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Head Coaching Rumor Roundup

With the bow tied on the NHL regular season and the heads already beginning to roll (Lindy Ruff) off the coach chopping block, it’s time for a recap of where we stand in Las Vegas.

The Golden Knights have made it clear they aren’t in a hurry to hire the first head coach in franchise history. There was a moment there back in February when McPhee/McCrimmon and the Golden Knights braintrust discussed moving up the timeline, and even conducted interviews with at least a pair of coaches, but the timeline quickly shifted back to “after the season.”

So now that we are here, it’s time to take a look at the most likely coaching candidates, their connection to Vegas, and why we here at SinBin.vegas believe each make sense to stand behind the Golden Knights bench in October. But first, here’s a little recap on what’s going on (or at least what he’s telling us) inside George McPhee’s mind when it comes to the coach search.

We want someone who is very current on the game, who’s progressive. I’ve had the opportunity to work with lots of coaches in the NHL. Had great experiences in the world championships working with several NHL coaches. So, we know who’s out there. We decided way back in August, that we were going to take our time and interview along the way. – GM George McPhee

George is looking for a particular type of of coach. He’s not looking for a first-termer. He’s looking for a guy who’s learned a lot and has coached a couple of other teams. I would say the coach that will name is going to be a recognizable individual but he has to fit George’s culture. –The Creator

George McPhee’s going to make the call. My call is going to be, is this a guy I can work with feel comfortable with. All the people we have in this organization keep their egos in check they are about winning hockey games or making a successful business. -The Creator

It’s not an easy process to evaluate players when you are just getting going like we are and I don’t want to be evaluating a coach and players at the same time. I’d rather have the coach be someone who we know has done the job and can do the job and we’ll be focusing on players for the next few years… In Washington I went with a lot of guys it was their first time around, my preference would be an experienced guy…The coach certainly has to fit the model we are looking for. I’ve liked putting together high scoring entertaining teams. It’s a fun way to play the game and a fun way to watch the game. -McPhee

Head Coach Candidates for Vegas Golden Knights

Jack Capuano
Resume – New York Islanders Head Coach (2010-2017)
Style – The former defenseman coaches the same way he played. Defensive, gritty and physical. Blocking shots, winning neutral zone battles, and puck possession are his pillars.
VGK Connection – Capuano was the head coach while McPhee was an advisor to GM Garth Snow in New York.

Capuano emerged as the favorite in February, but each passing day his stock slips as the Golden Knights prove they have their eye on others. He has been interviewed by both McPhee and The Creator for the position in Vegas. Cappy is still the leader in the clubhouse, meaning he’ll get the job if they can’t find anyone better or McPhee truly didn’t want a head coach in the room prior to the Expansion Draft.

Lindy Ruff
Resume – Buffalo Sabres Head Coach (1997-2013), Dallas Stars Head Coach (2013-2017)
Style – In 2013, at his Stars introductory press conference Ruff said puck possession was his main focus. He saw the changing tide of the NHL and realized his teams need to be in control of the game. Ruff calls it a “tough and demanding” style of hockey. He’s very open to using advanced statistics to help zone matchups. Ruff uses analytics to compares one on one puck battles, which helps him create his ideal puck possession lines.
VGK Connection – Played with Golden Knights scout Mike Foligno for nine years in Buffalo

Ruff was the first coach to be let go from his team at the end of the 2016-17 NHL season. He fits just about everything McPhee is said to be looking for in a coach and would certainly make the splash The Creator wants if hired. His impending exit in Dallas has been predicted by many for months now, so his release shouldn’t come as a shock to the Golden Knights. Is he the guy McPhee’s been waiting to come available?

Craig Berube
Resume – Philadelphia Flyers Head Coach (2013-2015) Chicago Wolves Head Coach (2016-present)
Style – With limited time behind the NHL ice, Berube’s instincts are to coach like he played. Gritty, tough, physical hockey that everyone buys into. His players love him and want to play hard for him. Berube has been criticized for wearing down his players, especially goaltenders. Offensive production was very low and his style couldn’t win enough games.
VGK Connection – He’s the current head coach of the team expected to become Vegas’ AHL affiliate any day now. Played with Murray Craven in Philadelphia for five years.

