Anytime there’s a change in regime it takes time for the new person in charge to make the adjustments before the world sees results. For Presidents, we give them 100 days. For NHL head coaches, let’s go with 10 games.
Pete DeBoer’s 10th game behind the Golden Knights bench was on Thursday where he led his team to a crazy overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. It moved the team’s record under DeBoer to 5-3-2. They’ve scored 37 goals while allowing 34 with the power play operating at 22.6% and killing at 75%. Their shot share is a whopping 58.5% and the PDO has remained steady under 100 at 98.3.
Let’s start by comparing this all with Gallant, who coached the Golden Knights for 49 games before being let go.
GF per game
GA per game
The numbers show DeBoer up a bit in most categories, but the changes are far from significant.
There have been 8 head coaching changes in the NHL this season. One is Gallant, one just happened yesterday, so we’ve got six others to work with. How did their teams stack up over the first 10 games you ask? We head back to the table!
Imagine what the Golden Knights would look like right now if the first season went the way everyone projected. If they played like an expansion team usually does and finished at or near the bottom of the standings. A lot would look different, but the men behind the bench would still be familiar.
The Golden Knights overachieved in every sense of the word in their first season. They won more games than they were supposed to, they went further in the playoffs than anyone could have ever imagined, and they created a culture of success.
In just one season, the most magical season not to result in a championship in sports history, the Golden Knights went from an organization willing and able to be patient to one with a “Cup or Bust” mentality every single year.
When most players learned they were headed to Vegas in the Expansion Draft, they didn’t know what to expect. Despite whether the player was established, under-utilized, or had not even broken through into the NHL yet, there was a semblance of hesitation with all of them. They’d heard the stories of barren buildings, unknowledgeable fans, and tons and tons of losses. With Vegas, they didn’t know what to expect and there were plenty of reasons to expect the worst as opposed to the best.
Less than a year later, Vegas became a destination. Following every game players would rave about the building, the atmosphere, and the relentlessness of the team on the ice. The first offseason, James Neal, David Perron, Ryan Reaves, and Luca Sbisa all expressed a genuine desire to stay in Vegas. Paul Stastny inked a deal after Vegas knocked his team out of the playoffs a few months before. And then the big one, the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Max Pacioretty, agreed to sign a long term deal before even stepping foot in the city allowing the Golden Knights to pull off a blockbuster trade right before the second season began.
Every new player, and especially Pacioretty, ranted about the rest of the league’s growing perception of Las Vegas. In less than a year, it went from an unknown to one of, if not the most, desirable destination in the NHL.
That led to players like William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, and Nate Schmidt to all take fairly friendly deals to stay. It helped keep Marc-Andre Fleury, who could have gone anywhere he wished, in Vegas for the long haul. And again, it led to another trade and sign of Mark Stone, who hasn’t shut up about how much he loves Vegas since.
Success led to more success which led to expectations and those expectations were what ultimately sent Gallant and Kelly packing.
They were handed a group of players, an empty locker room, and a blank canvas and they spun it into what it is now, a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations year over year. They got the most out of a group of players every other team in the league decided were expendable and in doing it, they allowed the front office to capitalize and add more and more talent to the mix.
Without the success in Year 1, there would be no Pacioretty, no Stone, no Stastny, and probably no Fleury.
The building wouldn’t be known as the most electric in the league.
The locker room wouldn’t be viewed as one every player in the league would gladly accept becoming a part of.
And the worst of all, the job of the head coach wouldn’t be so desirable that a recently fired Pete DeBoer sitting next to a pool in Florida with his family would accept the position so fast that he didn’t even have time to find a suit before getting on the plane to take the job.
Gerard Gallant and Mike Kelly were instrumental in creating a winning culture and lofty expectations. They ultimately ended up becoming the first to pay for it as well.
No matter what comes of the rest of this regular season, the postseason, and the future including this core of players, while credit will be given to just about everyone else first, Gallant and Kelly will always deserve their fair share.
Their names won’t be on the Cup if the Golden Knights ever win it. They won’t be at the parade down Las Vegas Boulevard. But their contributions to the Golden Knights franchise should never be undervalued.
I think every coach has some tweaks and some beliefs they want to instill. Coming in mid-season it’s going to be a little slower process and take some time. -Pete DeBoer
DeBoer has been tasked with taking over a team that knows it’s good but haven’t quite been able to sustain it consistently. The Golden Knights started out the season with two big wins against DeBoer’s Sharks, then dropped 15 of their next 24. Next, they hit a hot streak winning 13 of 19, but things quickly took a turn for the worse with Vegas losing four straight, costing Gerard Gallant his job.
Now, DeBoer is in charge and he has to figure out how much needs to be changed and where he needs to implement those changes.
From a systems point of view, there will be some tweaks but this is a well-coached team, I’m not coming in here to change everything. -DeBoer
Those tweaks will come eventually, but don’t expect to see them in the next three games.
