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Tag: Kelly McCrimmon (Page 1 of 3)

Golden Knights Hire Two Assistant Coaches

Before George McPhee fills up the bench with players at the Expansion Draft, Gerard Gallant has begun bringing on a few of the people who will stand behind the bench and coach the Golden Knights.

First, the obvious one, Mike Kelly. Kelly who was an assistant with Gallant in Florida, as well as in Saint John in the QMJHL, has been hired to the same position with the Golden Knights. Kelly had been Gallant’s top assistant the three seasons Gerard was with the Panthers and was always expected to have a place in Vegas once Gallant was hired.

I am very excited to be working with Mike again. We enjoyed success in both Florida and Saint John and I am eager to bring that success to the Golden Knights. Mike is a great guy with a wealth of hockey knowledge and I couldn’t be happier with the decision to bring him to Las Vegas. -Gerard Gallant, Head Coach in Press Release

The next assistant hung up his skates to take a shot at coaching. It’s Ryan Craig, who was most recently the captain of the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL. Craig’s playing career spanned 14 years in the NHL and AHL. Prior to going pro, Craig played for the Brandon Wheat Kings for six seasons from 1997-2003. Vegas Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon drafted Craig in Brandon.

Craig played 71 games this season with the Monsters before deciding to take on the assistant coaching job in Vegas.

He is well-respected in the hockey community and has been a tremendous leader throughout his playing career, both on and off the ice. I am confident that the leadership characteristics he exuded as a player will translate well behind the bench in his new role as an assistant coach. -Gallant in Press Release

Most NHL teams have either two or three assistant coaches in addition to their head coach and goalie coach, so it’s possible one more assistant is added in the coming days. The Golden Knights goalie coach, Dave Prior, was hired eight months before Gallant.

“Have To Be Able To Skate, First And Foremost”

All eyes tend to be focused on the Expansion Draft, and for good reason, but there’s another draft two days later that will probably be more influential on the long term success of the Golden Knights.

The NHL Entry Draft on June 23rd and 24th in Chicago will be crucial for George McPhee and his staff if they want to stay on track of The Creator’s “playoffs in three, Cup in six” mantra.

Vegas slipped to 6th overall in the first round, but still maintain the 3rd selection in all subsequent rounds. Plus, with the Expansion Draft before the Entry Draft, it’s almost a guarantee the Golden Knights will be on the clock more than just the seven times they are slated for today.

With the benefit of being able to watch players throughout the entire season and the  knowledge of knowing the Golden Knights will pick among the top six, Vegas scouts should have a pretty good idea what type of player they are looking to make the first draft selection in franchise history.

You have to be able to skate, first and foremost, because you have to play at a pace that seems to get higher and higher every season. These young players are making plays at such great speed, so you have to be able to skate. You need to have the sense and feel for the game. It’s that combination of speed, skill and sense, in addition to having a willingness to compete on a nightly basis, that are important. –Scott Luce, Director of Amateur Scouting

Seems obvious, until you take a look at some of the flaws of a few of the top prospects in this year’s Entry Draft.

Gabe Vilardi (C), the Memorial Cup starlet from the Windsor Spitfires, who The Hockey News has ranked as the 3rd overall, admittedly needs to improve his skating.

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Who Waited For Whom, And Why It Took So Long To Bring Gallant On Board

November 27th is a date that will forever live in the mind of new Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant. That’s the day he was let go from the Florida Panthers, paving the way for him to make history in Vegas.

But November 27th was 137 days before The Creator and George McPhee announced the knighting of Gerard Gallant. One has to wonder why it took so long, and more importantly, who caused the holdup.