Berube wouldn’t necessarily be the perfect fit in regards to style, but the connection with the Wolves just keeps his name in the picture. It’s a bit of a long shot, especially considering he was hired by GM Doug Armstrong of the Blues and will likely continue along with the Blues, but his name just won’t go away.

Todd Richards
Resume – Minnesota Wild Head Coach (2009-2011) Columbus Blue Jackets Head Coach (2011-2016) Tampa Bay Lightning Assistant (2016-present)
Style – The lamp gets lit when Richards brand of hockey is working. He wants his players to move the puck quickly in transition and unleash a heavy forechecking. He wants a roster full of physical, fast, offensive minded players. Richards was fired from his previous jobs because his defense never balanced out his offense. His teams chased more odd-man rushes than any other club.
VGK Connection – Played for the Las Vegas Thunder four two years (1993-1994). Played with Murray Craven for very short period with Hartford Whalers.

He’s an experienced guy who is likely looking to get back in the driver’s seat. The connection to Vegas through the Thunder is the kind of PR info nugget this team seems to love. Stylistically, he’s almost exactly what McPhee prefers. It’s not a name that’s been thrown around much, but it certainly makes sense.

Gerard Gallant 
Resume – Columbus Blue Jackets Head Coach (2003-2007) Florida Panthers Head Coach (2014-2017)
Style – Gallant has the reputation of being a players coach. He’s claimed himself he’s an easy coach to get along with. Florida exec Dale Tallon mentioned Gallant possessed balance in his coaching style. However, two years later players were complaining about the stagnant style of play. Players wanted to move the puck fast to quickly generate offense. The Panthers wanted Gallant’s team to pressure the puck in all three zones. His philosophy of balance and size didn’t work for Florida’s front office.
VGK Connection – Gallant was the head coach during the Panther’s front office shuffle that found Dale Tallon with a new title and Scott Luce and Erin Ginnell fired. Luce and Ginnell are now both with the Golden Knights.

Sir Gallant was at the front of the line with Capuano months ago, but like Cappy, the longer he goes without a Golden Knights contract the worse it looks. Certainly still possible he’s the guy, but consider it unlikely at this point.

Dan Bylsma
Resume – Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach (2008-2014) Buffalo Sabres Head Coach (2015-present)
Style – Heavy on quick defensive zone retrieval and offensive zone possession. His model has not had success in Buffalo as it continuously exposes Sabre defenseman. Bylsma is very dependent on his system which requires risky long passes from the defensive zone. Quick retrieval styles can work when the roster has quick moving defenseman.
VGK Connection – None of note

Disco Dan is still employed in Buffalo, but many are calling for his head after a rough season. If he does indeed get the axe, he may fit what McPhee’s looking for.

Dave Tippett
Resume –  Dallas Stars Head Coach (2002-2009) Arizona Coyotes Head Coach (2009-present)
Style – Some have branded Tippett a defensive style hockey coach which Mike Modano once said was horse****. He expects his players to be responsible and play both ways.Other NHL coaches label Tippett as one of the best adjusting a style to fit the roster.
VGK Connection – Possible youth hockey connection with Kelly McCrimmon (both grew up in Saskatchewan at same time)

Tippett recently signed an extension with the Coyotes but their continued struggles may force him out the door anyway. His knowledge of coaching in the desert (and Pacific Division) would be valuable to the Golden Knights.

Adam Oates
Resume – Washington Capitals Head Coach (2012-2014)
Style – As one of the NHL’s most cerebral players, Oates can see the game differently than most players. Excellent leadership, teaching ability and attention that he puts to use as a private skills coach.
VGK Connection – Hired by George McPhee in Washington. Fired on same day as McPhee. Also, played for McPhee for five seasons in Washington.

Oates’ time in Washington as a coach did not go quite as well as when he played for the Capitals. There are reports that he and McPhee did not necessarily agree on some personnel decisions, which subsequently resulted in both losing their jobs. It’s kind of a long shot, and would be somewhat unprecedented in sports to see a GM and coach fired on the same day reunite in each’s next job, but there’s more familiarity here than with any other coach. McPhee mentioned not wanting to evaluate a coach, well, he’s already had two years to do that… though those two years probably aren’t in either’s fondest memories banks. There’s also this one other nugget from Elliotte Friedman, that has to be considered.