We’ve got to take it a little bit slower for me. These games until the break I’m going to use to get to know the guys and the team. The players, I want them to play, show me what you can do, what you are capable of, and hopefully coming out of the break we can start to establish some of those things. -DeBoer
However, DeBoer did outline a few things he says he won’t wait for, those he calls, “non-negotiables.”
I was a coach have some non-negotiable things we’re going to stress and that’s attacking and playing north, stopping and defending hard, tracking back, keeping our shifts short, playing four lines. Those are the non-negotiable items for me that we’re going to try and instill right away. -DeBoer
For the most part, it’s all standard coach speak and things the Golden Knights were already doing with Gallant. But, there’s one “item” among the non-negotiables that will require a change from Vegas’ players.
“Keeping our shifts short.”
The average shift length of all players in the NHL is 45.5 seconds. 47.1 seconds for defensemen and 44.6 seconds for forwards. (as of 1/21/20)
Under Gallant Golden Knights came in way above the averages, while DeBoer’s Sharks teams have been below.
Vegas’ shifts are on average over five seconds longer than San Jose’s and four seconds longer than the league. The difference mostly comes down to forwards, where the Golden Knights 49.1 seconds per shift. While Gallant was at the helm, that was tied with Washington for the highest in the league. (Games through 1/14/20)
**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?
Last season on December 23rd, the Golden Knights lost their second game in a row, and third of their final four before the Christmas break. This year, Vegas lost again on December 23rd.
You have to stay focused on Christmas break and like I said, I wasn’t disappointed with our team tonight, but I have to give credit to Montreal. They came in here and played a hard game, a competitive game, all the things that we talk about being first on pucks… but again I’m disappointed in losing, but I’m pretty happy with that one point… Gallant-12/22/18
… it’s Christmas time and it just seemed like the last two games we had no jump, no energy and probably a lot of family in town and you’ve got to be focused to play in the NHL and play well every night and to me it didn’t look like we were focused enough.-Gallant, 12/23/18
The coach was a little bit lighter this holiday season after their 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
I don’t think that it was that. We looked tired. We looked mentally tired, to me. We just didn’t look like we had the same jump. We’ve played really good hockey lately and tonight was a game that I wanted to play a lot better against the team that beat us here pretty good last time and it just didn’t happen.- Gallant, 12/23/19
The numbers don’t lie.
The final three games before last season’s Christmas break, Vegas was 1-0-2, this season they were 1-1-1. The question is, are the players fully focused this time of year? Or is it just coincidental? Either way, the coach was happy with the timing of the holiday break.
Big time. Yeah, it’s a great break. We played a lot of hockey. We had a lot of travel and I’m sure the guys are tired so it’s a great point, they have three days off and we’ll get back at it after Christmas. -Gallant, 12/23/19
Could it be as simple as being distracted by family members traveling in for the Holidays, or the stress of getting all their Christmas shopping done? Gallant seemed to think so last year, and it sure looks like the same can be said 365 days later. Looking ahead to the break can be dangerous for a team looking to pick up standing points. However, there’s a second trend that comes along with the three days off. Vegas tends to play like they got everything on their Christmas list.
There’s no doubt that game was huge for us. We played a good hockey game that night and all of a sudden it looked like we were going to come out with no points. Then with 0.3 seconds left on the clock we tie it up and then we win the game. Our team was really excited after that game. They were excited, pumped up and I think that’s been a big positive for us moving forward. –Gerard Gallant on VGK Insider Show
With each and every game that’s passed since, the game in Nashville is looking more and more like the turning point of the season.
Since that game, which was three weeks ago now, the Golden Knights are 8-2-1. They’ve won four road games, and even in the three games they dropped they played well for the majority of them.
There’s plenty that’s changed since that fateful night in Nashville (listen to our podcast dropping later today where we dive into all of them), but the biggest one is undoubtably the introduction of VGKD 2.0.
It’s no secret we tweaked some things in our game and I think it’s allowed us at times to work hard going the other way. -Max Pacioretty
Before the change, the Golden Knights had scored 77 goals and allowed 77 goals. That’s 2.96 goals per game both scored and allowed. Since, Vegas has scored 35 and allowed 28. 3.18 goals for and 2.55 goals against. A difference in 0.63 goals per game total!
We’ve been a lot better at getting our guys up into the offensive zone and keeping pucks alive. You give our forwards an extra 10 seconds in the zone and that’s all they need sometimes. -Nate Schmidt
The stories began to leak after the Toronto Maple Leafs relieved Mike Babcock from his coaching position. Former and current players spoke out about Babcock’s harsh, critical style hidden behind his success. Then more stories came out by past players, stories that were very concerning.
Not very surprising the things we’re hearing about Babcock. Apple doesn’t fall far from the Tree, same sort of deal with his protege in YYC. Dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music. First one to
Akim Aliu broke open the door when he accused former coaches of being openly racist. Aliu’s claims were taken seriously enough that Calgary quickly parted ways with coach Bill Peters for his involvement a decade ago. They weren’t claims anymore, the nightmare stories by former players were sadly proven right. Peters resigned and the league is better for the swift actions.