We felt that we had a process that we wanted to go through, Kelly (McCrimmon) and I had discussed how we wanted to do this. I guess there are three issues why we took our time. First of all we didn’t have any players to coach, so we weren’t in a rush to have a coach, and we had so many other things to do. We had to get our priorities in order and take care of some of other things before we got to the coach. The second thing is when you have time in this business you use it. We needed every bit of it. The third reason was there were some people who had requested we talk to them at the end of their seasons. So, we went through the entire process. We did it the way we wanted to, and it worked out very well for us. We got the right person for this team and we did it in the timeline we set for it. -George McPhee

And what did it look like from Gallant’s point of view?

The first time I talked to George about it was probably in mid-December, he gave me a call and asked if I had any interest. I said definitely I had a lot of interest in it. Then I did an interview in mid-January and I flew out here for two days and we met for 3-4 hours with him and Kelly McCrimmon, Misha Donskov, and the owner. From that point on we talked about once every two weeks about the job and the process he was going through to hire his new coach. It was good, it was a long process but it was real good and it was everything I expected when we talked. -Gallant on Hockey Central at Noon

Gallant’s initial interview happened in January. Right around the time rumors started to fly that the Golden Knights may move up their coach hiring. Then, they didn’t, and here we are now, with the same guy that caused the rumors in the first place behind the bench?

When we met him we really liked him and there was an inclination to maybe do this right now because there’s some risk in waiting. But we wanted to be able to come here today and say ‘you know what, we did this right, it was a comprehensive exhaustive process and we took our time and we got the right guy.’ I talked to Gerard about two weeks ago and said when the season ends this is going to happen fast. We have one other person to talk to and when we get through that we will know exactly what we are doing. Throughout the process we kept coming back to Gerard and we felt like he was the right guy, and on Monday night we said, you know what, he’s the guy, let’s go. –McPhee to the Rink Rats

Gerard in the mean time was scooping up interviews himself.

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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. 

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Nolan Patrick Draft Stock Continues To Slip

Months ago Brandon Wheat Kings star prospect Nolan Patrick was the near consensus first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. Through a season of injuries and a fantastic campaign by the Swiss standout, Nico Hischier is starting to find his way to the top of draft boards.

So what do you do if you have the first pick overall this summer? Patrick’s two-way game and 6-foot-3 frame seemed to make him a safe top pick before the injuries, but Hischier’s hockey IQ and elite offensive skills make him look like another Jonathan Drouin. For me, it’s Hischier right now – and he certainly had to earn the distinction. -Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News

Hischier has been stupendous all season long and has continued his excellent run during the QJHML playoffs. Meanwhile, Patrick has been out much of the season and missed the Wheaties playoff series in which they were swept.

Here’s the good news, the Golden Knights didn’t need the 2016-17 season to know who Nolan Patrick is. While many teams were set to take advantage of another pre-draft eligible season for Patrick (he missed the cutoff by four days last year), they weren’t afforded a wealth of ice time due to Patrick’s nagging injuries. The Golden Knights on the other hand have Kelly McCrimmon on their staff. The current owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings and the former coach and GM of Patrick through his first three years in Manitoba.

Of course the lottery balls still have to have their say (still no official date on the lottery yet), but it’s likely that if McCrimmon believes Patrick is the next Anze Kopitar, he and McPhee will do what it takes to make him a Golden Knight. Therefore, the injuries, the rise of Hischier, and the lack of minutes from Patrick could in fact be a blessing in disguise for Vegas.

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McCrimmon Downplays Final Payment Importance

In the early afternoon on March 1st, the day of the NHL Trade Deadline, The Creator’s money cleared and the Vegas Golden Knights officially became the 31st franchise in the NHL.

They were free to make moves, George McPhee could attend the GM meetings in Boca, and the Golden Knights were to be treated like any of the Original 30 teams. Big deal, right? Not so much apparently.

There’s so much interest and attention and coverage of our team, so when we became official on March 1st there was an expectation that it significantly changed things for us when in reality our day to day didn’t change at all. -Kelly McCrimmon, Assistant General Manager

Speaking on The Vegas Hockey Hotline (begins at 31:20), the AGM said the only importance it really had was that it was a nice moment for the owner.