George McPhee hired Dale Hunter to coach his Capitals in 2011. I believe he reached out and asked Dale Hunter, ‘would you be interested in being the first coach of Las Vegas?’ Dale Hunter said no, he’d like to stay in London. –Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night in Canada

If he was willing to give Hunter (who resigned after one year in Washington) another shot, why not Oates?

**Jason Pothier contributed in writing this article**

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18 Comments

  1. James

    @Ken Boehlke
    If he was willing to give Hunter (who resigned after one year in Washington) another shot, why not Oates?

    It appears that McPhee isn’t a fan of Oates

    http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2014/04/28/different-pages-did-george-mcphee-and-adam-oates-get-along/

    • Right, I was kind of trying to allude to that. I’ve spoken to the guys at RMNB and they were pretty sure Oates and McPhee didn’t get along, but were never really able to get anything concrete out of either saying it. So, I’m with ya, very unlikely, but as I said, you just never know.

  2. Dwayne Lucyk

    With Dale Talon back as GM in Florida, will he bring back Gerard Gallant?

  3. Jeff

    You wanna add Daryl Sutter to that list?

  4. James

    @Jeff
    I don’t buy the argument that Daryl Sutter doesn’t fit McPhee’s style of play – McPhee just offered Dale Hunter the job. McPhee is more open minded than he appears to be. You can’t pigeon hole him. In the past he has hired a mixed bag. Hunter, transformed the Capitals into a defensive-minded team. The idea of winning trumps everything else. Sutter is also an analytics darling.

    Whether he would want job is another matter. If the team could lose more than $30 million a year as the New York Post suggested, there are cheaper options to consider.

    • Phisig150

      I guess we will see what the TV deal brings to the table. Foley doesn’t seem concerned about much outside of ticket sales. I can’t see the Knights losing 30 million per season. So I call BS on that. Sports leagues have some funny accounting processes though especially when the CBA comes up for renewal.

  5. James

    Daryl Sutter is a reasonable facsimile of Claude Julien. Similar strengths and weaknesses. Not sure this is the best timing. He seems well suited for the job 3 years down the line. Winning Time

  6. James

    Here’s my personal opinion. I think we need to hire a Mike Sullivan type. Ticks all the boxes. Young, but not inexperienced. Sullivan failed the first time around in the NHL. Modern hockey thinker. Having coached in the American Hockey League, not afraid to play rookies.

    • Phisig150

      Not afraid to play the rookies is my number one criteria for the coach search. Hope the Knights feel the same way.

  7. James

    I’ve come around to the idea of Dallas Eakins of the San Diego Gulls (age 50 years). The Creator would take a shine to him. Eakins has been heavily linked with the Florida Panthers. It’s hard to look past his stint in Edmonton, but the same can be said of Mike Sullivan in Boston. I know it’s a gamble, but what do we have to lose? We’re not going to win anyway in the short term. It won’t set the franchise back too far if it doesn’t pan out. We could always hire an established coach 3 years down the line.

    https://www.nhl.com/oilers/news/a-new-tradition-oilers-honour-military/c-694717

  8. Dwayne Lucyk

    George needs to look for and find the next “Barry Trotz” type of coach that has the ability to coach a new team from the start and get them into the playoffs as soon as possible, like Barry did, when Nashville first came into the NHL as a new franchise.

  9. James

    @Dwayne Lucyk
    To put things in perspective, Nashville did not qualify for the playoffs in their first five years under Trotz. Nashville did not reach the second round until their 13th season. I would love the next “Barry Trotz” type, but 1997 Trotz doesn’t fit McPhee’s criteria due to lack of NHL experience.

  10. James

    @Phisig150
    ‘Foley doesn’t seem to have that level of patience.’

    I have a bad feeling about this. If you become a meddling owner you accomplish nothing.

  11. RJ

    I’ve been calling it all year, I still think Ruff is the right guy.

  12. Phisig150

    Really nailed the head coach prediction guys.

    • Don’t be mean. At least he’s on the list… that was my fear.

      • Phisig150

        Just busting balls. Foley playing things close to the chest sometimes is a good thing. Was the Capuano talk misdirection? If so why? Was there someone they were hoping to get and had to pivot back to an earlier choice?

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