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.
To be honest with you there were a few teams out there and I talked to two other teams. This is the one that’s been closest for the most part and at the end of the day this is the one I was happy to get. There were definitely a couple of other teams out there, and I went through the process, and it was outstanding. -Gallant NHL.com
Feel free to make your own judgements on this, but here’s how I see it.
Three weeks after Gallant got let go in Florida, McPhee reached out to him. They set up an interview for mid-January. He came out, did the interview, and was told the Golden Knights plan is to wait until the season ends to make a decision. At this point, Gallant thinks he’s done well, but isn’t sure he’s got the job. So, he goes and interviews for the New York Islanders job.
Hearing NYI have permission to talk to former Florida coach Gerard Gallant. He was an Islanders’ assistant from 2007-09.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 18, 2017
If Gerard Gallant wanted to be the head coach of the New York Islanders he would have been the head coach of the New York Islanders. -Bob McKenzie, TSN
It was Gallant’s decision to pass on the Isles, not the other way around. Likely because he’s getting calls from Vegas once every other week telling him he’s still the leader for the gig here. So then the season ends and things really heat up. Gallant takes another interview, and George runs through a few interviews with assistants, and possibly the newly available Lindy Ruff and Darryl Sutter. But in reality, no one had a chance.
McPhee says it was worth the risk (of losing Gallant) to go through the exhaustive process and feel confident about the hire.
It was a long process and George told me that from day one that they were going to hire a coach sometime in April. –Gallant to NHL Now on NHL Network
But here’s the problem, that didn’t happen. Gallant was in the picture for months. The NHL season wrapped up on a Sunday. On Tuesday, Gallant was already in Vegas signing the contract, The Creator spilled the beans on Wednesday, and the press conference was on Thursday. No other candidate progressed past the phone call, they couldn’t have, there wasn’t time.
Job openings in Los Angeles and Dallas may have concerned McPhee. It’s possible the repositioning of Dale Tallon back to his rightful seat in Florida could have sped up the process. Or, the guy McPhee really wanted, and was waiting for, never came available.
I wrote a piece back in January saying I didn’t want to see the team settle on a coach, and I’m not 100% sure that’s what happened, but it sure looks that way. From all the quotes gathered, and from a very brief conversation I had personally with the new Vegas bench boss, I got the feeling this was were Gerard wanted to be, and he was willing to wait to make it happen. He was ready to become the coach whenever Vegas would have him. Therefore, it’s on McPhee and his team to explain why they waited, to which he gave three reason, all three of which I question.
1) We didn’t have players to coach.
But couldn’t Gallant’s input have been used in the scouting department? How about in the mock drafts? And would it have been the worst thing to start trotting Gerard around Vegas selling the game and the team?
2) We had other priorities.
I don’t doubt that, the amount of work that’s gone into forming this team has been absurd, but this is undoubtably the most important hire McPhee has made. I’m not exactly sure what those priorities were, but it’s interesting how the moment there was a feeling Gallant could go elsewhere, his signature became priority number one.
3) A few people requested an interview.
But they were never even given a shot. Gallant flew to Vegas. He met everyone in person. No one else got more than a call. I’m all for professional courtesy, but had they waited to sign Gallant to stay on the good side of a few assistants around the league, and wound up watching Gerard slip their their fingers, that would have been worse than the documentary scene.
I went into the press conference with the assumption and through everything I’ve learned since I’ll stick with it, Gallant wasn’t McPhee’s first choice. The Golden Knights played it slow because they had their eyes on someone else. Who it was and why that person wasn’t on the stage Thursday afternoon, we’ll likely never know, but there’s just too much there to convince me otherwise.
It doesn’t mean Gallant won’t be great, it doesn’t mean the guy McPhee was waiting for would have been better, and really, in the end, it doesn’t make any difference anymore.
But in my mind, it’s “I guess Applebee’s” and not “F*** Yes! We’re going to Applebee’s!“