He wouldn’t talk about deals that were made and didn’t seem to believe the Reid Duke signing was affected by the timing of the final payment either.

In terms of our discussions with other teams those had been ongoing, I think what we are finding is that as we get later in the calendar year, teams are going to be more and more interested in having discussions with us. -McCrimmon

There’s really no reason to doubt McCrimmon and McPhee on their description of the final payment, but there’s still a part of me that wonders why The Creator specifically said it would not get done in time for the deadline, then magically made it happen just minutes before the league closed trading for the year.

If there was truly no significance, why would the league have taken time out of arguably the busiest day on the calendar to deal with paperwork with a team not playing a game until October?

There has to be a reason it happened, unfortunately, I doubt we’ll ever know.

Another Side Of Reid Duke

Reid Duke has a good size chip on his shoulder after being drafted 169th overall in 2014 by the Minnesota Wild but not being offered a contract with the team. However, that chip pales in comparison to another event in Duke’s life which he had never talked about publicly until a recent interview with the Calgary Herald.

Engrossed in a period of deep concern over where his hockey career was going, Reid Duke received a phone call in the fall that would alter his life forever. It came five months ago Monday, with news his close uncle, Sheldon Reid, was one of four men who died in a plane crash that also killed former Alberta premier Jim Prentice. -Eric Francis, Calgary Herald

Duke’s uncle Sheldon was a major influence on his life as well as on his hockey development. Sheldon turned an old horse barn into a fully functional hockey rink in which Reid practiced hours a day growing up.

I spent thousands of hours there with my two brothers and Sheldon’s son, Dylan. It’s literally a horse barn. The Zamboni is parked in horse stalls, which is pretty cool. It’s just amazing the part he played in my life – he was a huge part of my career. -Reid Duke

His uncle was also crucial in motivating him to be the best hockey player he could possibly be.

He was such an amazing person. After that incident, it really made me focus on not taking anything for granted and really remembering everything he taught me and everything he would want for me. He wasn’t someone who would just come to hug and smile, he really, really pushed me, whether it was on or off the ice. -Duke

There’s no question the impact it had off the ice as during the media tour in Vegas, Duke found a way to work his family into answers to questions every time possible. He gave off a sense that it wasn’t just about him, it was about everyone who helped to get him to this point, especially his uncle, whom he never mentioned by name. I got that feel before knowing this story, now I really get it.

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If Nolan Patrick’s A Golden Knight, It’ll Be For Good Reason

Since the signing of Reid Duke, the entire Golden Knights fan base have been playing make-believe GM. The dream transaction almost every armchair general manager (including myself) wants to make, is drafting top rated prospect Nolan Patrick. By now, we’re all aware Nolan and Duke play together in Brandon, Manitoba. Patrick is currently projected first or second in most analysts mock drafts. Duke, who becomes the Golden Knights first signed player could also become the team’s first player ambassador.

Of course, we can’t expect Kelly McCrimmon to exchange all of his Brandon currency for Vegas gold but his influence could help. If he believes Patrick is worth trading future assets for, I’m sure his boss will listen. George McPhee wouldn’t just trade up for a splash, but we have to imagine McCrimmon’s opinion is heavily valued by the GM. Conspiracy nuts like myself and Alex Jones expect lottery shenanigans leading to Vegas magically getting the first pick, but the possibility of drafting four to six is real if the odds are legit.

McPhee will be having very serious conversations with all 30 GMs in the near future so he’ll know (he might already) what the price of moving up will be. Analysts like Craig Button and Bob McKenzie are both down on this year’s draft but that doesn’t mean a team will make trade-swapping easy on Vegas.

