to tell us how to find players. That’s basically how much clubs operate. -George McPhee

Hopefully, by the fourth season the Golden Knights have a young core of talented prospects. McPhee mentioned a balance of skill, speed and strength. Like the Toronto Maple Leafs. If Gallant won’t budge on his preferred style it could impact development.

I’m a stubborn guy at times; maybe I said a little too much, maybe I gave my opinion a little bit too much. Maybe it wasn’t always what they wanted to hear. I don’t know where it went from there. -Gerard Gallant on January 9th, 2017

The concerns are there but also very minimal and fixable for sure. Gallant will get the most out of his makeshift roster. What he gets out of the first generation prospects is another question. If Gallant shows his stubborn side it could create a difference in philosophy which could make him the first coach, rather than the first winning coach. Everything will be copacetic early on, but it’s fair to wonder when he may start feeling the pressure from the corner offices of McPhee and McCrimmon?

He’s a real down-to-earth guy and the fans will strongly support Sir Gerard. More importantly, the players will like him and should play hard for him. Gallant relies on hard working, gritty, shot-blocking role players that become fan favorites. Personally, I think he’ll be the fan favorite. Florida fans loved Gallant and went wild after he was dismissed. Just YouTube “Gerard Gallant firing” and you’ll get dozens of fan support videos.

Vegas hired the right first coach in franchise history. A blue-collared, well-regarded coach by players, fans and Grapes. Only time will tell if his style will be able to progress to match the team George McPhee has been so adamant about building.

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7 Comments

  1. RJ

    4 years is an ETERNITY in NHL coaching tenure. If Gallant lasts four years, it’ll be because he was a success in the eyes of McPhee and Foley.

    In the first few years, Las Vegas hockey will NOT be a skill game, it cant be since so few of our players will have much skill; we will have to rely on career role players and minor leaguers to play their best possible games. We won’t ever win games if we are expecting a team full of 3rd and 4th liners to play like Getzlaf and McDavid. We WILL win games if those same 3rd and 4th liners can play a gritty and physical game that can frustrate Getzlaf and McDavid enough to get them off their games.

    If the plan is to have Gallant guide the team through their lean years then hand the team off to a more ‘modern’ coach I think that’s a pretty good plan.

    By the way, my conspiracy theory is that McCrimmon eventually wants the HC job, but not with the team that’ll be lining up next year.

  2. R.J.

    Like the other RJ said, Las Vegas won’t have the “skill” necessary to compete with today’s teams that feature Crosby, McDavid, Ovechkin, etc. The Knights will need a physical team to get their feet wet the first couple of years, until they can establish themselves, and get skilled players on their roster. To me, I think a physical, hard-hitting team can be fun to watch. Look at the Oilers’ playoff game this evening. Knocked the Sharks around all over the ice. Exciting to watch! Yes, we’ll need goals, but, the “Gallant Knight” can get that out of our players over time. He’s the right man for the job at this time. Onward Knights!

    • Dwayne Lucyk

      Kassian was a one man wrecking crew last night with 6 monster hits and a short handed winning goal, first star of the game. The Oilers better protect their fourth line player, that they developed as a penalty killer this season or the Knights will select him to start the process of forming a hard hitting team. He played like a Knight in shiny armour. Just ask Braun and Couture who were on the receiving end of his hits. Unlike any other sport, playoff hockey is elevated with way more hits than regular season hockey. All the series are great to watch so far. I can hardly wait for the Knights to start playing hockey let alone waiting years for them to make the playoffs.

  3. Phisig150

    My dream was that Foley hire a front office and a GM that could last long term and keep building on the consitency of the staff and vision and one day become the NHL version of the Spurs. Not sure I like the idea of a prolonged interim head coach and then in a couple of years we’ll hire the real deal. I do however like the idea of playing hard nosed smash mouth hockey while we look for and groom our offensive stars.

    • RJ

      NOW we are talking. Forget this Hinkie garbage, we don’t want to be the 76ers, we want to be the Spurs. That is a dream.

  4. Phisig150

    Spurs got most of their major pieces through the draft even shutting Robinson down to ensure a good shot at Duncan. I just feel we have a prospect deficit and we should do our best to get caught up ASAP but I’m not going to cry if we make the playoffs I just hope we don’t completely mortgaage the future to get there. The ultimate goal should always be a long sustained run where we’re always legitimately in the mix like the Pats and Spurs. I think Hinkie if he had a longer leash could have gotten the Sixers there one day.

  5. Willy702

    The coach dynamic is very important. Some coaches are just better making bad teams better or decent, while others are good taking teams to the top. Sure there are a few exceptions, but this is true for 80% of the coaches. Ken Hitchcock definitely fits this, he’s great getting a good team to be much better, but when a team is on the downside he’s going to struggle. What he tweaks just works better for teams that don’t have discipline, but most bad teams just don’t have talent so all the discipline in the world won’t raise their game.

    I think Gallant will get VGK to a decent spot, but definitely foresee a change in a few years. He’s going to be a positive force for a bad team, but probably not do enough to take them to real contender status.

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