Most teams got a chance to address the controversy over the past two weeks, so we thought it was time for the league to hear from some of the Golden Knights.
I wasn’t there in those situations but the Bill Peters thing, there’s no room for that on hockey. There’s no room for racism in the world at all.
Guys coming out saying that got yelled at, if you’re a hockey player you have to have tough skin. If you’re getting yelled at you probably just have to brush it off. I don’t know. All of these stories coming out about the past is a little weird but this stuff about berated guys, racism and that stuff is important and needs to be discussed and taken care of. -Ryan Reaves
Ryan Reaves didn’t hesitate to call out Peters for his racist actions but he doesn’t want the outpouring of other stories clouding Aliu’s serious accounts.
Akim Aliu comes out with the racism story, that’s an important subject. That’s something that needs to be dealt with but the four or five other stories that came out seems like they’re just trying to catch a story and try and be part of a story that isn’t really there. There are certain subjects that need to be dealt with and then there’s certain things that are just noise. -Reaves
Twelve year NHL veteran Max Pacioretty has had his share of uncomfortable moments in his career but he’s never witnessed any form of abuse.
I can’t relate to any of the negative stuff that’s been coming out but often times in a team sport environment you can’t always be everyone’s best friend. You got to pick your time and spots when to be hard on guys and I think that accountability is present on pretty much every good team. -Max Pacioretty
Same goes for #75, he’s never seen any of the accusations firsthand.
I’ve never been on a team that had that. I’ve seen coaches and players battle, and sometimes they didn’t quite like each other. There’s going to be heated moments, it’s a heated sport. Sometimes the emotions get the best of you but I’ve never been a part of anything that crossed the line. -Reaves
VGKD 2.0 is 2-0-0 with a pair of thrilling victories that went beyond regulation. Against Arizona, Vegas allowed just one goal and it came from an incredible shot by a defenseman who fooled Malcolm Subban by even shooting it in the first place.
The difference in how the Golden Knights now defend is only six periods old, but it sure looks like it is making a major difference… even if the head coach doesn’t want to admit.
What new system? -Gerard Gallant
Obviously, we’ll be keeping a close eye on it during this road trip against a trio of teams that play three majorly different styles. After two games though, one particular pro of the system has jumped off the ice, and that’s clearing rebounds.
Against the Coyotes, Vegas was terrific controlling second chance opportunities in the slot. No matter where the first shot came from, the Golden Knights had two or three bodies around the rebound and quickly removed the puck from danger before any Coyote could get a second look at net.
If there’s a shot from the outside we want to make sure there’s not a second shot, a second chance. We’ve always talked about it, even in the old system, winning those net-front battles and making sure we tie up sticks and keeping those chances to the outside so they don’t get two, three, or four whacks at it in front. -Nic Hague
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Golden Knights allowed just four rebound chances the entire game against Arizona. Only one was a truly dangerous chance. It happened to come in the waning seconds of the game and could have been a disaster had it found its way past Subban, but all in all Vegas was excellent in finding loose pucks and sending them to safety.
Our team cleared them really well. That’s an important thing for us. Give up shots from the outside and then do what you can on the rebounds. -Malcolm Subban
Even though Gallant doesn’t want to make a big deal of the change, he was very complimentary of his team’s work in front of their own net.
I think anytime you can box guys out and keep them from second and third chances in front of your net, it is going to help your team win games. A lot of teams are going through stuff like that, and if you can keep them on the outside you have a better chance to win and keep the puck out of your net. -Gallant
Every Golden Knight I’ve talked to about the new system has mentioned that they expect it to get better and better as they get more games and more practices under their belt. Yesterday they had a full practice at the Prudential Center (where they are playing tomorrow) and Gallant specifically mentioned working on “d-zone coverages.”
The Golden Knights have stacked two wins in a row four times prior to these last two, but have gone 0-3-1 in their attempts to win a third straight. They’ll have that chance again tonight, and if VGKD 2.0 works as well at MSG as it did at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, they should be able to get it done.
After their 2-1 loss in shootouts, the Arizona Coyotes spoke positively about their performance.
We played a good hockey game. We had to kill six penalties, we only had one power play. We deserved better. I’m proud of the guys. They played hard. -Rick Tocchet, Arizona Coach
The Coyotes have been one of the best teams this season in limiting opponents’ goals. They deployed the same strategy yesterday in Vegas. Holding the Golden Knights to one regulation goal was exactly what Arizona intended.
You have to make them defend. They got a lot of skill up front. You get those skill guys playing defense and eventually they’ll make some mistakes and a little bit more tired going up ice. We did a good job staying on top of them. -Jason Demers, Arizona Defenseman
Over the past two seasons, the Golden Knights have essentially owned the Coyotes compiling a record of 6-3-0 over 9 games. This season, Arizona came in with a different philosophy. One that would give them a better chance against the bigger, more skilled Vegas club.
We know they’re so quick and offensively very strong. The best way to play them is to make it a mucky game and make them play defense. I think we’ve learned to just play them and play them hard. I think we’ve done a good job of staying on top of them this season. -Jason Demers