Now that we know the situation, we have to ask the obvious question, is trading up for Nolan Patrick is even worth it? The projected number one pick’s numbers are silly over the past three plus seasons in Brandon. In 28 games this season, the right-handed center has 42 points. Last year he posted 102 points in 72 games with a rating of +51. Out of Patrick’s 18 goals this season only a few are assisted by Duke. While both centers play many shifts on separate lines, they continuously show up together on Brandon’s lethal power play unit. The Wheat Kings are in the top half of the WHL, scoring 64 PP goals this season. Teaming up on special teams in Vegas could be one reason to reunite Duke and Patrick. 

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The Dark Knight Will Determine A Lot Of Golden Knights Successes Or Failures

Batman is one of the few superheroes that does not actually have a special power.

“He relies on his genius intellect, physical prowess, martial arts abilities, detective skills, science and technology, vast wealth, intimidation, and indomitable will,” or at least that’s what Wikipedia says.

He’s there to fight crime and save Gotham City from evil, but in every adaptation of the world’s most beloved fictional character, there’s a dark side, which earned him the nickname, the Caped Crusader, or more fitting for the topic of this website, the Dark Knight.

The Vegas Golden Knights have a Dark Knight of their own. His name is Kelly McCrimmon, and he’s the mastermind that has the ability to pull strings not many in NHL circles posses.

Ask someone who knows him, and without a question the word smart will be in the answer. Rather than physical prowess, martial arts abilities, and all the other crap that makes Batman, Batman, McCrimmon has his own set of skills. “Excellent talent evaluator,” “brilliant hockey mind,” “incredible work ethic,” “a real asset in the role he’s been cast in.” And I have a feeling that “indomitable will” is probably in there when it comes to helping the Golden Knights put a winning product on the ice.

McCrimmon is, the Dark Knight of Vegas hockey.

As the former GM and coach, and still the owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, McCrimmon has an understanding of junior Canadian hockey like few in the business.

Putting the pieces together, he’s likely the reason Bob Lowes, Raphael Pouliot, and Bruno Campese were hired as scouts, and probably had a direct connection to many more that don’t have as obvious of connectable dots. As far as players go, he’s one for one. The signing of Reid Duke is just the beginning of what’s likely to be a long line of players headed to Vegas directly off the recommendation of McCrimmon.

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A Deeper Look At Duke’s Skills

The Vegas Golden Knights have their very first player, his name is Reid Duke, and he’s just as excited as his new fanbase. The 21-year-old is currently on a whirlwind media tour that started with yesterday’s hour long media call, he joined a host of radio shows including our friends Tyler Bischoff and Coach Jim Bolla (interview begins at 39:15), and will join Ken today at 5pm on KXNT. The Brandon Wheat King forward spoke like an old pro, spitting back mature responses to the various questions we threw out at him. Now we know his age, his stats, his contract, but what should we expect from Duke on the ice with the Golden Knights?

Most hockey analysts immediately praised GM George McPhee on his first player acquisition. From all accounts the Wheat King had been scouted by many clubs over the past five seasons. Two-way forwards are incredibly valuable to an NHL team and could be one reason Vegas targeted Duke. During yesterday’s call, the young forward stressed the importance of becoming an effective all-around type player.

Friend of the site and Brandon Sun reporter Perry Bergson, covers the Wheat Kings and has seen Duke play on a consistent basis. The Sun reporter emailed me a few notes on Duke. Bergson was fair on his assessment giving positives and some negatives… but to appease Ken’s ridiculous expectations (he’s being sarcastic, relax) we will hold the negatives till later.

He’s a good player. He has a terrific toe drag and shot. He’s a thick kid who plays a heavy game. Very personable and mature. -Perry Bergson, Brandon Sun

Another good indication of Duke’s talent is Assistant GM McCrimmon’s desire to acquire him… again. In 2014, McCrimmon pulled off a lopsided deal to bring Duke to Brandon. After the trade McCrimmon was ecstatic saying it was “a major trade for our hockey club” and that Brandon picked up “a tremendously-talented forward with an excellent pedigree potential.” McCrimmon yesterday sounded like he’s still as impressed with Duke as he was back in 2014.

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